Idealist, beauty

Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist. Modern man, raised on Kantian idealism, sees nature as nothing more than the result of mental laws. Things, having lost their independence as divine works, now gravitate around human thought, from which their laws are derived. After that, what if criticism had resulted in the virtual abolition of all metaphysics? […]… When the universe is reduced to mental laws, man, who has now become the creator, loses all ability to rise above himself. He is now the prisoner of his own work, and he will never be able to escape it. He is the legislator of a world to which his own mind has given birth. […] If my thought is my state of being, I will never be able to transcend the limits of my being by thought, and my capacity for the infinite will never be satisfied.”

In The Symposium. In the midst of a drinking party, Socrates recounts the teachings of his instructress, one Diotima, on matters of love. She connects the experience of beauty to the erotic or the desire to reproduce. But the desire for reproduction is associated in turn with a desire for the immortal or eternal: ‘And why all this longing for propagation? Because this is the one deathless and eternal element in our mortality ’(Plato, 559, [Symposium 206e–207a).

I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are good ideas and bad ideas. You’re wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad ideas but some of them are on opposite sides.

The quest for universal beauty must find him mounting the heavenly ladder, stepping from rung to rung — that is, from one to two, and from two to every lovely body, says Plato. This conception has had many expressions in the modern era, including in such figures as Schiller, and Hegel. According to these figures, the experience of art and beauty is a primary bridge between the material and the spiritual. It is beauty and art that performs this integration, rather than the natural world itself.