The Concept of the Beautiful in Aristotle

The Concept of the Beautiful in Aristotle

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

Aristotle, in his works named “metaphysics” and “poetics”, put forward some thoughts and definitions about “beautiful”, although it was not dealt with in a systematic way. These thoughts and definitions are closely related to Plato’s understanding of beauty in old age. In short, Aristotle tries to define beauty as mathematics. According to him, beauty can be determined mathematically.

“Surely, the mathematical sciences speak of the beautiful and the good and reveal them. However, if they do this without mentioning their names, but show their functions and proportions, it does not mean that they do not speak of them. The basic forms of beauty are order, limitation; that is, things proven by most mathematical disciplines.”

Another interesting point among Aristotle’s definitions of beauty is that he deals with beauty with a certain magnitude. He says that very big and very small things, that is, things beyond our grasp, cannot be beautiful and rejects them as “unaesthetic”.

“…beautiful is based on order and greatness. Therefore, neither a very small thing can be beautiful, for our understanding is scattered within the limits of what is too small to be perceived; nor can a very large thing be beautiful because it cannot be grasped at once, and its unity and greatness in the beholder disappears.”

Aristotle’s rejection of the things beyond our grasping power as unaesthetic while explaining the beautiful is the reflection of the Greek spirit of his time in his philosophy. In ancient thought, for something to be beautiful, it had to be intelligible. Things that Aristotle considers unaesthetic because they are beyond our grasp will be examined by Kant in the 18th century under the concept of “sublime”, another aesthetic category. The period in which Aristotle lived was not ready for an aesthetic category other than beautiful.

Compiled by: Sociologist Ömer Yıldırım
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM)