Beauty is Not One: The Irreducible Variety of Visual Beauty

Jerrold Levinson

in The Aesthetic Mind

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199691517
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731815 | DOI:
Beauty is Not One: The Irreducible Variety of Visual Beauty

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One is tempted to think that, although beauty comes in many forms, and although the objects that exhibit beauty are of diverse sorts, that beauty is essentially the same thingBthe same property, as it wereBwherever it is found and whatever possesses it. In this paper, which is confined to the most central domain of beauty, that is, visual beauty, I oppose the idea that beauty is one, suggesting instead that visual beauty is irreducibly multiple, that the types thereof are essentially different and not reducible or assimilable to one another. I articulate this multiplicity in seven categories, which represent the minimum degree of differentiation the domain of visual beauty seems to require: abstract beauty, artifactual beauty, artistic beauty, natural beauty, physical beauty, moral beauty, and accidental beauty. In the latter part of the paper I explore some dimensions of difference among these beauties, and weigh rationales for affirming the real divergence among them with respect to the dimensions of difference highlighted.

Keywords: visual beauty; irreducible multiplicity; kinds of beauty

Chapter.  9816 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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