‘The Radical Question of Beauty’

“Theology’s interruption of the ‘history of nihilism’ was philosophy’s redemption, it’s healing, the fullest possible deepening of it’s openness to being, and indeed the infinite increase of it highest Eros. Within the environs of Christianity’s  narrative – Trinity, creation, Divine incarnation – the language of beauty could not but become even more important, and the dignity of worldly beauty more vital, than had ever been the case in pagan Greek culture or the world it shaped. A God whose every being is love, delight in the glorious radiance of infinite Image, seen in the boundlessly lovely light of Spirit, and whose works are then unnecessary but perfectly expressive signs of delight, fashioned for his pleasure and for the gracious sharing of Joy with creatures for whom God had no need (yet loved even when they are not), is the God of beauty in the fullest imaginable sense. In such a God beauty and the infinite entirely coincide, for the very life of God is one of – to phrase it strangely – infinite form; and when such a God creates, the difference between created beauty and divine beauty it reflects subsists not in the amphiboly of multiplicity and singularity, shape and simplicity, finitude and indeterminacy, but in the analogy between the determinate particularities of the world and that always greater, superminent determinacy in whose splendor they participate. Indeed, the event of the world simply is the occurrence of analogically interval, the space in which beings rise up from nothingness into the light that gives them existence. And this is why theology redeems philosophy, this is how it recovers all of philosophy’s most enchanting prospects upon being: precisely by detaching them from the morbid mythology of ‘grounds,’ and by resituating them within the space that the analogy between divine and worldly being opens up, setting worldly being free peacefully and perceiving it beautifully. This for Christian thought, to know the world truly is achieved not through a positivistic reconstruction of its ‘sufficient reason,’ but through an openness before glory, a willingness to orient one’s will toward the light of being, and to receive the world as gift, in response to which the most fully ‘adequate’ discourse of truth is worship, prayer and rejoicing. Phrased otherwise, the truth of being is ‘poetic’ before it is ‘rational’ – indeed is rational precisely as a result of its supreme poetic coherence and richness of detail – and cannot be truly known if this order is reversed. Beauty is the beginning and end of all true knowledge: really to know anything, one must first love, and having known one must finally delight; only this ‘corresponds’ to the trinitarian love and delight that creates. The truth of being is the whole of being, in its event, groundless, and so in its every detail revelatory of the light that grants it. Heidegger himself, ever the creature of his early theological teaching, came close to realizing this, in his attempts to deliver the language of truth from confines of every form of positivism, or analytic mastery, or propositional reductionism; but ultimately he proved too forgetful of the radical question of beauty that Christian thought raised, and so retreated back again along the tenebrous woodland paths of ontological necessity, in search of the ‘how it is’ of the event rather than the ‘that it is’ of the world, seeking a clearing where it never had been (nor could be) found.”

– David Bentley Hart, Beauty of the Infinite

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