Plotinos: Complete Works
Plotinos: Complete Works
FIRST ENNEAD, BOOK SIXTH.Of Beauty.
REVIEW OF BEAUTY OF DAILY LIFE.
1. Beauty chiefly affects the sense of sight. Still, the ear perceives it also, both in the harmony of words, and in the different kinds of music; for songs and verses are equally beautiful. On rising from the domain of the senses to a superior region, we also discover beauty in occupations, actions, habits, sciences and virtues. Whether there exists a type of beauty still higher, will have to be ascertained by discussion.
PROBLEMS CONCERNING HIGHER BEAUTY.
What is the cause that certain bodies seem beautiful, that our ears listen with pleasure to rhythms judged beautiful, and that we love the purely moral beauties? Does the beauty of all these objects derive from some unique, immutable principle, or will we recognize some one principle of beauty for the body, and some other for something else? What then are these principles, if there are several? Or which is this principle, if there is but one?
WHAT IS THE PRINCIPLE BY PARTICIPATION IN WHICH THE BODY IS BEAUTIFUL?
First, there are certain objects, such as bodies, whose beauty exists only by participation, instead of being inherent in the very essence of the subject. Such are beautiful in themselves, as is, for example, virtue. Indeed, the same bodies seem beautiful at one time, while at another they lack beauty; consequently, there is a great difference between being a body and being beautiful. What then is the principle whose presence in a body produces beauty therein? What is that element in the bodies which moves the spectator, and which attracts, fixes and charms his glances? This is the first problem to solve; for, on finding this principle, we shall use it as a means to resolve other questions.
POLEMIC AGAINST SYMMETRY, THE STOIC DEFINITION OF BEAUTY.
(The Stoics), like almost everybody, insist that visual beauty consists in the proportion of the parts relatively to each other and to the whole, joined to the grace of colors. If then, as in this case, the beauty of bodies in general consists in the symmetry and just proportion of their parts, beauty could not consist of anything simple, and necessarily could not appear in anything but what was compound. Only the totality will be beautiful; the parts by themselves will possess no beauty; they will be beautiful only by their relation with the totality. Nevertheless, if the totality is beautiful, it would seem also necessary that the parts be beautiful; for indeed beauty could never result from the assemblage of ugly things. Beauty must therefore be spread among all the parts. According to the same doctrine, the colors which, like sunlight, are beautiful, are beautiful but simple, and those whose beauty is not derived from proportion, will also be excluded from the domain of beauty. According to this hypothesis, how will gold be beautiful? The brilliant lightning in the night, even the stars, would not be beautiful to contemplate. In the sphere of sounds, also, it would be necessary to insist that what is simple possesses no beauty. Still, in a beautiful harmony, every sound, even when isolated, is beautiful. While preserving the same proportions, the same countenance seems at one time beautiful, and at another ugly. Evidently, there is but one conclusion: namely, that proportion is not beauty itself, but that it derives its beauty from some superior principle. (This will appear more clearly from further examples). Let us examine occupations and utterances. If also their beauty depended on proportion, what would be the function of proportion when considering occupations, laws, studies and sciences? Relations of proportion could not obtain in scientific speculations; no, nor even in the mutual agreement of these speculations. On the other hand, even bad things may show a certain mutual agreement and harmony; as, for instance, were we to assert that wisdom is softening of the brain,