‘A radiant life, being good, expresses beauty…’

I am reading The Guidebook to Philosophical Life for the first time. I had written it without reading it through. Even now, I only read and mumble lines and phrases and stray poetic turns. I had written it but hadn’t realized the beauty of lines such as these. I have been reading them aloud this morning.

From Chapter 11.6. The harmony of ethics and aesthetics

The virtuous man is beautiful. What do I mean by this? I mean that the man who exhibits the virtues does so in a manner that is beautiful. I say that “the mother exhibited kindness with grace,” that “the man exercised compassion with composure,” that “the runner thrummed along the trail exquisitely.” I am saying that the beautiful is the manner or way of virtue’s presentation. To me there is something wanting in crude kindness, in disjointed compassion, in clumsy running. A scythe sings, a dancer breathing expressed as wonder.

On this understanding, virtue is not straining or grasping, not effortful or painful or conflicting. If virtue is learned rightly, then it flows like water. This ‘flowing like water’ is where beauty comes in.

For the radiant being, beauty is not an epiphenomenon like a cosmetic applied to skin. Nor is ethics strenuousness, the sternness of fulfilling obligations one would rather not. Radiance harmonizes the ethical and the aesthetic just in the way a bird harmonizes excellent flight with beautiful display.

A radiant life, being good, expresses beauty in its full appearing.

From A Transition to Philosophical Life

15. A radiant life is like a mantra: we repeat good words to ourselves. We mumble, we chant, we sing the hymns together. Radiance is our home.

One thought on “‘A radiant life, being good, expresses beauty…’

  1. Thanks for this, Liz. It puts me in mind of a post I wrote on Lewis and Pascal called “Pascal’s Dread (II).” There, Lewis writes movingly of the medieval cosmos.

Comments are closed.