In Search of Aesthetics, Alhazen's "Optica"

Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania (1993)
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The aesthetic theory of AlHasan Ibn AlHaytham, known in Latin as Alhazen , has hardly received any attention in the realm of aesthetic investigations. The aesthetic theory is based on twenty-two criteria, which he describes in his book, Kitab Almanazir, better known in Latin as Optica. To illustrate the notion of beauty presented in Optica, one has to understand Alhazen's cultural encyclopedia based on classical Greek knowledge and Islamic sciences. The Greeks and the Egyptians before them, relied on the concepts of measure and geometry as the foundation of aesthetic criteria. By examining the third chapter of Optica, one can see that Alhazen does not look upon these traditional concepts as the fundamental principles of beauty, but he approaches the problem differently. He addresses it as a continuation of his research theme in Optica--to present a proper theory of vision. He dilates upon his twenty-two characteristics as they can be perceived by sight. Alhazen calls these different characteristics the "visible properties" . Explaining each of these properties and the way they are perceived, Alhazen comes up with a hypothesis of "how to entitle an object to be considered beautiful" and a new interpretation of beauty, which is based upon the visual qualities of visible objects. This search of Alhazen hypothesis is essential for drawing architecture out of the present condition of impasse

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Ahmed Elkady
University of Pennsylvania (PhD)


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