The Echoes of the Mind (73) Aesthetics


Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. ~ Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci

The world is darkness without beauty. Aesthetic allure is not so much a quality as it is a celebratory source of warmth and light.

The best and most beautiful things the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. ~ American author Helen Keller

The term aesthetics derives from the ancient Greek verb to perceive (aesthanesthai). (Aesthetics is also spelled esthetics, which is less aesthetic by seeming more clinical (flourishes being essential to beauty).) The nature of beauty has tickled philosophers throughout the ages.

The good is the beautiful. ~ Plato

Plato’s theory of forms put beauty on an absolute pedestal of abstraction, in seeing it as approximating the ideal forms of eternal perfection.

Many philosophers of the mind in the 18th–19th centuries abandoned Plato for aesthetic theories of association. Beauty was not intrinsic, but instead garnered by affiliation with other objects or concepts, such as white symbolizing purity and black evil. Ironically, in declaring that ideals of beauty were ultimately found in symbolism, these associative theories unknowingly looped back to Plato’s idealized abstractions.

The growing prominence of science from the 17th century made an impression in the philosophy of art, which culminated in an understanding that aesthetics is instinctual, albeit fostered culturally.

Psychologists have generally been more concerned with the principles and characteristics of aesthetics than its wellspring, which has been generally assumed to be creativity.

Gestalt psychology has perhaps been the most illuminating in the phenomenology of art. Gestalt posited 4 principles of aesthetic perception (but not quality): 1) figure and ground, where objects are experienced as distinct from a background; 2) differentiation, in which presentations tend to organize themselves into perceptual structures; 3) closure, by which partly occluded figures are perceptually given a fullness; and 4) wholeness (“good Gestalt”), whereupon more complete patterns take precedence over lesser-developed ones.

Though seemingly unrelated, appreciation of the arts and positive sociality are intertwined. Esteeming the arts enlivens a sense of community.

The arts enhance civil society. Participation in the arts, especially as an audience, predicts civic engagement, tolerance, and altruism. ~ American public administration academic Kelly LeRoux