The beautiful and the sublime in natural science

Zygon 44 (4):757-776 (2009)


The various aesthetic phenomena found repeatedly in the scientific enterprise stem from the role of God as artist. If the Creator is an artist, how and why natural scientists study the divine art work can be understood using theological aesthetics and the philosophy of art. The aesthetic phenomena considered here are as follows. First, science reveals beauty and the sublime in natural phenomena. Second, science discovers beauty and the sublime in the theories that are developed to explain natural phenomena. Third, the search for beauty often guides scientists in their work. Fourth, where beauty is perceived, feelings of the sublime often also follow upon further contemplation. This linkage of beauty in science with truth and the sublime runs counter to most aesthetic theory since Kant. Scholarship in theological aesthetics has recently argued that the modern and postmodern elevation of the sublime over beauty is merely a preference that reveals a bias against transcendence—against God. If doing and understanding science can show this sundering of the sublime from the beautiful to be in error, science also gives evidence of transcendence.

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References found in this work

Critique of Judgment.Immanuel Kant - 1790 - Barnes & Noble.
Critique of Judgment.Immanuel Kant & Werner S. Pluhar - 1941 - Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company.
The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences.Eugene Wigner - 1960 - Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics 13:1-14.
Beauty & Revolution in Science.James W. McAllister - 1996 - Cornell University Press.

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