Via Pulchritudinis: How can the Via Pulchritudinis be a Response? Part 2

Our second part looking at section II-2, and the question: How can the Via Pulchritudinis be a Response?

This call to philosophers might surprise some people, but is not the via pulchritudinis also a via veritatis on which man engages to discover the bonitas of God’s love, source of all beauty, truth and good?

It is. But most people, including some philosophers, view beauty and the arts as a “fluffy” thing. Via veritatis, the way of truth, is often boiled down for many of today’s Catholics as a simple duality: yes or no, permitted or forbidden, virtue or sin, this or that. Beauty doesn’t seem to work that way. Not in art, anyway.

Beauty, as much as truth and good, leads us to God, the first truth, supreme good, and beauty itself. But beauty means more than the truth or the good. To say that something is beautiful is not only to recognize it intelligible and therefore loveable, but also, in specifying our knowledge, it attracts us, or captures us with a ray capable of igniting marvel.

Agreement here, at least from me. But a caution for the either/or crowd: that marvel-igniting ray might be coming from an unexpected place outside of perceived orthodoxy. The development of polyphony from plainchant, for example. What attracts some believers does not always beckon others.

Moreover, as it expresses a certain power of attraction, beauty tells forth reality itself in the perfection of its form. It is its epiphany. It manifests it by expressing its internal brightness.

An extensive footnote follows:

[According to St Thomas Aquinas claritas is one of the three conditions of beauty. In the part treating De Trinitate in the Summa Theologica, he examines the proper attributes of each Divine Person and attaches beauty to the Son : « Pulchritudo habet similitudinem cum propriis Filii ». And he indicates the three conditions of beauty to apply them to Christ : integritas sive perfectioproportio sive consonantia and claritas (Ia, qu. 39, art. 8).] If the good speaks the desirable, the beautiful tells forth the splendor and light of the perfection it manifests. [For a reflection on the philosophy of beauty and artistic activity see M.-D. PHILIPPE, L’activité artistique. Philosophie du faire, 2 vol., Paris 1969-1970, avec une importante bibliographie. For a theological reflection see Bruno FORTE, La porta della Bellezza. Per un’estetica teologica, Brescia 1999; Inquietudini della trascendenza, ch. 3 : “La Bellezza”, Brescia 2005, p. 45-55; La Bellezza di Dio: Scritti e discorsi 2004-2005, Cinisello Balsamo 2006]

In sum, I think beauty is not always recognized when it appears. God often brings that ray of insight from outside of human expectations. That clear line of melody and text is obscured in piles of counter-melodies and themes slowed down, sped up, and intertwined. And sometimes, sheer cold intellect is mistaken for beauty. Claritas can also apply to human expressions of logic and the re-telling of tradition. But not everyone sees the written page as an expression of beauty. Many of us want something more lyrical. And the catechism can’t always be set to music.

The full document is here.

Image: the rose window at Notre Dame in Paris, By Zachi Evenor based on File:North rose window of Notre-Dame de Paris, Aug 2010.jpg by Julie Anne Workman – CC BY-SA 2.0,

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Art, evangelization, Via Pulchritudinis. Bookmark the permalink.

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