Lo sensible y la belleza

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The role of the sensible dimension in the knowledge
of beauty of the material object

Tomás Salazar Steiger
July 5, 2009

Contents
1. Introduction
II. The beautiful
III. Senses and knowledge
IV. Thinking and perceiving
V. First synthesis
VI. Conclusions

I. Introduction

The topic of this paper is the role of the sensible dimension of the material object in ourperception of beauty.

We will try to understand this relationship starting with two examples, and then studying the different aspects involved in these examples. When we contemplate a landscape or we listen to a piece of music[1], and we say that we experience beauty, what has happened? What are the elements of this experience and the role of each element present in this experience? We have anobject, we have a subject. The object is known by the subject, and it is known in particular way, it is perceived as beautiful. We get to know the beauty of this particular object. But the object is a sensible object, and the subject has known the object through his senses. We wonder if the experience of the beautiful is also a sensible knowledge, or if it transcends it, and how can it be that ittranscends it at the time that it is known through the senses. As the intention of this paper is to understand the role of the sensible in the perception of beauty, we will have first to discern if the beautiful is proper of sensible knowledge, or if it belongs to another realm of knowledge. In the experience of perceiving the beautiful in the landscape and in the piece of music we have listenedto, what is the role of the sensitive in this knowledge?

II. The beautiful

First of all, we should define what do we know when we say that we find something beautiful. We feel affected by an impact the beautiful object makes on us. It is the objective characteristics of the object that make an impact on us, not subjective states of mind that we impose on the object as it is[2]. Thebeautiful impacts us as a discovery. We suddenly are surprised as we perceive in the object a proportion, an order that has a certain splendor that touches and pleases us. We experience that we have a view of the beauty of the essence of the object we contemplate. We don’t perceive specifically its essence in the form of a concept, but in the form of a splendor that pleases us. Nevertheless, we candescribe what brings about the splendor. It is the splendor of certain order[3] or harmony. And we find in this order integrity, proportion and clarity[4]. We perceive the clarity of the order within the object we know. In a certain sense, we perceive the splendor of its essence, or form[5]. This clarity not only illuminates, which is the proper effect of truth[6], but in addition it pleases, itdelights[7]. We must say that this splendor is an ontological splendor, not a conceptual clarity, in the sense that we have understood conceptually what we perceive. We have known the object, although we may have problems to explain it. But in recognizing the essence of what pleases us in the knowledge of the beautiful in the material object, namely the ontological splendor of order, we aredescribing an intellectual knowledge. It is reason what discovers order, proportion and integrity, because reason discovers unity in multiplicity, and it is proper of reason and not of sense, to unify. That is, beauty is essentially an object of intelligence. The natural place of beauty is the intelligible world. It dwells in the form of the material object, descends from it and it reaches our intellect.In the case of the clarity, intelligibility, light, words that we use to characterize the role of “form” at the heart of things, don’t necessarily designate something that it is always clear and intelligible for us, but rather something luminous in itself, intelligible in itself, which often remains obscure to our eyes. But when we perceive its beauty, this clarity in itself reveals to us. Form...
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