Æsthetics And Ethics -- By: John Bascom

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 064:253 (Jan 1907)
Article: Æsthetics And Ethics
Author: John Bascom


Æsthetics And Ethics

John Bascom

The sense of beauty, which is the foundation of art, and the sense of right, which is the foundation of conduct, mutually modify and sustain each other. While Esthetics and Ethics have occasion to prosecute their inquiries independently, and not infrequently fall into conflict, their more natural relation is one of mutual extension and correction as their fields approach or overlap each other. The thing that is beautiful is good, and the thing that is good is beautiful, in a comprehensive view of their dependencies. The two inquiries into the beautiful and the good are often the same in their leading subjects, and in their special forms involve equivalent principles. The painting may deal with man, or with still life, or with landscape, and in all is constantly approaching human wants and sentiments. The artist cannot divorce his products from man, either in their rendering or in their appeal. The perceptive powers, in these two forms of inquiry, and the objects offered to them meet in a common ground of feeling.

If we take music and architecture, which seem in their modes of expression remote from character, we none the less find that the best results in each have been reached in gratification of spiritual impulses, and as an embodiment of sentiments potent in human character. The demands of religious feeling have been laid in full volume on architecture and music, and the two arts have been developed and united in

meeting it. Religion has in many ways promoted art as its own most adequate expression.

A religious view of the world owes much of its fitness and authority to the manner in which it gathers up and combines the beauty of things and the force of events. O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! If physical qualities and events were robbed of the appeal which they make to man as an intellectual and spiritual being, they would drop at once into the lap of appetite, lust, and passion. The ethical law we discover in the world, giving form and authority and dignity to conduct, is the basis of theism and the ground of faith. If there is a law of conduct approachable by man, this law expresses the divine idea concerning him, singly and collectively. Religion extends, elucidates, and supports ethical convictions, and brings to them, from an unseen world, a kindred order of motives. Neither art, nor ethics, nor religion is as yet fully developed, but a constant unfolding more and more unites them as the support of our spiritual life.

They agree in being an interpretation of physical things, a rendering of the ideas which the world, as addressed to man, contains. There is a constant discussion, in many directions...

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