p a n d e m o n i u m     d o c u m e n t
 

           EMANCIPATORY  BEAUTY -- ESTHETICS:
                    OUR COSMIC OBJECTIVE

                 By   Franz J. T. Lee
                 31st July, 2000



A. Objective Beauty: Our Conception

According to our Emancipatory Esthetics (aisthesis), Beauty is not "skin-deep", rather it is "in the eyes of the beholder", in her/his acts, actions and activities, being reflected as natural Sensatio, by cosmic, sensorial perception. It is natural, is praxical; is our emancipatory objective. Scientific Beauty affirms itself, becoming part and parcel of Philosophical Truth; as such, as "contradiction", it exists as Beauty  a n d  Truth; it (is  a n d ) exists as Truth. Furthermore, it transcends, excels as Emancipatory Love.

The romantic poet, John Keats, expressed this very simply in the "Ode to a Nightingale" and the "Ode on a Grecian Urn". Communing historic relations with Nature, the singing nightingale expresses the melodic symphony of Cosmos. In the poem, social -- that is, beautiful and truthful -- happiness are being contrasted with the dead weight of ahistoric, patrian, labour grief, of misery and poverty. The song of the nightingale artistically and dialogically expresses immortal, social, historic life.

It is still dark, the "darkest before dawn", yet its emancipatory message to all "lovers" is very clear:

       "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,
          -- that is all ye know on earth,
         and all ye need to know."

Yes, John Keats, a cosmic "thing of beauty is a joy forever"; certainly, "it can never pass into (labouring) nothingness".
 

Now, within the context of our Philosophic Science, what is Beauty, what exactly is the study of Beauty? Our questioning answer: It's the stringent study, the active investigation,  the praxical analysis of Cosmos, of Nature, of our corporeal body; affirming and identifying its esthetic activities and objectives. In nuce, among other component entities,  Esthetics  -- (differentiating it from market and religious Aesthetics), supported by and related to our Epistemology, Logics and Aethics (differentiating it from business Ethics and globalized Morality), -- is the Study of Cosmic, of Natural Beauty.

Thus, what is Beauty?

Logically, it is that which naturally delights all the senses, is physical loveliness, is that relation which exalts us as a healthy, natural  body and a sane, social mind, striving towards emancipatory elegance and historic excellence.

In everyday life, Beauty may include some of the following, but not necessarily so:  the beautiful and the ugly, the slime and the sublime, the banausic and the elegant;  good taste, criticism, fine art, contemplation, sensuous enjoyment, carnal delicacies, goodies and nighties of the market, charisma and charm.

How do we enjoy beauty? What is an esthetic experience?

Which life experiences are definitely esthetic?

We could only mention some which certainly are not; the fundamental pillars of Labour, the infernal four D's:

Deprivation (economic exploitation);
Domination  (political repression, the State);
Discrimination (social prejudice, racism);
Dehumanization (alienation).

Now, let the fatherland, the patria, illustrate to us what is gruesome, systemic beauty at rest; what is frozen, morbid, moribund aesthetics. Many a philosophic thinker tried very hard to spotlight beauty, but, in East and West, North and South, labour -- slavery, feudalism and capitalism --  progressively darkened the esthetic horizon,
ushered in eternal "dark ages" of arrogance, ignorance, obscurantism and bigotry. Hence, beauty, already nearly converted into merchandise, fled this macabre scene,
towards safer historic spheres.

Now and then, in faraway emancipatory  realms, at the utmost outer edges of space and time, void of all forms of foreign tourism and alienated boredom, in invisible, invulnerable, invincible flowery gardens and meadows, we could still hear its beautiful nightingales, its charming, enchanting love-birds, eternally bewitching and inspiring us with their natural, beautiful, pandemonic symphonies.

B.The Flash Tour Begins: Divine, Erotic, Sex Tourism

Hegel, in his theory of art,  would define beauty as "the sensuous embodiment of the Absolute Idea." For many, an "aesthetic" attitude is to divorce, to cut oneself off from practical responsibility, is a kind of distancing or standing back from social and emancipatory issues. Ideologically, unknowingly, they take their cue from Kant, or even from Edward Bullough's essay, published in 1912, " 'Psychical Distance' as a Factor in Art and an Aesthetic Principle".

What kind of "aesthetic distance" is envisaged here? In any stereotypical,  unhappy, sadomasochistic marriage, is the withering away of her universal "beauty" really the reason why the erstwhile fiery wife is now being divorced by her debauched, physically overtrained, overstrained macho? Did she loose her aesthetic "flex appeal"? If aesthetically he is distancing himself from her now, then, by what "human right" or even "double standard",  in which "magna carta",  did he ever call her "beautiful"? And, vice versa? Are the exploitative products of labour beautiful - a dress, a car, a building, a city, Cape Town, Vancouver, San Francisco?  A rather high price for beauty! Are a natural panorama, the sunrise, the full moon, a rainbow or an "untouched" jungle esthetic?  A priceless, prizeless beauty!

At least, in defence of Kant, we must admit that he did not favour "distance". In his "transcendental aesthetics", somehow he approximates us in a "moral" cosmic-ontic fashion. He classified the normal aesthetic recipient as being "disinterested", neither treating his/her "beautiful object" -- as it is in itself -- as a speaking-tool or vehicle of pleasure or curiosity nor as a Machiavellian means to an end.  Similarly, in his work, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung [1819; The World as Will and Idea], Arthur Schopenhauer propagated the idea that anything could be seen as beautiful, as long as it is being regarded in independence of one's will, independent of its "use-value"; we could add: independent of its capitalist "exchange-value".  Also, Friedrich Schiller distanced artistic plays, creation and appreciation from everyday reality, from social misery and poverty, thus, he divorced "beauty" and surrendered it to feudalist leisure and bourgeois pleasure:

"With the agreeable, the good, the perfect, man is merely in earnest,
   but with beauty he plays."

(Briefe über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen [1794-95; Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man])

Derived from the above, what then is "aesthetic experience"?
 

1. The aesthetic object is an object of sensory enjoyment and pleasure;
     it is heard, seen, or even imagined in sensory, sensual form.

2. The aesthetic object is being contemplated; also approached as a
     repository of significance and value.

On the face value, we could even agree with these artists and philosophers,
however, at a closer, a second look, as explained before, we discover that the two  views are aeons apart. But, "historically", what about Eastern and Ancient Aesthetics? Let's just take a flash-tour across the globe, paying some "beautiful" Taj Mahal's a very short, cordial visit.

C. Asian Aesthetics

India - The Veil of Maya

In ancient Indian philosophical, theosophical and religious writings, we encounter a strange disparagement of the sensory, sensuous, objective world as being mere illusion. However, at the same time, we find a world outlook of "karma", of embodiment; a
doctrine of worship, but, at the same time, of earthly enjoyment and pleasure.

The Great God Krishna indulges in exaggerated fantasies of erotic and physical power. If one looks at the various temples, among other techniques,  artistically the use of  mystical gestures portray divine "beauty", erotic sensuality. To express human feelings, ancient Indian philosophers extensively utilized  contemplative abstraction, especially the conception of aesthetic flavour,  rasa.

China - Art to awaken Aesthetic Frenzy

In political and ethical education, Confucius (551-479 BC) underlined aesthetic
joy and epicurean pleasure; music should be beautiful, dignified, and, above all, stately; this produces inner harmony, self-enjoyment. Of course, on the opposite side of the globe, his near contemporary Plato had exactly the opposite view.

Compared to Confucius, Lao-tzu, the founder of Taoism, was rather puritanical.
Unknowingly, in beautiful, symphonic harmony with Plato, as far as art and artistic beauty were concerned, vehemently, he condemned the alcoholic, vicarious pleasure of all aesthetic and artistic works as being morally detrimental to human nature. They blind the eye, deafen the ear, cloy the palate. However, later the Neo-Taoists, the Ch'an (Zen) Buddhists, developed an elaborate philosophy of beauty.  Nonetheless,
in the East, the greatest war ever launched against Beauty was accomplished by
Mao Tse-tung, who initiated  the "Cultural Revolution". In spite of the revolutionary ideology to "let a thousand flowers blossom", with a single spark, its "Red Guards" set the beautiful oriental prairie on fire. Until today, ex oriente lux, it's still burning!

Japan - Murasaki Shikibu, lady-in-waiting to the Empress

In Japan, around 1000, the famous novel Genji monogatari ( Tale of Genji), written by Murasaki Shikibu, for centuries generated massive literary commentaries and an aesthetics of supreme refinement. Later the playwright, Zeami Motokiyo (1363-1443), taught that the value of artistic beauty is to be found in a type of Alfred Hitchcock dimensions, in yugen ("mystery and depth") and that the artist must follow the golden rule of contextual soo, of consonance.

Whole lives have been devoted to a study of the aesthetic  "tea ceremony" in Japan -- in fact, it is a marvellous artistic exercise in constrained ideological habits, customs and traditions, a real social ballet, which involves aesthetic qualities such as en ("charming"), okashi ("amusing"), and sabi (the beauty of old, lovely things).
 

D. Platonic Aesthetics

As already indicated before, let's briefly illustrate Plato's view of artistic beauty.
Simplified, his objectivist, idealist philosophy has three major elements:

The Epistemology of Anamnesis, Recollection;
The Conception of the Tripartite Soul; and
The Doctrine of Ideas.

Anamnesis is based on the belief that a soul exists, that it is eternal and pre-existent.
The three parts of the soul are: reason, appetite and spirit (will); reason is noble, to achieve aesthetic harmony, appetite and spirit must be controlled by reason. Finally,
the doctrine of ideas presupposes an intelligible world, the realm of ideas, such as of
the Good , of Beauty. The eternal topos ouraneos at rest, the world of ideas, can only be apprehensible by the mind. All material things in flux are just imperfect copies of the perfect ideas.

For this very reason, Plato is in disfavour of art, dismissing it as just copying another imperfect copy of the idea of a thing. Thus, for him, objective, cosmic-natural beauty is non-existent. In the Symposium, he explains how the highest manifestation of eros, of erotic love, is simply the unio mistica with eternal, divine beauty; is aspiration towards  the  "the highest good". Eros is a spiritual "reaching out" of the soul to a hoped-for good, to beauty. In Phaedrus,  sense perception, sensorial experience can suggest the Idea of Beauty in a most exotic, erotic way: through falling in love. In the irrationality and craziness of 'lovers", the "wings of their souls" again begin to grow and up-and-away gradually they soar to topos ouraneos, to the beautiful Summum Bonum.

E. Fraternal, Globalized Aesthetics

Finally, let's pay a hurried visit to the modern theoreticians of aesthetics, among others, Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Baltasar Gracián, Jean de La Bruyère,  Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, Francis Hutcheson and John Locke.

For them, taste, imagination, natural beauty, and imitation became burning issues of aesthetics. However, at best the trend towards globalized aesthetics was summarized by a lesser figure, by Francis Hutcheson; it was he who had placed the problem of aesthetic judgement among the first major issues of modern theory of knowledge.

At last, in this field, central questions dawned: How can we know that something is beautiful? What directs our judgement and what validates it?  The answers given were systemic affirmations -- the total destruction of Mother Beauty, Mother Nature.  Accumulative profit-greed, the "common sense" of Labour, replaced natural beauty. Hutcheson, the upsurging empiricist, replied that aesthetic judgements are perceptual and take their authority from  "common sense".  In his "An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue" (1725), he wrote:

"The origin of our perceptions of beauty and harmony is justly
called a 'sense' because it involves no intellectual
element, no reflection on principles and causes."

There we have it, thinking, intellectual reflection and reason cannot fathom Beauty, Truth and Love anymore. Only Common Sense enjoys this monopoly, this aesthetic prerogative; only it can still perform this cognitive "miracle". Progressively, ideology is taking its toll; today, in the age of information, in globalized "communication", the bell tolls for all, ushering in a commonwealth of beautiful "common sense". As explained before, our connotation of Beauty transcends all these idealistic, spiritual, systemic, globalized aesthetic notions.
                      -----oOo-----
 


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