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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas
7 occurrences of Dictionary_of_the_History_of_Ideas
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7 occurrences of Dictionary_of_the_History_of_Ideas
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3. Other Instances of the Objective Conception of
Beauty.

We find a simpler and often empirical notion
of objective beauty in the idea that the artist who
wishes to present perfect beauty selects out of many
examples the most beautiful parts of each, since one
cannot find one person whose every part is perfect.
The argument occurs already in Xenophon's Memora-
bilia of Socrates
(III, x, 1). In several cases this view
is modified by the principle that the sculptor, painter,
and poet must avoid the imitation of the individual
with his characteristic peculiarities and present a com-
posite image, formed after a model created in the mind.

The relationship between the beautiful and the use-
ful is defined in a variety of ways. The critics of beauty
as an innate idea, as a form of Being or, more generally,
as a metaphysical or ontological idea, often consider
the useful to be the foundation of beauty; empirical
and pragmatic reasons are to replace the so-called
obscure and vague notions.

Usefulness or utility is, however, also taken in the
sense of fitness and appropriateness, meaning the apti-
tude of proportion, form, or structure to the end pro-
posed. When the full realization of a potential in
human beings and the fitness of the parts to the design
for which each thing is formed are called beautiful,
no pragmatic or utilitarian idea is involved. The use
of utility by the Earl of Shaftesbury shows that the
concept can find a place even in a metaphysics of
beauty:

The same features which make deformity create incom-
modiousness and disease. And the same shapes and propor-
tions which make beauty afford advantage by adapting to
activity and use. Even in the imitative or designing arts
the truth or beauty of every figure or statue is measured
from the perfection of Nature in her just adapting of every
limb and proportion to the activity, strength, dexterity, life
and vigor of the particular species or animal designed. Thus
beauty and truth are plainly joined with the notion of utility
and convenience, even in the apprehension of every inge-
nious artist, the architect, the statuary or the painter

( Char-
acteristics
..., II, 267).

In all these instances the beautiful does not depend
upon the useful and is not derived from it, but is linked
or coexists with it. For a further discussion of Shaftes-
bury, see below, Section II, Paragraph 1, Metaphysical
Foundation.