A Question about Aesthetics

A reader whom I admire (because he reminds me of me–so I suppose my admiration is a trifle narcissistic) makes this comment. ""Aesthetics is a trickier matter. I will admit that aesthetics is probably the weak link in my understanding of philosophy. All I’m willing to say is that if aesthetics is objective then it is still going to be a titanic undertaking to draw lines and establish boundaries there."

My comment: Ayn Rand is the only modern philosopher who tried, but her metaphysics was nominalism, and so she attempted to attach the beautiful and lovely to expressions of what she called highest values — capitalists love skyscrapers and do not (for example) feel sublime and awed at the sight of stars, etc. This theory does not explain all the facts, but my respect for Rand is great, because she made a bold attempt. Other modern philosophers are girlmen and craven cowards compared to her.

Myself, I hold with Plato and St. Thomas Aquinas that the Beautiful is an objective object of thought. We know a line is straight or crooked because we compare it with an ideal line in thought, and everyone who thinks of the ideal line thinks the same thing. We know an argument is logical or illogical because we compare the argument against ideal laws of logic in thought, and everyone uses the same ideals laws (even people who never studied logic, or who lived on earth before Aristotle use the same rules. This is how we know those laws were discovered, not manmade.)

Likewise, we know the beautiful when we compare it to an ideal of beauty. If there is no objective ideal of beauty, than not only is all taste merely a matter of taste, and all beauty in the eye of the beholder, BUT, it would be impossible for me to both think something is beautiful and to think that maybe my taste is bad and that I should learn to see what is good for what it is. In other words, if there is no such thing as true (objective) beauty ,then there is false beauty, and no such thing as correcting an wrong opinion about beauty, and there is no way to correct mistakes, to learn, to grow, or to develop good taste.

This jars against our experience. We all know there are things we think beautiful as adults that children do not find so, and we recall the change in our aesthetics as our judgment deepened. If there is no objective standard of aesthetics, than that change is merely change, and not growth. But since it feels like growth, and we remember it as growth, the facts on the ground testify to an objective standard.