Hutcheson on the idea of beauty

Journal of the History of Philosophy 36 (2):233-259 (1998)
Abstract
Hutcheson on the I dea of B eauty PATRICIA M. MATTHEWS IN "POPPIES ON THE WHEAT," Helen Jackson compares the farmer's experience of "counting the bread and wine by autumn's gain" to the pleasure she feels on her observation of the same farm: A tropic tide of air with ebb and flow Bathes all the fields of wheat until they glow Like flashing seas of green, which toss and beat Around the vines? Although we may express ourselves less poetically, we have all had the experi- ence of being immediately pleased with some complex object: the dramatic view from a mountain peak, a series of movements in dance, a pretty face. In An Inquiry Concerning Beauty, Order, Harmony, Design, 2 Francis Hutcheson ar- gues that this common phenomenon is the key to understanding beauty.3 The kinds of pleasure heretofore recognized by modern philosophers have been limited to sensible pleasures immediately associated with simple sensations like taste and smells, and rational pleasures mediated by a process of reflection on the advantage that objects may bring us. This limited understanding of plea- sure misses the fact that we often take an immediate pleasure in complex objects that is not reducible to either of these two recognized kinds of plea- sure. Based on this insight, Hutcheson argues that beauty is immediately perceived by an internal sense, much in the way that we take an immediate pleasure in individual tastes or colors. Further, he..
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