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Aristotle’s Definition of Beauty

Aristotle Definition of Beauty

Mountain State University – Art Discussion Assignment

ART101 – Art Appreciatation
Instructor Amy Landrum – Mountain State University

What are your thoughts on the brief excerpt on Beauty by Aristotle? Do you agree or disagree, why? Make reference to art found anywhere in your text to prove your point.

From Metaphysics
(1078a 31-1078b 6)

“Now since the good and the beautiful are different (for the former always implies conduct as its subject, while the beautiful is found also in motionless things), those who assert that the mathematical sciences say nothing of the beautiful or the good are in error. For these sciences say and prove a great deal about them; if they do not expressly mention them, but prove attributes which are their results or their definitions, it is not true to say that they tell us nothing about them. The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness, which the mathematical sciences demonstrate in a special degree. And since these (e.g. order and definiteness) are obviously causes of many things, evidently these sciences must treat this sort of causative principle also (i.e. the beautiful) as in some sense a cause. But we shall speak more plainly elsewhere about these matters.”*

* [See Poetics, Chap. 7, for further remarks on beauty.]

Excerpted from authors Hofstadter and Kuhns – “Philosophies of Art and Beauty: Selected Readings in Aesthetics from Plato to Heidegger,” University of Chicago Press, 1976, page 96, ISBN: 0-226-34812-1

Michael Stratton Discussion of Artistole’s Definition of Beauty

Artistole defined beauty as “a concept of beauty occurs when all parts work together in harmony so that no one part draws unjust attention to itself”. When we think in beauty from this definition we can easily see that beauty does not just exist from what we believe is pleasing to the eyes. If beauty occurs when all parts work together then beauty exists in much more then just that in which our eyes see.

Is it not beautiful when one puts their key in the ignition of their car and the engine starts and they drive away?
Would it not be ugly if the engine did not work and we were stranded?

Is it not beautiful how our legs are able to take us from point a to point b in response to our need to move?
Would it not be ugly if we broke our leg after tripping over something?

Is it not beautiful when a child learns how to count, 1…2…3…?
Would it not be ugly if mankind never defined mathematics and therefore we were never able to advance technology beyond the basic use of a tool?

Is not it beautiful that an echocardiogram can tell the physical condition of ones heart?
Is it not ugly when an individual dies instantly from unexpected heart failure?

Is it not beautiful that nature is able to balance itself so that only the strong survive and therefore a species evolves and survives.
Would it not be ugly had we never evolved?

On page 116 of Living With Art, 9th ed., Getlein (2010) shows us how Isamu Noguchi is able to impossibly balance a sculpture of a Red Cube.

Some might argue that this is not beautiful art. To those that offer this view, a response might be: “would it not be uglier had it never been created? Does not the mere value of offering our view of its beauty therefore give it value into the structure of human values? Our view reflects our own morals, and from the standpoint of our own perspective our view is correct. The Red Cube sculpture by Isamu Noguchi allows our own values to work as they should and is the part of an equation that works without error, an equation that includes ones own self image”.

If beauty occurs when all parts work together the Red Cube shows the beauty of human values regardless if one finds it a valuable work of art and/or aesthetically pleasing.

Image Source:
Museum and education center devoted to the artist and his work – Isamu Noguchi


Getlein, M (2010). Living With Art, 9th ed., The McGraw-Hill Companies, New York, NY. ISBN: 978-0-07-337920-3

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