Is truth=beauty is true?

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We all know people who occasionally proclaim that truth is beauty. But have you ever shared a table with somebody who made the statement in such a convincing way, that you felt that their whole existence was breathing this truth? I did, last week.
I met a stage designer somewhere in Amsterdam, and there he said it. I instantly believed what he said and nibbled on my cookie while nodding my approval. Later that day, cooled down by a bout of Dutch rain, I felt I had to somehow reproduce the philosophical underpinning I have for it. Strolling alongside the pretty canals, crossing wonderful wooden drawbridges, and looking at the reflections of the slanted facades in the last remaining mirrors of ice, I attempted to think about the subject.
The concept of Truth, when extended beyond the purely functional “what is the case” (under certain circumstances), is a concept vague enough to keep many philosophers busy for the next couple of centuries. But that’s no reason to shrug. Let’s deal our cards:

1. Truth under NO circumstances – mathematical, logical truths, tautologies (eg. Pi is not a rational number)
2. Truth under SOME circumstances – everyday truths, scientific knowledge (eg. Jupiter is larger than Neptune)
3. Truth under ALL circumstances – ultimate Truths (eg. religious truths)

I write “NO” circumstances (or context) in the first case, because these truths don’t depend on any context. Of course they hold, but since that fact is not influenced by the context, it doesn’t help distinguishing between contexts. 2+2=4 on Mars or among microbes. We would say it doesn’t tell any aspect of the “truth” about Mars or microbes. Truths in the second sense, that hold under “SOME” circumstances, do help us tell some aspect of the “truth” about planets, animals, humans, or words, colors, smells. Intuitively, what religious truth means is some kind of generalisation of this second kind of truth, a truth that tells us ALL aspects of everything, and tells it apart. Truth in that third sense is a perfect categorization or taxonomy of everything we dare talk about.
That concept can only be approximated, as we are thrown into Being and possess only eyes here, on the inside. Such approximations (without calling them so) have been attempted by religion since the early rise of human culture (eg. the Gilgamesh). The optimal approximation would be as close as we could get to the Truth (insofar as that should remain meaningful as an absolute concept) and how do we get to such an approximation? How do we make a “move” that is at the same time a generalization of our experience and yet dependent on it. This move, I think, should be described as aesthetic. It holds the uniqueness of an experience (because beauty is what strikes us and inspires us) while generalizing at the same time as we identify it as beauty (the painful comparison to known beauty and past experiences). The aesthetic experience thus qualifies as a candidate for the kind of approximation of truths of the third category.

Some say that you can’t do such wild thinking without soon arriving at some Hegelian phrase. Here is ours: (truth in art, like truth in general, requires the harmony of an inner and outer, of concept and reality. (Aesthetics Vol I, p. 343, translated by T.M. Knox)

So yes, affirmative, truth=beauty, our sense of beauty is the organ can perceive the most meaningful truths.

Is truth=beauty is true? was originally published on Meandering home


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Kamiel Choi

Dutch philosopher and poet, sometimes sharing thoughts on the internet.

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