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Beauty

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 19 May 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss beauty and its qualities."Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."That was John Keats' emphatic finale to his Ode on a Grecian Urn. It seems to express Plato's theory of aesthetics, his idea that an apprehension of beauty is an apprehension of perfection and that all things in our shadowy realm are botched representations of perfect 'forms' that exist elsewhere. Beauty is goodness and, for Plato, the ultimate of all the forms is 'The Good'.But does beauty really have a moral quality? And is it inherent in things, or in the mind of the observer? How much influence have Plato's ideas had on the history of aesthetics and what has been said to counter or develop them?With Angie Hobbs, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Warwick; Susan James, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Julian Baggini, Editor of The Philosophers' Magazine.

  • Further Reading

    Dates refer to the date of publication, if applicable and known; in other cases they refer to the date the piece was written.

    Primary Sources

    Plato, c.390 BC, Hippias Major

    Plato, c.380 BC, Symposium, especially 210-12

    Plato, c.370 BC, Phaedrus, especially 245-57

    Plotinus, c.280AD, Enneads 1.6 and 5.8

    Nashe, T., 1600, ‘Summer’s Last Will and Testament’ (‘In Time of Pestilence’)

    Shakespeare, W., 1601, Hamlet, passim, especially Act V Scene 1

    Hutcheson, F., 1725, ‘An Enquiry Concerning Beauty, Order, Harmony, Design’

    Hume, D., 1757, ‘Of the Standard of Taste’

    Keats, J., 1820, ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’

    Nietzsche, F., 1872, The Birth of Tragedy

    Nietzsche, F., 1882, The Gay Science, especially 276

    Yeats, W.B., 1921, ‘Easter, 1916’

    Secondary Sources
    Hobbs, A., 2000, Plato and the Hero, passim and especially pp.220-30 on the relations between goodness and beauty in Plato and Plotinus. Cambridge University Press

    Nehamas, A., 1985, Nietzsche: Life as Literature. Cambridge, Massachusets

    Berys Gaut and Dominic McIver Lopes (eds), The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics (Routledge, 2002)

    Alex Neill and Aaron Ridley (eds), The Philosophy of Art (McGraw-Hill, 1995)

    David Cooper (ed), Aesthetics: the classic readings (Blackwells, 1997)

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