Aesthetics and ethics

by Kevin Birnbaum

True beauty, truth, and goodness are inseparable. From Pope Benedict XVI’s Nov. 24, 2008, message to the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture:

Pope_Benedict_XVIThe need and urgency for a renewed dialogue between aesthetics and ethics, between beauty, truth and goodness, is once again proposed to us not only by the current cultural and artistic debate but also by daily reality. In fact, the split emerges dramatically at different levels and at times there is a glaring contrast between the two dimensions: the search for beauty, understood reductively as an external form, as appearance, to be sought at all costs, and that of the truth and goodness of actions carried out to achieve a specific goal. Indeed, a quest for beauty that was foreign or divorced from the human quest for truth and goodness would be transformed, as unfortunately happens, into mere aestheticism and above all, for the youngest, into an itinerary that focuses on what is transient, banal and superficial in appearance or even to an escape towards artificial paradises that mask and hide inner emptiness and inconsistency. Such an illusive and superficial search certainly would not have a universal breadth but would inevitably prove to be totally subjective if not actually individualistic and would sometimes even end in incommunicability.