105 Greatest Living Authors Present the World's Best Stories, Humor, Drama, Biography, History, Essays, Poetry

By Whit Burnett | Go to book overview
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JACQUES MARITAIN

I do not know whether this excerpt from Art and Scholasticism
represents the manner of the author in an adequate fashion. I chose
it because it is perhaps likely to have meaning for the common
reader, and because its subject-matter is especially significant, at
least to my mind. I am more interested in the subject-matter than
in the author.

JACQUES MARITAIN


Art and Beauty

ST. THOMAS, who was as simple as he was wise, defined the beautiful as what gives pleasure on sight, id quod visum placet.* The four words say all that is necessary: a vision, that is to say an intuitive knowledge, and a joy. The beautiful is what gives joy, not all joy, but joy in knowledge; not the joy peculiar to the act of knowing, but a joy super-abounding and overflowing from such an act because of the object known. If a thing exalts and delights the soul by the bare fact of its being given to the intuition of the soul, it is good to apprehend, it is beautiful.

Beauty is essentially the object of intelligence, for what knows in the full meaning of the word is the mind, which alone is open to the infinity of being. The natural site of beauty is the intelligible world: thence it descends. But it also falls in a way within the grasp of the senses, since the senses in the case of man serve the mind and can themselves rejoice in knowing "the beautiful relates only to sight and hearing of all the senses, because these two are maxime cognoscitivi." The part played by the senses in the perception of beauty becomes in our case enormous and well-nigh indispensable, because our mind is not intuitive like the angelic mind: it can perceive, no doubt, but only on condition of abstracting and discoursing. In man only knowledge derived through the senses possesses fully the intu

____________________
*
Summa Theologica,i.q. 5, a. 4, ad 1.

-685-

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