I need to make the case that my judgments about this aren’t arbitrary. I’m saying something more objective about beauty than, “I like building A but I don’t like building B.” So I need to start with a robust theory of aesthetics. Here’s what I need it to do:I've never been to Paris, so I can't speak with much authority on the beauty of the buildings there. However, I can tell her why the beautiful and the good used to be thought connected. Here is an old post:
It needs to be able to tell us, in some detail, why Building A is more beautiful than Building B. These principles should be broadly applicable to all buildings.
It would be useful to show that these principles may broadly be applied to the idea of “beauty,” generally.
I’d like to explore the idea that it’s at least reasonable to associate “the beautiful” and “the morally good.”
This point must be based on evidence, the nature of which must be defined. So, for example, I want to look at the criminogenic quality of ugly buildings, and the way people tend to get sick and die sooner when they live in and among them.
Htom asked for a break to put his thoughts in order before we reconvened on the subject of levels of reality -- that is, whether a thing can be "more real" than another. Here's St. Augustine on the subject:The Twain discussion tracks to this earlier post, and this one. Twain's subject was Wagner's opera, which he criticized intensely -- but his admission undoes all the criticism.Look around; there are the heaven and the earth. They cry aloud that they were made, for they change and vary. Whatever there is that has not been made, and yet has being, has nothing in it that was not there before. This having something not already existent is what it means to be changed and varied. Heaven and earth thus speak plainly that they did not make themselves: "We are, because we have been made; we did not exist before we came to be so that we could have made ourselves!" And the voice with which they speak is simply their visible presence. It was thou, O Lord, who madest these things. Thou art beautiful; thus they are beautiful. Thou art good, thus they are good. Thou art; thus they are. But they are not as beautiful, nor as good, nor as truly real as thou their Creator art. Compared with thee, they are neither beautiful nor good, nor do they even exist. These things we know, thanks be to thee. Yet our knowledge is ignorance when it is compared with thy knowledge.That gives us two 'levels' of reality: God, and creation. The original claim of Mark Twain's suggested that a human creation could -- if it were also true and beautiful -- be "more real" than other things that were part of God's creation.
Confer with Tolkien's idea of sub-creation, and his creation myth in the Silmarillion. Human nature has a capacity to seize upon the True and the Beautiful as they are in other things. We can separate them intellectually from the things they are in, and think about why they are beautiful. We can take things that are imperfectly beautiful, and imagine how to make them more so. We can, in our arts, make them actually more beautiful.
If you can make art that is more real than nature, then you are refining something found in the natural world. That is what Aristotle suggests art exists to do: to perfect the natures of things. You start with the good in the world, and perfect it. Nature might provide shelter in a cave. Men taking shelter in such caves made them places for worship by decorating their walls with other beautiful scenes found in nature. Such a cave begins to be improved by being made more perfect, and thus -- this was Twain's insight -- more real.
A cathedral is just an artificial cave, in a way. Notre Dame is more real because it is more beautiful. It is more beautiful because it more perfectly realizes the goods that it was brought into being to serve.