Jul 20, 2011
In the classical tradition, beauty, goodness, and truth, are considered identical triplets. They are interior to one another, but beauty is their external appearance; beauty, their outer expression. Beauty is the mortar that holds them together. Love assumes all three. Love crowns all three.
In the classical tradition, beauty, truth and goodness are upheld as transcendentals (Lat: trans scendere, to climb across or to leap over). They leap across all categories, divisions, and distinctions of being; they “spill over to encompass every level of being, surpass all the limits of essences and are coextensive with Being." (J.B. Lotz, “Transcendentals,” 4: 240- 41).
In an age of relativism, it is said that truth cannot be known; right and wrong are reduced to personal subjective choice—or colloquially, ‘to each his own.’ Today, most people are robust skeptics. Yet truth is defined objectively as the conformity between the mind and what is; truth illuminates what is. The truth of being is its intelligibility–its integrity in things. All being is intrinsically intelligible because truth comes from a Mind which is infinite and infinitely original and true. Words like credibility and the logical are associated with the true.
All things strive toward the good; we all want what is good for us. But if, according to the skeptic, the truth cannot be known, neither can the objective good. The good is valuable, possessing some positive quality or perfection that renders it apt or worthy to be valued by some valuer. The external good has the power to satisfy and gratify the appetite. The good may also be admired in a non-possessive manner–wishing good to others for their own sake. It is here that the good and the beautiful intertwine. Subjectively, we may view attractive forms as good because we must possess them. The objective view sees and appreciates the good in itself without the will to acquire it. Words like ethical, value-laden, desirable, love-worthy are associated with the good. The beautiful serves as the point of integration between the true and the good.