Friday, October 30, 2009

“Debating Beauty: Jacques Maritain and Dietrich von Hildebrand”

JACQUES MARITAIN'S BOOK Art and Scholasticism sometime seems to be the last word in the Catholic philosophy of art, and by “last” I mean that it often is quoted as the most recent authoritative book on the subject (although of course, it is not). The author's final edition of the book came out in 1935. Although it is an excellent book, it eventually comes out in favor of the modernistic side of the arts, which subsequent experience has proven disastrously wrong.

Philosopher Alice von Hildebrand discusses the artistic debate in the article Debating Beauty: Jacques Maritain and Dietrich von Hildebrand. She asks:
Is aesthetic appreciation a question of taste, as one can like or dislike beer? Tastes cannot be debated, and such debates would be totally meaningless.
Dietrich is Alice's late husband, a Catholic convert, philosopher, and one of the first public intellectuals who denounced National Socialism in Germany in the early 1930s. Pope Benedict said of him: “When the intellectual history of the Catholic Church in the twentieth century is written, the name of Dietrich von Hildebrand will be most prominent among the figures of our time.” She continues:
Whereas for Maritain, sense experiences are purely human, both Newman and von Hildebrand claim that though man's senses are necessarily involved, the message they communicate radically transcends the world of pure matter. It transmits a message coming from above, some mysterious echo of "the eternal hills" that sharpen our longing for Beauty itself -- that is, God.
Art matters, and it is not the exclusive property of our “social conditioners” in the media, government, and education, which we must passively receive. Indeed, according to Catholic philosophy, everything made by the hands of man is art, and all art is bound towards judgement.

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