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Beauty and Holiness

Beauty and Holiness: The Dialogue Between Aesthetics and Religion

James Alfred Martin
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Beauty and Holiness
    Book Description:

    In this broad historical and critical overview based on a lifetime of scholarship, James Alfred Martin, Jr., examines the development of the concepts of beauty and holiness as employed in theories of aesthetics and of religion. The injunction in the Book of Psalms to "worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" addressed a tradition that has comprehended holiness primarily in terms of ethical righteousness--a conception that has strongly influenced Western understandings of religion. As the author points out, however, the Greek forbears of Western thought, as well as many Eastern traditions, were and are more broadly concerned with the pursuit of beauty, truth, and goodness as ideals of human excellence, that is, with the "holiness of beauty." In this work Martin describes a philosophical stance that should prove to be most productive for the dialogue between aesthetics and religion.

    Beginning with the treatment of beauty and holiness in Hebrew, Greek, and classical Christian thought, the author traces the emergence of modern theories of aesthetics and religion in the Enlightenment. He then outlines the role of aesthetics in the theories of religion proposed by Otto, Eliade, van der Leeuw, and Tillich, in the cultural anthropology of Geertz, and in the thought of Santayana, Dewey, Whitehead, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein. In a global context Martin explores the relation of aesthetic theory to religious thought in the traditions of India, China, and Japan and concludes with reflections on the viability of modern aesthetic and religious theory in the light of contemporary cultural and methodological pluralism.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6059-3
    Subjects: Philosophy, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
    (pp. 3-8)

    The titleof this book expresses its unique intent I believe that responsible discussion of the relation of art to religion must address some fundamental questions of theory and method that are frequently overlooked or inadequately addressed in works on religious art, “religion and art,” or “art in religion.” Any worthwhile discussion of religion, whether in relation to art or to any other human phenomenon, entails or presupposes a theory of what religion is, or is taken to be, in that discussion Any worthwhile discussion of art, whether historical or critical, entails or presupposes a theory of what art is...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Holiness of Beauty and the Beauty of Holiness: Classical Western Formulations
    (pp. 9-32)

    It is inthe King James Version of the Bible that we encounter the Psalmist’s injunction to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29 2) It is significant, however, that other versions translate the passage “in the splendour of Holiness,” with the note “or holy vestments,”¹ and others render it “in holy array”² or “festival attire”³ Immediately we are made aware of the fact that the Biblical word translated “beauty” in the English of the King James Version does not designate a concept of beauty that is synonymous with that which originated in Greek thought, was absorbed...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Emergence of Aesthetics and Religion in Western Thought
    (pp. 33-64)

    We have seenthat Jonathan Edwards exemplified a classical response to some of the currents of thought of the eighteenth century in his celebration of both beauty and holiness The forms of art that he prized most were literature, rhetoric, and music Yet Alasdair Maclntyre has pointed out that when, in the musical culture of the Enlightenment, “the Catholic Mass becomes a genre available for concert performances by Protestants, when we listen to the scripture because of what Bach wrote rather than because of what St Matthew wrote, then sacred texts are being preserved in a form in which the...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Holiness and Beauty in Modern Theories of Religion
    (pp. 65-103)

    It isappropriate to begin this chapter with some remarks about the use of the term “theories” in its heading, because the use of the term itself encapsulates many of the questions posed by developments of thought in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to which we alluded in Chapter Two

    The term has an ancient and honorable history, stemming from the prizing oftheoria, or synoptic vision, in Greek thought This understanding of the term is reflected in contemporary uses of the term “view(s)” to indicate one’s overall perspective on a particular subject or subject matter A more refined...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Aesthetics and Religion in Twentieth-Century Philosophy
    (pp. 104-135)

    It issometimes said that modern philosophy began with Descartes’ turn to subjectivity and to mathematical clarity as the model of truth. It is also said that modern philosophy began with Kant’s critique of traditional metaphysics and his critical amalgam of empirical and rationalistic factors in his epistemology as a “prolegomenon to any future metaphysics.” We have seen that, in any event, it was in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that conceptual specification of aesthetics and of religion emerged, as an aspect of the new critical philosophy and the enlarged senses of history and culture engendered by the Enlightenment


  9. CHAPTER FIVE Holiness and Beauty in Eastern Thought
    (pp. 136-163)

    The titleof this chapter is an expression of provincialism. If it is in any sense justified, it is only because it may seem to many to fit naturally within the parameters of much current discussion of our topic. Yet one must ask at once what and where is “the East,” what and where is “the West,” and from whose perspective were these geographical labels of cultures derived We will be following the all-tootypical pattern of lumping together under the label “the East” an array of ancient and rich cultures stretching from the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia through the...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Contemporary Debate about the End(s) of Art and the End(s) of Religion
    (pp. 164-188)

    We have nowcompleted our account of the relations of art and aesthetics to religion and theories of religion in the views of representative thinkers and movements in both Western and Eastern cultural traditions In this chapter we will examine some major issues in recent discussion of these relationships. We will note that both modern understandings of aesthetics and modern understandings of religion are subject to extensive and fundamental criticism. A vivid consciousness of the plurality of cultures, and of the plurality of approaches to the delineation and appraisal of aesthetic and religious phenomena, calls many assumptions of previous discussion...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Beyond the End of Art and the End of Religion
    (pp. 189-196)

    What is theconclusion of the contemporary debate about the end(s) of art and the end(s) of religion that we reviewed in the preceding chapter? Have we come to the end of art and the end of religion in modern sensibility? The answer is—yes, and no We have come to the end of conceptualizations of art and aesthetic theory typified in Western philosophies of art and art history of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries We must come to the end of that conceptual disarray in the current art world to which Danto has called...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 197-218)
  13. Index
    (pp. 219-222)