In Berys Gaut & Dominic Lopes (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics. Routledge. pp. 307-319 (2007)
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Beauty is evil, a surreptitious diversion of earthly delights planted by the devil, according to the third century theologian-philosopher Tertullian. Beauty is a manifestation of the divine on earth, according to another third century philosopher, Plotinus. Could these two really be talking about the same thing? That beauty evokes an experience of pleasure is probably the only point on which all participants in the continuing debate on beauty agree. But what kinds of pleasure one considers relevant to an experience of beauty, is the crux of the problem of beauty. In ancient, medieval and eighteenth century philosophy, the problem of beauty was framed by the larger concern of what constituted a good life. The question regarding the nature of beauty was answered with a view to its role in achieving the good life for those who cultivated its apprehension. In the twentieth century, philosophers framed the problem of beauty as a problem for conceptual analysis. The questions asked were: Is beauty subjective or objective? Are there properties in the object that count towards beauty in all cases; that are sufficient or necessary for an object to be judged beautiful? What kind of pleasure is the pleasure we experience of beauty? I will examine how these questions can be seen to have been answered by earlier philosophical traditions and then I will use these questions as a guide to developing an explanatory theory of beauty based on contemporary theories of perception.
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