Saturday, January 14, 2017

Aesthetic Colouring

It would be an error to suppose that aesthetic principles apply only to our judgments of works of art or of those natural objects which we attend to chiefly on account of their beauty. Every idea which is formed in the human mind, every activity and emotion, has some relation, direct or indirect, to pain and pleasure. If, as is the case in all the more important instances, these fluid activities and emotions precipitate, as it were, in their evanescence certain psychical solids called ideas of things, then the concomitant pleasures are incorporated more or less in those concrete ideas and the things acquire an aesthetic colouring. And although this aesthetic colouring may be the last quality we notice in objects of practical interest, its influence upon us is none the less real, and often accounts for a great deal in our moral and practical attitude.

In the leading political and moral idea of our time, in the idea of democracy, I think there is a strong aesthetic ingredient, and the power of the idea of democracy over the imagination is an illustration of that effect of multiplicity in uniformity which we have been studying.

George Santayana, The Sense of Beauty, section 27. It's an essential point: political schemes and ideas get popular power only by aesthetic appeal, because it is only the aesthetic appeal that makes people regard the ideas as vivid and living, and thus as sacrifice-worthy.

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