The Key to Purpose

My previous posts, The Central Importance of Beauty and Some Thoughts on Purpose in Life may contribute to understanding this post or provide extra insights.


In his work On Grace and Dignity, Schiller recounts how the Greek myths held that Venus, the goddess of Beauty, wore a belt which granted her Grace. It was a belt which she could remove and lend to others. From this point Schiller infers that the Greeks held Grace and Beauty to be separate things.

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Grace was a possession of Beauty, but one which was transferable even to that which was not itself Beautiful and subsequently receives the power of Grace to charm. Thus, according to the Greeks, Schiller maintained, Grace was then a form of changeable, that is non-eternal, Beauty.

Yet the belt of Grace, distinct from other ornaments, is intended to confer Grace objectively and not a merely charming appearance. This expressed by the magical nature of the belt, which sets it apart from ordinary ornamentation. The representation of this quality in what is formally a mere ornament was necessary only to depict the manner in which one can part with Grace, even if one possesses Beauty, as in the case of Venus, and thus lose their charm. Schiller explains this representational necessity as a means for the artist to depict that which is metaphysical, namely, in this instance, Grace.

If Grace is a changeable characteristic, then it must be a kind of movement, Schiller holds, as movement is the only change which can occur in an object which does not change the identity of that object. Movement satisfies the criteria of belonging to an object without being a mere illusion of perception.

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Schiller then distinguishes Beauty which arises spontaneously from nature from that Beauty which arises intentionally from the human will based on judgement. To the first belongs Beauty of form, but a subtle differentiation must be made between the form itself and the perfection of that form through purposeful action. Examples of the latter would be a healthy and capable body, through exercise becoming a strong, dexterous, or supple body, or a pleasing voice through training becoming capable of expressing blissful melody.

It is human intelligence which allows man to grasp the purposive and give meaning to life through goal and intention. The intelligence grasps this purpose by determining that which is Beautiful and seeks to bring it into the world. One would thus correctly say that purpose cannot be grasped through the senses but must rather be conceived through the mind but that Beauty is the indication whereby the mind may become aware that the purpose of a thing is present.

In order to judge the purpose revealed in Beautiful things one must first grasp the capabilities, functions, or interaction of the Beautiful qualities of the thing, even, in the case of the last, with other things.

There are two ways in which knowledge of Beauty becomes accessible to reason. The first is by an account of those qualities and relations inherent in the Beautiful object which make it so. The second is attributed to the object, as essence, effect, benefits, etc. It is by the first that one discovers the principle of Beauty and by the second that one discovers the potential for Beauty, and thus for man to actualize through deliberate and wilful action.

This dichotomy explains the difference of opinions and taste as regards to Beauty, as in the latter case of the knowledge of Beauty reason is needed rather than experience only of the object. Because it is through reason that phenomenal experience is transformed into potential, the locus of limited potential in the considering subject will impact the final judgement of the object, even if reason develops the initial conception.

But the mind attuned to Beauty and which seeks to manifest or perfect the Beautiful will have a mind to Harmony. The elements of a garden are not in Harmony when those elements which are antithetical to the garden are present, such as parking lots, warehouses or rubble, or when the elements within the garden clash, distract or impinge upon each other. In the same way, Graceful movement is out of Harmony with a stumble, or a hostile family is not in concord, concord being a synonym for Harmony. Thus, despite differences in the locus of perspective within the subject, no conception of Beauty is free to violate the principle of Harmony without transforming into its opposite.

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An exception must be made with regards to the subject which faces an external disharmony. While, if the subject is still intent on what is best, namely Beauty, then the ultimate ends of action is Beauty and thus the pursuit of Harmony, yet if the subject becomes embroiled in disharmony through outside momentum, that disharmony is not to reflect upon the subject but rather a factor of circumstance which he or she must strive like a titan to overcome, subdue, and render to the status of Harmony.

It is this final achievement of being in Harmony, of acting in Harmony, which is called Grace, and not yet or merely in desiring or seeking Harmony. As Grace has often been understood as a gift, so it is the blessing of achieving Harmony. But as the world is subject to change through time, growth and the motion of all elements in the world, Harmony, and the Grace which is its blessing, are subject to change are require the action of care, or cultivation which is the root of culture which in its true sense signifies those qualities which express, aid, or point the way to Beauty.

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