Beauty and Love in the Republic of Plato Essay

Beauty and Love in the Republic of Plato Essay

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The first question that pops into one’s mind when mentioning beauty in a philosophical context is whether it is objective or subjective. Do things bring pleasure because they are beautiful, or are things beautiful because they bring pleasure? It is a question that has created a major disagreement amongst certain of the greatest philosophical minds. It is commonly agreed upon that beauty is an ultimate value along with goodness, truth and justice. However, it does not exist in the thing itself, but is rather individually perceived. It is not determined logically but aesthetically, and can therefore be nothing but subjective.
To say that beauty is entirely subjective would be denying that human beings’ certain perceptions are the same and that we sometimes commonly perceive some sights or objects such as a sunset or a rose as beautiful, as able to trigger pleasure or satisfaction. Many would argue that things exist by themselves, that they bare their own proper essence, a natural soul that renders them independent from humans’ interpretations or imagination. For Plato, in the “Symposium”, an item’s beauty is located in its Form and not in the beholder’s response, and Plotinus agrees with him. He claims that any object’s beauty is determined by whether it is shaped like the type of the thing that object is. It is referred to by Plotinus as ‘formedness’. This theory is further explained in his work, the “Enneads”, where he says: “We hold that all the loveliness of this world comes by communion in Ideal-Form. All shapelessness whose kind admits of pattern and form, as long as it remains outside of Reason and Idea, is ugly from that very isolation from the Divine-Thought. And this is the Absolute Ugly: an ugly thing is something that ha...


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...of art in the viewers’ intentions and interpretations, and not in the piece of art itself, as opposed to others like Plotinus who would completely put the beauty in the art piece. I would argue that art cannot be ugly and therefore, this whole debate about it holding beauty within itself or not is entirely unnecessary, for art naturally bears the three transcendental ultimate values of beauty, good and truth. In actuality, I wonder: “Does art really have to be beautiful in the first place?” What has pushed me to ask myself this rather confusing question is the tremendous effect arts have on the emotions rather than on the intellect. It is not beauty that helps art get to people, but it is the message and the interpretations behind and given to it. One might perceive a piece of art as ugly, but still experience a feeling while interacting with it.

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