Beauty and the Good: Recovering the Classical Tradition from Plato to Duns Scotus

edited by Alice M. Ramos
Catholic University of America Press, 2021
Cloth: 978-0-8132-3353-6, eISBN: 978-0-8132-3354-3

ABOUT THIS BOOK
In the past twenty years or more, there has been a growing interest among philosophers and theologians alike in the transcendentals and especially in the beautiful. This seems fortuitous since so much of contemporary culture is fixated in many ways on beauty, on what might be called a superficial or man-made beauty, intent on outward appearance, with little or no concern for the human person’s interiority and distinctive nature. The Ancients and the Medievals, on the contrary, were sensitive not only to the beauty of nature and art but also to beauty as intelligible, that is, to the beauty of moral harmony and of metaphysical splendor. While the question of whether the beautiful is in fact a transcendental aspect of being continues to be a subject of dispute in contemporary scholarship, the relationship between the beautiful and the good has been accepted since ancient times and has been attended to in recent publications. None of these publications, however, offers a systematic treatment of this relationship by drawing from the wisdom of both ancient and medieval thought in such a way as to bring together the work of scholars in this tradition.

Beauty and the Good intends therefore to make a singular contribution by presenting a richer alternative to the contemporary cult of beauty and appearance on the one hand, and to the concomitant decline of real beauty on the other hand. In addition to highlighting the centrality of beauty in the Aristotelian account of moral virtue, where virtue is kalon and virtuous actions are done for the sake of kalon—an account which is found echoed in the medieval notion of intrinsic goodness (bonum honestum), understood as intelligible or spiritual beauty—this volume will provide the metaphysical and theological grounding for beauty, as influenced in part by Plato and Neoplatonism, together with a much needed account of how we know and judge beauty, and how for the recognition of true good and real beauty we need to be properly disposed. The integration of philosophical and theological reflection on the nature and relationship of beauty and the good, on our perception and judgment of beauty and of the good as beautiful, and on the motivational role of beauty in human action has as its goal to produce a coherent volume of essays.

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