The Nine Muses The Philosophy of the GOOD


Philosophical Musings – The Beautiful

I spoke of the feelings of humanity briefly in another essay. There I lumped together with these feelings, the intuitions, which I said were a kind of spontaneous knowledge, which came from the human heart, by way of the agency in the human, known as the Good. Feelings are a sort of internal reaction within a human, to the various internal and external events which life presents to it. They can be triggered by thoughts, external experiences, things we might call fantasies, and even other feelings. Fear, anger, humiliation, happiness, joy, satiety, envy, jealousy and even love might all be termed feelings. In describing them we might call them “moods” or overall states into which the body drifts due to the triggers delineated above. They have physiologic states that seem to coexist with them, or proceed from them, so they may be classified as real behavioral phenomena. Unfortunately, the unique mental states that trigger or coexist with them are indistinguishable to anyone but the one who experiences them. Overall they create a background, which entirely “colors” or permeates the activity of the person experiencing them, for a certain length of time. Although they are internally generated, and internally interpreted, they can still be communicated by the human. The very act of being able to give them a name shows us that they are something capable of being symbolized. In the essay called “Absolutism vs. Relativism” I said that these feelings were more tied to the “connotes” of definition, and really did not share a hard and fast definition. Although the dictionary “defines” these feelings I have named above, they are not strictly the feelings themselves but descriptions of the “accepted”, or “standard” agreed on circumstances, which coexists in all people experiencing the actual feeling 1 . In many ways they are like the “color” sense in man, although somewhat more vague. Colors can be characterized by external frequencies of the light, which elicits them, on the other hand, feelings have no real external ties to anything concrete, and often are merely triggered internally. Yet they are capable of being symbolized as complex internal “backgrounds” that all humans perceive. But even more interestingly, feelings can be elicited in humans by what in the former essay I called “feeling symbols”. These I enumerate into three classes: Plastic Arts, painting, sculpture etc.; Music; and Drama 2 , in all its assorted types and forms.

This immediately brings us to the question of aesthetics; the ancient concept of beauty or the Beautiful.

It is of interest that all the three divisions of “feeling symbols” are also the three ways in which humankind strives to create beauty. The feeling symbols create in those that experience them a complex of feelings, which flood the participant with a mood and a recollection of knowledge from the core of the human personality the Id. The Ego is bypassed, and within the participant, the very depths of the personality are stirred, which results in a flooding with various feelings. The feelings themselves seem to be indicators of when the fully formed 3 Super Ego or Conscience is either threatened or vindicated. Fear, anger, humiliation, shame, hatred, envy and jealousy are all perceived as threats to the Super Ego, and create agitated states; while happiness, love, joy, satiety and righteous pride create more peaceful states of resignation, although joy and love can often create excited states of expectation.

Whatever the cause, the feeling that results causes a state within the individual that calls forth a huge network of associations of previous experiences and connotes, which are tied to the Super Ego and consequently to the Good itself. 4 The close connection between the feelings and the conscience in the human being, show us that the feelings are a part of the internal moral system that the Good has created to deal with the outer world.

On the other side of the coin is the creative impulse that drives the human to create the feeling symbols. This brings us to the Beautiful.

The aesthetic impulse in the human to create the feeling symbols is the same force that molds its conscience, and allows it to share its internal states with others to find an ideal or perfect conception, which is the Beautiful. Now we can see that it is the Good, this same agency, which allows a human to reach out to the perfect within itself, and share it with others, that also allows it to be able to create external forms that allow others to share its own feelings and strivings toward perfection. Understood in this way, all feeling symbols, or artistic ventures are a reaching out to share the deepest and most genuine parts of the human being with its fellows.

But as I have mentioned in another essay the Good can become narrowed and distorted through selfishness into an agency which no longer represents the Good. So also the feeling symbols can be distorted into instigators of the base in a human. In ancient times such bloody dramas and spectacles as the gladiatorial combats were used to stir the emotions and placate the base in humanity; the need for revenge or retribution, a way for those in misery to forget their own misery by foisting it on to others. So also in today’s world much literature and movies and TV are only formulas made to titillate or nauseate, without any striving after the ideals of perfection approached in the Good; so it is also with much of today’s music, with its preponderance of base frequencies, which only stimulates the passions and bypasses the deeper needs. These types of pseudo-feeling symbols can cause real harm to the child, by deforming the Good in him to ignore the spiritual, and only embrace the passions; such dangers can be found in the violent video games, which only stimulate the reflexes and perpetrate a mood of revenge or retribution, instead of a mood of love and camaraderie.

So finally we see that the Good is the instigator of both the feelings themselves, and the creative impulse of the feeling symbols. Not only does the Good drive the human toward the perfection within it, but it also allows it to share with others the deepest of its feelings and longings. The bible itself is a feeling symbol that can bring the human closer to all other humans, through allowing it to share the emotions and feelings of others who have come before it, and act as a guide to the conduct, which will unite the human being with all of his fellows.




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1 Psychology can only see the feelings as being either pleasure or discontent. But there is much more elicited in a human than only the pleasure or discontent of the lower animals. There is a finer discernment in the human being as to the basic primal feelings, a more subtle gradation; not to mention the secondary connotative associative network elicited.

2 This would include: Literature, folklore, mythology, plays in any media form and oral traditions. Music would also include dance or any musical dramas.

3 The Super Ego itself is formed through the interactions of the Good with the external reality that the human must confront through the Ego. Fear, probably one of the most primitive of the feelings, is the feeling which must be overridden by the love and trust of the parents to create the balanced Super Ego to guide the rest of the personality.

4 We see that in ancient times most of what passes for Art or drama, folklore and mythology was tied in one way or another to religion. The Good is the very agency which gives the human his religious instincts.

See further comments on this essay in Errata

Originally Published:

November 2, 2007


July 4, 2014