Beauty and the Good
Recovering the Classical Tradition from Plato to Duns Scotus
Imprint: Catholic University of America Press
In the past twenty years or more, there has been a growing interest among philosophers and theologians alike in the transcendentals and especially in the beautiful. This seems fortuitous since so much of contemporary culture is fixated in many ways on beauty, on what might be called a superficial or man-made beauty, intent on outward appearance, with little or no concern for the human person’s interiority and distinctive nature. The Ancients and the Medievals, on the contrary, were sensitive not only to the beauty of nature and art but also to beauty as intelligible, that is, to the beauty of moral harmony and of metaphysical splendor. While the question of whether the beautiful is in fact a transcendental aspect of being continues to be a subject of dispute in contemporary scholarship, the relationship between the beautiful and the good has been accepted since ancient times and has been attended to in recent publications. None of these publications, however, offers a systematic treatment of this relationship by drawing from the wisdom of both ancient and medieval thought in such a way as to bring together the work of scholars in this tradition.
Beauty and the Good intends therefore to make a singular contribution by presenting a richer alternative to the contemporary cult of beauty and appearance on the one hand, and to the concomitant decline of real beauty on the other hand. In addition to highlighting the centrality of beauty in the Aristotelian account of moral virtue, where virtue is kalon and virtuous actions are done for the sake of kalon (the word kalon designates that which is beautiful, noble, and good)—an account which is found echoed in the medieval notion of intrinsic goodness (bonum honestum), understood as intelligible or spiritual beauty—this volume will provide the metaphysical and theological grounding for beauty, as influenced in part by Plato and Neoplatonism, together with a much needed account of how we know and judge beauty, and how for the recognition of true good and real beauty we need to be properly disposed. The integration of philosophical and theological reflection on the nature and relationship of beauty and the good, on our perception and judgment of beauty and of the good as beautiful, and on the motivational role of beauty in human action has as its goal to produce a coherent volume of essays.
"Quite original in placing the question of the good within the broader context of the transcendental in classical/medieval philosophy. The scholarship is sound, and the authors are all experts in their field."~Rev. John J. Conley, SJ, Loyola University Maryland
"The formalism of modern ethics betrays its loss of luster. Modern aesthetics fares no better when it jettisons beauty in order to place personal taste on a pedestal. Alice Ramos and her team have laid out a sumptuous banquet that attempts to reclaim our aesthetic and moral grasp of the truth of being. These essays bring the lost Ciceronian and Victorine melodies out of the oblivion of the past alongside the better-known but still misunderstood attunements of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, and the Franciscan traditions. As Ramos herself notes, Iris Murdoch and Simone Weil begged us to approach reality in this way. My advice: Tolle et lege!"~Peter Casarella, Duke Divinity School
"This splendid volume is essential reading for anyone who wants to think clearly about beauty. It gathers together work by philosophers in a variety of traditions and focuses on figures, both highly familiar and less commonly studied, from Plato through von Balthasar. The central issue, as the title suggests, is the relationship between beauty and the good. In a world that thoughtlessly rejects the reality, or at least the objectivity, of beauty, and increasingly rejects the objectivity of the good, this work is timely indeed. And given its excellece, we can safely claim that this book is also beautiful indeed."~Patrick Toner, Wake Forest University