The Beholder; A Book of Poetry, Prose and Philosophy

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Aesthetics on the Edge: Where Philosophy Meets the Human Sciences

The Defence of Poesy

Therefore, if someone argued that art was moving away from reality, then they can be countered by showing the art that is moving towards a new dark and depressing reality. This leads to crises in the definition of art because whether you move away from reality or towards it, we seem to have problems either way. If we consider art to be our imagination, then our imagination can run wild and produce hallucinations, and that would be considered art. If, on the other hand, we consider art to be the true and honest depiction of reality but the reality itself is dark and depressing, then so is art.

Therefore, neither alternative—whether art is about reality, or about our imagination—seems to work as the depiction of the idea of beauty. Given the twin failures of reality and imagination, I would contend that art is about the ideal not the real whether that reality is simply our idea or even an external manifestation.

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The classical conceptions of art were not merely about historical or mythological tales; the real point of those themes was that they had a moral message which described to us the picture of what we considered ideal. The rejection of a history and mythology in the art should have provided an alternative ideal, but it did not.

Instead, modern art first replaced the ideal with the semi-ideal reality e. The history of modern art can be summed as the move from ideal transcendence to semi-ideal reality to non-ideal imagination to non-ideal reality. In these transitions, the overt argument is that art must move from transcendence to reality or reality to imagination or imagination to the new reality being created by the modern world. Superficially, modern art has flip-flopped over positions about the relative importance of the subjective vs.

Deep down, it is moving in a single direction—i. The problem of art is therefore not about whether art pertains to the external reality or to our imagination. Neither position actually leads to a proper understanding of art. The correct position is that art pertains to the ideal rather than real or the rampant. It is that ideality that should make up art because then art is the symbol of a message—i. Armed with this definition of art as the expression of the ideals , we can understand how beauty can be measured objectively: it is the measure of similarity or difference with respect to the ideal.

If the real world objects resemble or represent the ideals, then the objects must be considered beautiful.

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If instead, the real world objects do not resemble the ideals, then they are not beautiful. The real becomes the ideal as the distance reduces. Conversely, the real becomes far from ideal, as the distance to the ideal increases. This definition of beauty is similar to the definition of meanings I have discussed earlier. Beauty, similarly, has to be defined relative to a center in a semantic space which denotes ideal beauty and distance from the center denotes the modifications to that ideal beauty in order to produce less than ideal beauty.

In Vaishnava philosophy, everything in the world is real and meaningful; however, some meanings are true, while others are false. How do we define true and false? The answer is that all meanings are produced from an original meaning through a process of distortion. There are hence many relative grades of truth and falsity. As we go towards the original meaning, we discard the distortions, and the meaning becomes truer. As we go farther from the original meaning, we add distortions, and the meaning becomes less true. Ultimately, to find the perfect truth, we have to discard all distortions, and the truth would automatically be found.


These grades of truth constitute a tree from root to leaves; the leaves are least true, while the root is most true. We go from leaf to root to find truth. The original truth is called jnanam-advayama or the Absolute Truth one without duality. All relative truths are partial expressions of the Absolute Truth; so, there is some truth in all lies, because all lies are built from truth. However, as the number of lies increase, the truth is obscured to greater extents. The Absolute Truth also has five subordinate qualities called beauty , renunciation , power , fame , and wealth.

As we have discussed above, beauty cannot exist without content. This original idea is expressed in at least five ways, namely, beauty, renunciation, power, fame, and wealth.

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In each form we can see the same truth or idea, and yet, there are multiple different expressions of that truth. Aesthetics, or the theory of beauty, is one of the five forms in which knowledge can be expressed the other four being renunciation, fame, power, and wealth. We can illustrate this expression through some linguistic examples. We already know that knowledge can be converted into words in a language, and different languages have different kinds of feel.

The Bengali language, for example, is lyrical and flows very smoothly; this reflects in the Bengali culture where people talk incessantly and expressively. French, Italian, and Spanish conversely are far more passionate languages, while German and Dutch are disciplined, meticulous, and controlled. The qualities inherent in the language can also be observed in the population that uses the language: you will find the French, Spanish, and Italians take a far greater interest in art, music, poetry, literature, food, etc.

Every aspect of our culture—from deep cultural values, to words, to thinking and emotions, to the products of the thinking manifest in society and work—is permeated by different forms. Some societies—e. French—prefer beauty over renunciation or wealth. Other societies—e. Germans—prefer wealth and renunciation. American society is about fame and wealth.

While Chinese society is centered on power. The Indian culture in the recent past has emphasized renunciation because the country is now poor. Owing to this, people who have grown up under austere conditions, have done rather well materially where frugality was required—e. The diversity in this world is a byproduct of the six qualities mentioned above, in which knowledge is common for everyone, but the other five—i.

Therefore, the ideas, thoughts, words and material objects are all modified in different ways. Everything emanates from His form, but the emanations combine the six qualities to various degrees. Beauty is just one of the six qualities, and beauty is secondary to knowledge.

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Owing to this fact, it is more important to present the right knowledge whether or not it is done aesthetically. Mere aesthetics without the firm truth content cannot be considered beauty because it is not true. Conversely, true knowledge presented in a not-so-aesthetic manner will be true, although not beautiful. Nevertheless, it is better to have ugly truth rather than beautiful lies, because knowledge precedes beauty. Thus, both art and science are different expressions of ideas, but the scientific theories combine ideas with renunciation or objectivity, while artistic pictures, music, poetry, etc.

People sometimes think that knowledge involves analytic and rational thinking due to which it is more objective, while creativity and art involve synthetic thinking due to which it is more subjective. This idea is very popular, but it has no logical foundation because—as we saw above—art cannot exist without a subject, and that subject is conceptual, although not artistic.

In both art and science, therefore, the foundation of the creation and creativity is knowledge or jnana. The same Absolute Truth can be expressed as art, music, or poetry, or as philosophy, science, and mathematics.

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These are, however, just different expressions or branches of knowledge—one combining knowledge with beauty and the other with renunciation. Similarly, knowledge can be combined with the other three attributes—power, wealth, and fame. The combination of knowledge and power produces politics. The combination of knowledge and wealth produces economics.

And the mingling of knowledge and fame produces sociology the Sanskrit word for fame is yashasvi which means a hero; the combination of knowledge and heroism creates the narrations about heroes by which a person is raised to mythical ideal; heroes are moral, they save us, they give us hope and deliver justice; finally, heroes are always winners; society is built on role models or heroes. Depending on which kind of value dominates in which society, we can find a stronger manifestation of that type of quality among the people-to-people interactions. For example, when power, fame, and wealth are dominant in a society, we find on-going debates about politics, social organization, and economic policy.

Conversely, when knowledge, beauty, and renunciation dominate a society, we will find most people interested in science, philosophy, arts, poetry, literature, drama, and music. There are many definitions of beauty, but based on the above, we can see that they are combined with other ideas such as power, fame, renunciation, and wealth. Impressionism is a definition of beauty that combines beauty with wealth; it creates rich, colorful, and vibrant pictures which are indicative of rich, colorful, and vibrant society.

Minimalism combines beauty with renunciation or objectivity, thereby reducing art to industrial design as applied to the creation of real-world objects; it depends on the idea of frugality, minimizing the embellishments, and parsimony. Fauvism combines beauty with power, making the artist having a greater authority over reality than reality over the artist; the artist is allowed broader and thicker brush strokes as if he or she were defining the nature of reality rather than representing it.

Expressionism is the converse effect of feeling helpless against the oppression of worldly power which results in a disturbed psyche, distorted perception, hallucination, and fear. Are there many definitions of beauty? No, there is a perfect form of beauty. But, this perfect form can be combined with other forms of power, fame, renunciation, and wealth, thereby producing newer forms of beauty. Each of these forms of beauty can then be used to express some content or idea. This approach to studying aesthetics not only explains the myriad definitions of beauty but also helps us see why there is an original form which is modified through combination with other forms.

In the material world, the six qualities are also combined with the three modes of nature— sattva , rajas , and tamas.

In this sattva represents the true form or idea, rajas indicates the modification of this true form by a mode that expresses activity, fluidity, and passion, while tamas is the modification of the true mode that expresses dark, depressing, inert, and resistive. Thus, the ideal forms are manifest only in sattva-guna.

They are distorted by rajo-guna and tamo-guna. Not only do the three modes of nature increase the variety produced from the six qualities, but they also produce much that is unlike the nature of the original form due to rajo-guna and tamo-guna.

It only means rejection of rajo-guna and tamo-guna. That is when we can get a glimpse of the true forms that make up the variety in the world.

The Beholder; A Book of Poetry, Prose and Philosophy The Beholder; A Book of Poetry, Prose and Philosophy
The Beholder; A Book of Poetry, Prose and Philosophy The Beholder; A Book of Poetry, Prose and Philosophy
The Beholder; A Book of Poetry, Prose and Philosophy The Beholder; A Book of Poetry, Prose and Philosophy
The Beholder; A Book of Poetry, Prose and Philosophy The Beholder; A Book of Poetry, Prose and Philosophy
The Beholder; A Book of Poetry, Prose and Philosophy The Beholder; A Book of Poetry, Prose and Philosophy
The Beholder; A Book of Poetry, Prose and Philosophy The Beholder; A Book of Poetry, Prose and Philosophy

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