Intellectual Beauty in Medieval Aesthetics

Reading Group

Can analytic aestheticians in the 21st century talk about intelligible beauty still? Is the idea of intelligible beauty a secular one, at least in principle? And how do we experience or grasp the intelligible? We study fragments and essays of three central medieval authors: Augustine, Acquinas, and Plotinus. On the basis of these readings, it is clear that there is a pre-modern tradition of conceiving of aesthetic value as possibly or even primarily intellectual or spiritual. Especially in the writings of Plotinus we find a development of a non-sensory aesthetic. One important way non-sensory aesthetic value can be realised is through beautiful practices or habits.

Central texts:

  • Plotinus, ‘On Beauty’ and ‘On Intellectual Beauty’
  • Acquinas, section of ‘Contra Impugnantes’
  • Augustine, fragments in Carrit, Philosophies of Beauty
  • Wladyslaw Tatarkiewicz, History of Aesthetics (sections)

Meeting time: Tuesdays 12:30-14:00 (fortnightly)