Aquinas on Beauty
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Aquinas on Beauty

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Aquinas on Beauty explores the nature and role of beauty in the thought of Thomas Aquinas. Beginning with a standard definition of beauty provided by Aquinas, it explores each of the components of that definition. The result is a comprehensive account of Aquinas's formal view on the subject, supplemented by an exploration into Aquinas's commentary on Dionysius's Divine Names, including a comparison of his views with those of both Dionysius and those of Aquinas's mentor, Albert the Great. The book also highlights the tight connection in Aquinas's thought between aesthetics and ethics, and illustrates how Aquinas preserves what is best about aesthetic traditions preceding him, and anticipates what is best about aesthetic traditions that would follow, marrying objective and subjective aesthetic intuitions and charting a kind of via media between the common extremes.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 152.4 x 160.02 x 25.4mm | 476.27g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739184245
  • 9780739184240
  • 2,126,476

Review quote

This study offers an account of Saint Thomas Aquinas's conception of beauty, the transcendental property associated with objects that, Thomas wrote, 'please when seen.' Though he did not neglect the subjective side in aesthetic perception, Thomas insisted that beauty was never merely in the eye of the beholder. Sevier begins with an examination of the psychological factors involved in aesthetic experience, which entails an appreciation of the complex interplay between desire and pleasure within the human subject. In the central chapter, the author analyzes the objective features in the beautiful object-those essential 'constituents' (proportion, integrity, and clarity) that make particular beings so appealing to perceivers. In addition to tracing the source of these distinctions to the philosophical work of Plato and Pseudo-Dionysius, Sevier addresses the issue of whether Thomas considered beauty a separate transcendental property in relation to being, truth, and goodness. The author suggests that the answer to this textual question, whatever it is, does not affect Thomas's final judgment that 'everything that exists is de facto also beautiful.' Like its subject matter, this work is a model of proportion, integrity, and clarity. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. CHOICE [The book is] a work faithful to the mind of Aquinas and well-versed in his texts. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews My first reading of Aquinas on beauty was in a book by Umberto Eco. But Eco believed that the aesthetics of Aquinas is of little value in our age. Sevier argues otherwise and does so with clarity. Catholic Medical Quarterly Sevier is to be commended for his pursuit of questions, themes, and texts that are frequently ignored by Aquinas scholarship. Sevier expresses the hope that his volume 'will advance the discussion a little further, that it will expand appreciation for Aquinas's little acknowledged contribution to the great aesthetic tradition, and that it provides evidence for the all-too-neglected Platonic impulses that punctuate his thought.' On all three counts, Aquinas on Beauty succeeds very well. Speculum This book shows us, as Plato thought, that beauty is without a doubt difficult and that in Aquinas it involves aspects of his psychology and ethics, together with his metaphysics and theology-a daunting task for any one book to embark upon-but Sevier's book does justice to this endeavor. The student of Aquinas will find in this relatively brief book further avenues to pursue on the fascinating, even if at times enigmatic, subject of beauty. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly Aquinas's approach to beauty has not received the attention it deserves among philosophers, theologians, and medievalists. In this excellent and clearly written book, Christopher Scott Sevier provides a thorough, sophisticated and well-documented analysis of it. He recognizes how important it is to understand Aquinas on a range of topics in order to grasp what he says about beauty, and he provides readers with exactly what they need when trying to understand the complexity behind Aquinas's apparently simple claim that 'We call those things beautiful which please when seen'. -- Brian Davies, Fordham University Christopher Scott Sevier's Aquinas on Beauty is a very impressive piece of scholarship on a perennially interesting but notoriously mysterious and elusive subject. The author has done his homework, understood all the relevant medieval nuances of the subject, and has clearly explained and readably expressed Aquinas' major points directly and succinctly. Sevier demonstrates how Aquinas' aesthetic follows from and presupposes his metaphysics and cosmology, and clarifies the contrasts between Aquinas and modern theories of beauty. This book will be a touchstone for all subsequent investigations of the subject. -- Peter Kreeft, Boston Collegeshow more

About Christopher Scott Sevier

Christopher Scott Sevier teaches philosophy at the College of Southern Nevada.show more

Table of contents

Chapter 1 Introduction Chapter 2 Psychological Components of Beauty Chapter 3 Human Desire and Pleasure Chapter 4 Objective Components of Beauty Chapter 5 Comparison with Significant Influences Chapter 6 Conclusionshow more