Beauty: A History of ‘Oblivion’ in Aesthetics
The fact is that we do not any more know what beauty is. If our culture, our thought, had sometime a clear idea of what beauty was, this is no more so, she is no more on duty. It is no longer able to clarify the scene in which under the word beauty you can get a “beauty treatment” for your face and body; you can participate in a “beauty contest ” or speak about a concept which referred to art and its works in the past. Because it is not obvious that it would be possible to talk about contemporary art in terms of beauty since this is neither a purpose nor a quality expected by the artists today in the development of their works.
In addition, we are not in a position which makes us able to decide and agree about what beauty is. We cannot define it. The concept of beauty, as I will describe later on, was closely related to the metaphysics of the present of the being. Those metaphysical theories have been reviewed and substituted for the proclamation of the death of metaphysics due to its nonsense, or for new theories which consider that beauty is not any more a quality of being but a horizon of concepts and its relations. This whole question is behind the problem of beauty. We will not develop this metaphysical side of the question, but we can not avoid it either, and this will appear during our exposition.
What we can say, at the most, is what we find beautiful or ugly. The loss of the metaphysical horizon opened the need to harbour beauty under the field of the subject and its capabilities. So beauty was now only a matter of taste. But nowadays, who is able to define and set limits between good and bad taste?
Whatever it might be, it seems to be so, as if it were not allowed to speak about this concept like the great theorists of Philosophy did. Is that true? Is it forbidden to develop a theory of beauty, a theory of a concept we do not want to abandon?
In fact, this is one of the most important issues of the aesthetic theory throughout history, although the aesthetical discourses in the 20th century marginalize the concept of beauty condemning it to silence. In the last two centuries, beauty seems not to be any more a topic of reflection in contemporary aesthetics. Why is this so? Which kind of changes has taken place in the consideration of this concept? Is it possible to speak about beauty today? And if in fact it is, then in which terms? These are the questions we will try to reflect on in this paper, looking for a way in which beauty and its sister truth can be thought of in the field of the aesthetic theory without needing to resort to old metaphysical positions which are hardly recoverable.
The Ups and Downs of a Concept: A Little Bit of History
The aesthetical discourses in the Greek Antiquity were the first to define the concept of beauty. From the investigations of the Pythagorean School about the harmony of sound, beauty seems to be defined as the proportion among the different parts of a body or thing. Beauty expressed then perfection, nobility and the worth of something, and had the ability to connect the human finite world with the divine infinite world. This is the way Plato expresses himself when in the dialogue “Symposium” he lets Diotima tell Socrates how the soul ascends towards Beauty being driven by Eros, the God of Love. In the dialogues “Teeth” and “Philebus” Plato explains beauty as an objective piece of information extracted by our reason, which has the Pythagorean perfection of the geometrical bodies as paradigm: the sorted out, regular, symmetrical, harmonious and proportioned objects. Therefore, measurement and proportion are the geometrical elements of Beauty. In addition, Xenophon says that when Socrates proposed that beauty could not be only a matter of proportion, but also takes in consideration the correspondence between the object and its purpose and nature. According to this distinction, even a dustbin can be beautiful if its design is the one that allows it to achieve its objective. Far from it, a shield of gold would not be beautiful because it will be unusable in the fight and to much heavy. Anyway, the name to kalon refers the quality which is being shared for all things we consider beautiful, and in this sense, it is an objective character which can be recognized for our reason. So it is emphasized the objectivity of Beauty, now converted in essence. This beauty captivates us in the look, and by the hand of Eros leads us from the sensitive to the intelligible till Beauty in itself and therefore involves the effort of the wise to achieve the knowledge of Truth.
Socrates made a distinction too in the consideration of beauty. It can be the beauty of the proportion and it can be the beauty of the adaptation. That means that beautiful proportions do not exist in itself and, at the same time, that there are other proportions which can not be beautiful at all. Beautiful can be something which has perfect proportions and also that which is perfectly adapted to its objectives. So, during this classical period we have two theories of beauty: beauty as proportion and beauty as adaptation.
For his part, Aristotle proposes in his Poetics that Beauty consists of measurement and order. This is not new. But this position allows him to separate truth and beauty in order to guarantee the autonomy of art. The work of art proposes an autonomic articulation of different elements of truth, but this articulation is not really an exact imitation of reality but only a construction. Aristotle has the idea that art is imitation (mimesis) of what exists now but also of what should be. With this position Aristotle pointed out that the character of art is not the imitation of what there is but, most of all, to imitate that which could happen, that which is possible. This idea allows him also to emphasize the cognitive dimension, the conceptual side of art, which, however, is not comparable to the conceptual dimension of the theoretical knowledge. On the other hand, Aristotle develops another very useful distinction, too. Good and Beauty are to be separated. Good is related with an action, while beauty is also to be found in the things which are still. In his Rhetoric, he gives us a definition of beauty as that which being desirable in itself is praiseworthy, or that which being good produces pleasure insofar as it is good. This opens the conception that beauty has an inherent value and at the same time, is closely related to pleasure. This connection between beauty and pleasure will be very relevant a long time afterwards.
Throughout history this classical concept was kept without important variations. Plotin introduced a clarification in the theory and says that beauty is not only proportion, because the beauty of the proportions does not arise from themselves but from the soul which expresses herself through them and enlightens them. So beauty is a manifestation of the archetype, of the eternal model. Therefore, only the spirit is beautiful, and material things are so just because they are instilled of spirit. This means that material things are transparent to the shine of the spirit present in them. This is called splendour. This idea of beauty, which combines proportion and splendour, is the prevailing idea in the Middle Ages and remains till the18th century.
During the Middle Ages there appeared an idea that intended to complete this universe of beauty as proportion, measurement, order and harmony. I refer now to the idea of perfection, one of the favourites notions in this time. Perfection had relation not only with beauty but also with truth and good. Following Plato, these authors have the opinion that the aesthetical order is closely linked to the shape of beings. That is the principle of unity and perfection of a being. Imago dicitur pulchra si perfecte representat rem. Actually, this is not a correction of the ancient theory: it is an accent on it. As perfect will be considered that thing which has an adequate disposition and clear proportions. And so will be remarked by the theory of the claritas pulchri, the beauty’s splendour, which says that the order of the beautiful belongs to a kind of nature that can induce in the subject who perceives it, an easy and full contemplation from which the aesthetical pleasure is born.
It can not be said that this great theory of beauty was kept without discussion, but all arguments against it were not strong enough to present an alternative. The first doubts to appear were about the objectivity of beauty; others thought that beauty is not in the parts of the object but in the relation between the object and the human eye. Thomas Aquinas says that pulchra sunt quae visia placent, which was a perspective adopted by other thinkers in the 13th century who turned beauty into a relationship between an object and a subject.
This theory was the conception of beauty in Europe for two thousand years. Naturally, there were critics. For instance, the main thesis was criticized according to the idea that beauty consists in the proportionate and harmonic disposition of the parts, and also the objectivity, reasonability or numerical character of beauty were under discussion. Almost all of this criticism was proposed in ancient times, but it was only in the 18th century that they became common and sufficiently sharp to cause a real crisis. The reason for this inflection was basically that taste had changed, and the new forms of art did not have anything in common with those of classical art. The practice of the different arts compelled theoreticians to think just about those problems which had been ignored for so much time.
And so in the 18th century began a revolution in the consideration of beauty. This is the century in which Aesthetics is born with the beginning of the approach to some problems like the question of the artist as genius (Shaftesbury), the question of the concept of Sublime (Edmund Burke) or the question of sensitive knowledge (Baumgarten). This reaches its crucial moment with the thinking of Kant, who says that beauty is that which pleases universally without the intervention of concepts because it causes the free agreement between imagination and mind. But this is also the century in which the impossibility of metaphysics is showed – at least as a science. If there is no possibility to know what an essence is in itself, there is no possibility to define beauty, either: every phenomenon is a matter of science, and this does not decide about what is beautiful or ugly. This scientific conception of the world will replace gradually the image of a beautiful and harmonic cosmos. Now there appears an ordered universe learned through the knowledge of its laws.
These are the great lines of development during this century. If for the classical tradition beauty was defined on the grounds of its intelligible ontological settling and the conferring of objective, that is, real character, now beauty has to be referred to the order of sensitive and to the subjective dimension. David Hume, one of Kant’s masters, has defined beauty in these terms: “beauty is not any quality in the things selves; she exists in the mind that contemplates them, and each mind perceives a different beauty”. He also keeps, of course, the relation between beauty and pleasure.
Since Baumgarten, Wolff, Hume and Kant, beauty has been no more proportion and harmony of the objects, but the relation of a subject with these objects. This relation will be designated as taste. Therefore, the best judge for the work of art will not be reason but feeling, because the aim of art will be to please, to captivate and to affect. So beautiful then is what is pleasant, what captivates our senses, what gives us satisfaction, vitality, voluptuousness and delight. So the aesthetical judgement lacks universality, because it is exclusively founded on subjective impressions. The attempt to save a kind of universality tried to find taste’s standards which ensure the universality of the aesthetical judges or, at least, which ensures it to be potentially shared by a community capable of receiving an aesthetical education. Along this way, what has been lost is the link between beauty and truth. After this process, beauty, and with her, art, are transformed into appearances which no more concern the objective truth and show only the subjective world of relations with an object.
The transformation has yet another step. It is the moment of Romanticism. This movement, aiming at a renewal of the ideals of the ancient Greeks, joins the reflection about beauty with the reflection about art. The artistic experience is seen like the manifestation of the truth that cannot be showed or cannot be said but through beauty, because the concept has showed its powerlessness, and so recovers the resort to myth as the most suitable form of expression for it. Curiously, after the crisis of the Enlightenment, general theories of beauty began to emerge once more, most of all in Germany. Hegel has defined beauty as “the absolute idea in its sensitive appearance”. In the same way, other theories through the substitution of the concept “proportion” for the concept “form” were revivals of the ancient theory. The conclusion of this revival was very singular, too: the interest for the concept of beauty was lost and in its place emerged the interest for the aesthetic, especially for art and the aesthetical experience.
After all this process, beauty has almost disappeared. A transformation of the scope of this concept has taken place: now beauty is just an aesthetical concept. In the Antiquity she included moral beauty too. Now, beauty is just that what is related with art. Every kind of beauty that differs from the aesthetic was segregated and harboured under the idea of the Sublime. It could be said that there is no more beauty in the world. There is only beauty in art, and this refers to a subjective apprehension, instead of referring to an objective one.
During the 19th century the critical positions of the past century were ignored and the efforts were concentrated in the attempt to reach and formulate a new global theory of beauty. Arthur Schopenhauer was probably one of the most important thinkers of this period. His idea of beauty was that she is the appearance of the Will. In this way, a beautiful object is worthy of aesthetical contemplation and in the aesthetical experience subject and object find their unity. One of the relevant characteristics of beauty for Schopenhauer is that she will not have the potential of rebellion any more. She is no longer a transformative power: its objective is to reach this contemplative identity, not to cause changes either in the subject or in the object.
It seems that the aesthetical reflection of the 20th century marginalizes the concept of beauty as a consequence of the critics of the 18th century. In the 20th century the consequences of the reflections of the 18th century will be extracted. And this happens not through the work of thinkers but through the works of artist and critics. Some thinkers mean, following Kant, that beauty is just a concept with a role in Aesthetics as an expression’s concept. It does not add any information about the thing but only informs about the subject who enunciates the opinion. Therefore, it is such a weak, imperfect concept that it offers no base for any kind of theory, and the most important aim of art is not beauty, but to produce an impression in the people. So the link which joined art and beauty began to break. Other thinkers, like Martin Heidegger, mean that “Beauty is one of the ways in which truth shows itself as unconcealment.” Heidegger attempts to link beauty to truth in the appearing of the work of art, in its showing. And so the history of truth, linked to beauty, has its best expression in the history of art, because this aims to capture the essence of the beautiful. The reflection and artistic realisations of the last century oscillated between both attempts. And it does not seem possible to find an agreement between them. Finally, it looks as if we were no more able to say what beauty is. We have even lost the interest into asking about her. But is this really so? Have we no idea about what beauty is? I do not think so.
The New Faces of Beauty
One of the different versions of the process of modernity is well known: the autonomy of scientific knowledge runs parallel to the autonomy of the arts. But this happens in a peculiar way: while scientific knowledge tries to ensure the control of the world and its processes, the sphere of art reflects the other face of reality, which is also part of humanity: the also modern experience of the fragmentarity of the world, of human identity as absence (it is not there given, it is to be built) and process. This fragmentarity is born from the unsustainability of the desires of universality and eternity of our concepts and knowledge. We have finally understood the historicity of our ways of life and their cultural fragmentation. Therefore, art obtains a notable importance, because beauty is not any more a substantive reality of an object to turn into a horizon of values and concepts sensitively represented. Hegel said that beauty was the sensitive representation of the idea, and so we can say now that for us, beauty is not a quality but an event in which the open relationships, which constitute a subject and the sense of the objects, are brought to bear in order to build its identity. The hope is to clarify that which is most important for a human being: the construction of a sense for a full existence that is both felt and meaningful.
In this way we enter a new field in the considerations about art and beauty. On the one hand, one needs to say that when the beautiful loses its characteristics of calculability and measurability, then the judgement about the beautiful abandons the objective criteria and gives itself to subjective rules which are not easy to define. So the barrier is pulled down between form and the formless, sound and noise, visible and invisible. Therefore, the beautiful tends to find a space in the sphere of taste or in the immediacy of feeling. The consequence is the search for taste standards or rules with a universal character, which usually does not mean anything more than fashion. This “universal character” means actually to be accepted at least in a part of a community with an aesthetical education. So beauty and art are transformed into appearance. But on the other hand, there is another possibility. This goes through the consideration of a series of problems in relation with beauty and the work of art, which set out the question of the “phronesis” or “good behaviour”: what knowledge, what kind of truth appears to be shown in art? What are we told in art? What is being expressed in the work of art? What kind of world or which way of life is shown up there? And most of all, where does it point at, which ideal does it propose?
Consequently, around the problem of beauty there is a constellation of problems at least in three ways: a problem of knowledge of the human being, of its sensitive and perceptive intimacy; a social and political problem (beauty and art are the mirror in which a whole way of life is reflected), and an ethical and eschatological problem: what we are and what we would like to become.
A Proposal for Understanding Beauty and Art
In my opinion, beauty is not anymore a mathematical problem, a question of proportions, but a hermeneutical question so far as it is an event. Art needs, demands, an interpretation, because it is an expression. Art is a view of reality not burdened with the kind of responsibilities it would have if it were a real experiment instead of being a mental one. It is only responsible for its proposal, which could have consequences in fact only if it is taken seriously and becomes a part of reality. But if it is not brought into reality, the work is just a game in which players will be transformed if they decide to play in the space defined by the work of art.
The aesthetical and philosophical proposal of Ernst Bloch offers an integrated reflection on all these questions. He sees art as pre-appearance, that is, as a game (remembering somehow Schiller’s theory), in which beauty is the capability of those works to awake in us the faculty to recognize ourselves and our world in a way that allows changes, transformations, dreams, ideals, future. Bloch begins its way thinking about that which he calls “the obscurity of the lived instant”. He finds that the human being is for itself, first of all, a question that needs and looks for an answer. From here he develops a utopian view about the world and the human being, and places art and therefore beauty (although he hardly speaks about beauty) in a relevant position with an outstanding importance in the process of construction of human identity. Most of all, he offers a consideration of music under this point of view that I find worth being rescued. I will offer an exposition of this proposal, naturally not very extensive but enough for our purpose in this Paper.
Without going into detail, the first idea we rescue from Bloch is the idea of possibility. He distinguishes a double profile of reality according to possibility. He talks about the “being according to the possibility”, which is the consideration of the being in its context, and the “being in possibility”, which is the being’s consideration according to what in it is latent. This consideration of reality has a dialectical correlate, the human being. Like matter, the being is also possibility, but has something special, an added capability over the matter: fantasy that is, the capability of imagining different contexts built with pieces taken from reality plus the work of the desire over them, and therefore I do not use the word imagination in this case. Fantasy allows the human being to escape from the limitations of the context in two ways: through the transformation of the context, when and where possible, or through giving expression to the contents of his fantasies –his idea of a better world- in an object to make them communicable, shareable, in order to offer us a horizon in which the lacks we suffered have been overcome. So the human being, by means of fantasy, has the capability of representing, and to the same extent, of anticipating, the possibilities of being of those objects and subjects that the world harbours. So we have an organ, fantasy, to perceive the tendencies hidden in the movement of the world. Therefore, fantasy is concrete, and its representations must be expressed in an objective form, recognizable and expressable for everybody. Every human culture has assigned art, and not the concept, the expression of what is desired, of what is dreamed of and used for the construction of society. Why not the concept? Because concept and knowledge are aimed to what the beings are yet to become.
In this way we face a kind of discourse which is able to specify the latent possibilities of real situations, to objectify them. However, this discourse has an evident limit: it cannot decide if these possibilities will be objectified or not. What it can do is to present that realisation in such an attractive and desirable way that everyone will want to work to turn them into real. This is the aesthetical discourse. Its character is descriptive, not normative, offering a hermeneutical mold to understand the relation between art and reality.
Ernst Bloch is aware of the current situation for the aesthetical thought. We live in an artistic time full of irrelevant or meaningless works of art, and, among them, a few avant-gardes with character and relevance. What Aesthetics has to do in this panorama is not to reflex about what is pleasant but about what is expectant, the possibilities of a given reality which are part of it but still are not there. So in a time of deep changes and fast transformations, what art offers us are not appearances of things and ideas. Art represents above all, possibilities, the capability of things and situations to be in another way. In this sense, what art offers is the possibility of a thing, idea or situation to be so, in a way, which fills up our fantasy and our desires. Art works with pre-appearances, represents a reality according to our fantasy, desires, dreams. It represents the urgent, that which needs to be in another way right now. Bloch develops his thought about beauty and art over this concept of the “pre-appearance”. His aesthetics is one of the possible happenings in the future, of a fulfilment anticipated by the fantasy which has been given expression in the work of art. What art represents is the being on the way to itself. Therefore aesthetics and art are of that which is not to be captured, that which leaves behind it trails and footsteps, is a homeland we have never been to but what we have always yearned for: the homeland of the identity. If we have never been there, how can we overcome the distance between this homeland and us, between our desire and its fulfilment? What allows us to cover that distance is the recognition of the latency of the real in our desire and its expression in the work of art understood as pre-appearance.
All this presentation of art and the aesthetical thought is elaborated by Bloch in his main book, Das Prinzip Hoffnung, The principle Hope, written in the USA during his exile in the Second World War. All this development starts form the question of whether behind the work of art there is something worthy of being rescued, something that must not be forgotten. It is the question about the truth of the work of art. About whether there is truth in it, and if there is, about what is to be done with it. Bloch answers that at least in the work of art the dreamed desire becomes a beautiful form, and therefore needs the work of reflection on it. In this point the problem is to know if all this is just a game, a nice and pleasant one but without real consequences in the subject or in reality, as Kant thought, or there is something that demands a philosophical discourse built with new and different categories. He pretends to show that the work of art is much more perfect that the reality outside it without needing to turn to transcendence.
So the answer to this question is the following: the appearance of the work of art is not simply appearance, but a meaning wrapped in image. This meaning can only be appointed through images. This is a meaning of what in the being continues to impel, to push, of what is latent in it: his possibility. In the work of art on finds lit what our normal blunt sense, can hardly see in an individual, social or natural phenomenon. The pre-appearance is the reachable in so far art drives that which is latent up to its fulfilment. It is this “can be reached”, this “can be finished” of that which is being represented. This is possible because in the world of art there is nothing definitely decided. In art, the space is open. Everything is determined to the future, and therefore it can be said or represented in another way, another time with another appearance which brings light to that whose actual appearance does not allow to see. Consequently, to represent aesthetically means to represent in the form of the pre-appearance, this means, in the most successful form in the immanence, in a perfected form much more essential that the one which is being offered by the object in its historical existence. In this way, pre-appearance can not be illusion, deception, trick. Pre-appearance represents what is possible in an object, for a subject, in a situation, and shows the possibility of a decision, a strength that is not to be found in the common, daily reality.
Art offers us a representation, an imaginative elaboration of an object, with the purpose to dispose its deepest dimensions to the reflection. So art is the sphere in which reality develops an immanent transcendence: its look seeks what is further away from the actual reality seeking to configure a better situation, more perfect, according to the possibilities already present in what becomes to be. In this sense, the beautiful as well as the sublime are the ambassadors from an existence still-not-become-reality in things.
So art is an attempt to achieve fulfilment -but confined to immanence- going further away from the present condition of things. Only without breaking reality apocalyptically, that is, showing reality from its possibilities to be in another way and not showing it form its realizations. It is here that Bloch places the most relevant difference between art and religion. Art shows something done, closed, not the horizon of reality itself.
It is time to go back to the question about the truth of art. According to Bloch, art is a kind of laboratory, and at the same time, “a part of the possibility come true together with the possibilities that crossed it. The great works of art are an attractive call to fulfilment, “the prayer without God of the poetry”, says Bloch in a really substantial and pertinent sentence. However, something different is the fact that the image offered in the work of art shall be transformed into something practical. This decision concerns neither art nor artists or poets, but society. Art, wherever it is not a plain illusion away from the reality of the world, is beauty and sublimity able to transmit an idea of the future freedom as daughter of the fulfilment in the finding of identity. This makes art an indispensable cultural element, although potentially dangerous, too, regarding the conservation of a certain status quo, which is called to be overcome.
If we accept this idea, then the truth of art is not a given one, is not a fact, a truth already done. Rather. we are talking about a truth still to be done, a desired and yearned for truth, anticipated through the work of art, a future truth which aspires to be kept. This truth will be verified when that, which has been anticipated in the work of art, begins to be part of the world of the facts, world of life. It is the truth of fantasy fixed in desires, in the fruit of the lacks of reality that asks for maturity and rest. We are talking about a truth in progress, on the way. An inadequate truth, asynchronous, that can only be thought of like a reachable achievement in the future, because truth is not the consideration and illustration of facts, but of processes. Definitely, truth is the showing of the tendencies and latencies of that which has not become yet but is coming and needs its maker.
In consequence, the function of art is to be useful as a sphere of dialogue. In it something is proposed in a form of fulfilment. This proposal is to be discussed. Art does not have the aim to decide about the matter that it proposes. It does not have the mission to manage the direction of the historical reality in a certain way. For it is enough to perceive first and then to show the possibilities of being something different to what it is and what it is like. Its aim is to be meaningful, convincing and attractive enough to cause astonishment, reflection and a practical decision. It is in this sense that art an instrument in the hands of fantasy to scan the future. As William Blake said, everything we consider proved today once was only imagined. And the imagined dreams are the embryos of decisions which have later been taken and have configured a reality.
This whole comprehension of art, its function and the relevance of beauty in it has some relevant consequences for our way of thinking. These are:
- In this theory, knowledge and imagination complement each other. The question is not to replace reason with fantasy, but to open the narrow limits of reason after the scientific revolution of the Enlightenment, admitting that fantasy belongs to the faculties of reason as well as its other formal cognitive capabilities
- Appearance is not the veil that covers the being and therefore its negation or concealment. Much more, it is to be understood as real and authentic “phenomenon”, the way in which something becomes evident. What we perceive seems to be so as we perceive it. Usually when a problem arises we try to change the perception we had worked out. So the question is in the relation that appearances maintain with the being and our perception of it. The problem is wherever there is not adaptation between the being and its appearance or between perception and the being through its appearance.
- The consideration of appearance involves the consideration of its perception and therefore the consideration of a conscientious subject who perceives and works out a representation of what has been perceived. Appearance offers two possibilities: it can show something true or false depending on its relation with something real or a mirage. If this second possibility is the case, there remains still open the possibility that this appearance, today an illusion, a mirage, will be something real in the future depending on its meaning for us.
- The representations of art are able to put in front of us contents that we can find or create in our conscience/awareness. This is what is called “aesthetic experience” at the seeing of a painting, at the hearing of a musical piece or at the reading of a book.
So the pre-appearance is such because it awakes in us a meaning which is not still conscience. It calls this meaning into awareness and so emphasizes in reality the perspective of its possibilities instead of its facts. This view makes from each object not a fact but most of all an “still not become”, like a pilgrim on the way to themselves, in a phenomenon that pointed out something further away from its actual way of being. That is the view of the object from the future, not from its present or its past. In this case, appearance is a previous step as part of an open process in development. This kind of consideration of reality is only possible in the artistic creation. It is the only mode of the creative act free enough to play with the meanings of reality without needing to take the responsibility for the consequences that the introduction of such changes in reality could have, whatever they may be.
In addition, here is scheduled a very particular point of view about the relationships between subject and object which allows to attain the Identity. The subject objectifies itself, because the work of art is a construction of the fantasy guided by the desire. The object becomes subjective, since it harbours the meanings which in any other way and in any other form are accessible for us. Besides, we cannot resign from them, because they are part of ourselves, part of our being as possibility that demands to be fulfilled. So is the process in which identity is worked out. Therefore, and under this theory, beauty is a memory of what we and the world as subjects are called to, which also knows and says that to be so like this memory of the future represents, one needs both work and a decision.
In this way the work of art is always a sketch. A sketch that contradicts and criticizes reality: it shows something which really should be but is not in fact and points out the fulfilment that is not there. But also this sketch contradicts itself, because that which will be, will not be exactly as it shows. The work of art itself is open towards the future: because it cannot decide and also because its fulfilment concerns an intuition, enveloped in darkness, from something that we do not know and which we would like to be as we desire. So beauty and art do not use the same kind of discourse as science. Beauty and art recall and provoke through the expression of a meaning hidden for our conscience.
Being so it is clear that beauty and its best manifestation, art, is an event. It is an event that asks for interpretation. Beauty is actually the name of an encounter: a subject, with their fantasy, desire and conscience meets the world through a created object. An object gets a meaning that opens new horizons for it. But, above all, the subject meets itself. This discovery brings the genuine significance of the concept. Naturally, this has a peculiar existential slant. Through the aesthetic look, a meaning of critical importance for the construction of one’s own identity is worked out. This work modifies the subject as well as the world in which he lives. This meeting does not happen in every case. But there where it happens, no matter if in a work of art, in a landscape or in nature, then we say that such object, such landscape and such work of art are beautiful. Then it is to be decided what we want to do with this discovery of something that is not there, that is only a dream now (but not a chimera) and which opens a different future for us.
For that reason beauty is always dangerous: she incites to be in another way, she is the witness and the proof of a search for what is that entire world in front and inside us. She is made of hope rather than proportion, models and well known and remembered ideas. Harmony is not a starting point either a supposition, like in the theory of the antiquity. It is the result of a laborious effort which does not save any contradiction, but rather, uses them to reach perfection hardly looked for. Something beautiful is not so because of its perfection, but because of its harmony as promise of fulfilment.