THE AESTHETIC VALUE OF LIFE





The experiences of life fall into three [3] great categories for every human being. The first category is the biological. This consists of our instincts and our appetites, including our genetic, inherited characteristics. The biological category of is principally compulsory in its influence upon us.

We cannot suppress our appetites and instincts completely without disastrous effects on both our mental and physical selves.
We attempt to understand these biological functions and thereby keep them in rein. We can endeavor to be the master of our own vital forces instead of being driven by them. Man must regard the biological side of life as a tremendous dynamic force.

In this regard it is a marvelous, perfect, and mysterious cosmic phenomenon. But a dynamic force must have purpose or its energy is dissipated. Our responsibility is to set goals.

In this regard we may use the analogy of the candle flame. The chemical properties of the candle and of the air keep the flame burning. But why should a candle be ignited? Why should the flame continue to burn?

We are the ones who must relate a purpose to the function of such natural laws. We light the candle for symbolic or practical reasons. If, however, we were to ignite a candle and allow it to burn without purpose, it would be a waste of both material and energy. Likewise, we must look upon the biological nature of our being and assign it a purpose.

The second category into which our experience of life fall is the SOCIOLOGICAL. We must use this term to indicate our human relationships. We do not live alone; we are part of a great human family. The vast majority of us cannot escape to a place of isolation and separateness –nor would we want to. There is thrust upon us, therefore, certain duties and responsibilities in respect to our fellowmen. In turn, we need and demand certain reciprocity from our fellows.
  
                                                            INFLUENCE OF ENVIRONMENT
This sociological category of life is not a compulsion of nature. Rather, it is something which we mainly shape ourselves. However, the form or order which we give our society is due to two major influences. The first is environment. Climatic conditions greatly determine the habit and customs of life.

For example, prehistoric Alphine lake dwellers confronted conditions quite different from those experienced by desert nomads. The mild climate of the Nile Valley favored the rise of civilization long before the glacier climate of Europe did.

Geographical location even influences the kind of government which man establishes for his society. For example, Greece is a land dissected by many bays and inlets, which are often walled off from each other by high mountains.

The bordering seas are sprinkled with islands. Thus the ancient Greek settlements were more or less isolated from each other. In these surroundings the Greeks cultivated a spirit of self-dependence and independence. This, in turn, inculcated a zeal for freedom on the part of each of these communities. Out of this grew the first form of democracy.

The sociological category of life is also a product of the ideals which men pursue. As men think, so shall they live. If the fervor of an ideal is strong enough, it will surmount every opposition.

An ideal that captures the imagination of a people eventually moves them to collective action. This idealism as a motivation has often been demonstrated in religion, politics, and social customs. However, not all ideals have been beneficial to our sociological category of life.

An ideal is something man aspires to. Ideals are not all virtuous. Some of them may be prompted by fear, superstition, or intolerance. Much religious persecution has been instituted by a wrong concept, an erroneous ideal. In our sociological category of life we all have known of previous ideals which have been modified or abolished.

Today we have political ideals which divide the world. Each political ideal has millions of followers. Therefore, this sociological category of life which we experience is primarily one of our own making.
The third category of life which we experience is the aesthetic. It is the highest order of life, as it extracts from life its greatest value. This value of life, this quality of the aesthetic, is beauty. What is this beauty and how do we recognize it?

Is the aesthetic sense inherited? Or do we acquire and develop it? Every noble human achievement in every capacity of human effort has had behind it an aesthetic impulsion.

Do we transmit the idea of beauty to things of our world which we call beautiful? Or do things arouse within us the consciousness of beauty? These are questions which philosophers have been pondering for centuries. Modern science in the realm of psychology has like wise assumed the quest for answer to these questions.
It seems appropriate to touch briefly on these old and new speculations and conclusions. Socrates said that love is a mediator between God and man. It is the aspiration of the incomplete toward that which will complete it. Step by step love moves forward, say Socrates. First, there is love of body, physical loveliness. Then, next, the beauty of mind and soul. Finally, there is loveliness in itself –absolute, separate, simple, everlasting.
Plato tells us that the joy of the beautiful is the imitation of the idea of good. It is in harmony with the good which we conceive. More simply put, there are certain values which we conceive as good. The beautiful, then, is that which represents or is in harmony with those ideas of good.
Immanuel Kant said that the beautiful has an a priori character. In other words, the notion of the beautiful is innate; it is an indwelling quality of man. The form that delights us has an outer relation to this a priori inner quality of beauty which we have.
However, this inner sense of beauty is formless. Consequently, there can be no beauty which is universally recognized by all men. Simply stated, the fullness of beauty arises in connection with objects which harmoniously relate to our personal sensitivity.
George Santayana, a modern philosopher, said that aesthetics is objectified pleasure. He meant that it is a form of empathy. In other words, we project our feeling of pleasure to some object.