I spent a fascinating hour discussing the function and definition of beauty with someone who is a philosophical follower of Ayn Rand. Now, I am an admirer of but no follower of Ayn Rand on the subject of Beauty, being that I am of the philosophy of Dietrich von Hildebrand, Saint Josemaria Escriva and Saint John Paul II. I see beauty as the reflection of the creator, thus as a higher good. Ayn Rand’s is a view that true beauty has no aesthetic beyond the mechanical function; I argue that beauty is more than but includes that function.
My parents have a very old rocking chair. It is beautiful. The beauty is in how well it scribes a lovely slow arch when rocked, the color of the wood used, the patina of age, AND the carving. It has a flat panel showing field workers socializing quietly over mugs of beer. I spent many a happy childhood hour sitting in that chair studying the carving. My co-conversationalist claims the art is a waste of effort and that if the maker had made the panel, sold it, and put the money into two plain chairs of equal design but lacking the carving, he would have done better. He argues that the true beauty of the chair is in its functionality and not in something unrelated to function. Again, I have no disagreement with the view that the functionality of the chair is beautiful in itself, but I insist that the carving adds to that beauty in a way no less valuable.
Beauty is more than mechanical function. The panel of carving on my parent’s old rocking chair is for beauty, interest, and pleasure, and this aesthetic function is as much a part of beauty as the mechanical function.
Dear Lord, please help us to recognize that beauty includes but is also more than the mechanical function of an object. +Amen.