Hi, I don't know if you can help me, by here goes anyway. What does it mean to be Disturbed by Beauty. Can a philosopher answer this, or would I be better off asking a shrink, priest or mystic? Kind regards Pasquale

An interesting question! The phrase "Disturbed by Beauty" is not a common one in philosophy or aesthetics (that branch of philosophy that addresses beauty and ugliness as well as philosophy of art) and philosophy in the modern era has been somewhat skeptical about beauty. BUT there have been some important positive contributions about beauty in the past 50 years. Iris Murdoch's The Sovereignty of the Good makes a strong case for the role of beauty in challenging our tendencies to egotism and self-interest. In a sense, she argued that the experience of beauty (one of her examples is noticing the beauty of a kestral, a stunning bird) can disturb our self-absorbed daily routines. Elaine Scarry's book On Beauty is a more recent argument for the important role of beauty in our values and the way we live. There is a strong romantic tradition that contends that our experience of beauty in the world can be an important step in our becoming mature lovers of wisdom... This is present in the philosophically minded Coleridge and in Worsdsworth's Preludes --which he understood as a philosophical poem. In the Preludes, the poets experience of beauty (in seeing Mount Blanc) may not be disturbing but it is definitely surprising and perhaps shocking as it calls him (the poet) into an unexpected experience of what might be called the eternal. OK, I now think you, Pasquale, will probably think me no better than a shrink, priest or mystic. But I do have a great deal of respect for psychologists / persons of faith and those who may be thought of as mystics. One of my professors declared that "mysticism" begins with a mist and ends with an "ism." But I think that is monstrously unfair. Many of the so-called mystics, west and east, have insights we non-mystics should take seriously (in my view).

If you are disturbed by beauty, I hope you might be disturbed and perhaps attracted to beauty as one of the three attributes celebrated in Platonic tradition which upholds: Beauty, Truth, and Goodness. For further work on this, you might check out the Cambridge Platonists, some great 17th century British philosophers who prized beauty, truth and goodness amid a very violent civil war....

All good wishes, Charles

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