The Ethics of Aesthetics

Oct 9, 2017

Everybody loves math when they know it. When they don't, they think they hate math. What they really hate is not knowing it. 

Everybody loves Bach's Mass in B Minor if they can hear it. When they can't, they think they hate Bach's Mass in B Minor. What they really hate is not being able to hear it. 

While I would guess that some people disagree with me about the first point, probably a lot more people disagree with me about the second. They probably hate that point. Or at least they think they do, but that is because they can't see it. What they really hate is that they can't see it. 

The fine arts and the liberal mathematical arts show us that we are often unable to enjoy some work of art of perception of math because we lack the skill or understanding to appreciate a wonder they hide. This serves as an analogy for the enjoyment of God. If you don't like God (the real one), you have bad taste. 

It is we that are unable to enjoy what we ought to enjoy. And some things simply ought to be enjoyed. In short, they deserve it so we owe it. 

Of course, this suggests an ought to pleasure--a controversial point which is, nonetheless, axiomatic and perhaps even self-evident. And certainly, a point on which I insist. 

We ought, says the Apostle Paul, to give honor to whom it is due. 

Pleasure has many aspects, but one of them, and probably its essence or at least its high point is adoration. We are made to adore, and therefore we enjoy adoring. And what we adore will form us into its image. 

Andrew  Kern

Andrew Kern

Andrew Kern is the founder and president of The CiRCE Institute and the co-author of the book, Classical Education: the Movement Sweeping America