My Talk on Beauty at Notre Dame

Thanks so much to the Sophomore Class Council at Notre Dame for having me over to speak! It was wonderful meeting all of you, eating your food, sleeping in your library, talking to your squirrels, getting lost on your campus, praying at the Grotto, and generally wishing I’d worked harder in high school. For those who couldn’t make it, here’s a recording of the talk:

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I’d like to add that a lot more can be said here, and that — watching the talk now — I find myself rebutting myself, especially in regards to beautiful things that are by their nature useful. But that’s a new post. God bless you all, and thanks for being such wonderful readers.

  • Joshua Fish

    No way! I’m applying to transfer to Notre Dame next year. It will come down to there or Stuebbie. It depends on if I can get in!

    • Joshua Fish

      Oh, and give me sometime to look at the videos. I’ve got a busy week ahead of me. I’m sure its a very interesting talk though!

  • David Bates

    Rebutting yourself…sounds painful.

  • Brenda Becker

    TED Talk!

  • Joshua Fish

    My thought is that everything has a purpose and a function. Otherwise it would not exist. The beauty of an object exist in that it fulfills the purpose it was design for. Plants and animals interact with each other in perfect relationship in nature. Animals may die and forest fires may occur, however these are all natural. Almost all natural occurrences seem to be in perfect harmony. There is the exception though.

    Where things get interesting is when we deal with humanity. In most religions, humans have a purpose. In Catholicism, it is to be one with beauty of God and in doing so, to share in God’s love. However we have free will to go against that natural beauty and as result we get the ugliness of the world. We get pain, suffering, destruction and a whole slew of other disorders.

    Something you brought up that goes against human beauty is the abuse of sexuality. Sexuality has beauty and it has a purpose: to bring two together to be one in an act of love and bring forth new life. (The latter should be obvious from biology.) It seems that the things that have the potential for the most beauty also cause the most destruction when abused.When sexuality is used for anything other than its true purpose, we arrive at the many problems that plague our society. Just think of all the violence and pain that stems from this: rape, sex trafficking, child abuse, the many unplanned pregnancies and the painful abortions that often follow, the high divorce rate and deterioration of the family lifestyle and intolerance to marriage. This list goes on…

    Anyways, I don’t mean to go off on a wild tangent. My take on your talk is that you are right in what you say about beauty, but instead of saying beauty has no use, perhaps it would be better to say it has a specific use and it should not be used for anything other than that.

  • Hannah Russell

    As far as beauty and usefulness, truth and goodness are both beautiful and useful. Like, the fact that 1+1=2 is always true is beautiful, but it’s also useful for banking and science and things like that. Likewise with goodness. The fact that Catholic charities exist to help people while expecting nothing in return is a beautiful thing, but also useful because now we have a way to help people. Just some thoughts…

  • Micaela Swift

    A tree may be beautiful, because it is. A flower may be beautiful because it just is. The sunset may be beautiful because it simply is. Creation is a witness to Gods work. God created the world, all its substances, he created man, and each soul. In essence, God is Beauty, Truth and Love- all working in conformity with one another. I think Beauty is a result of Truth, and Truth is the result of Love. However in order for each to be, they all must work together. (examples examples!)

    In essence, Truth is the person of Christ. In Him and His life is where we see the place where the “self” belongs. In order for the self to be fulfilled, it must fully-give, it must be understand our own wretchedness, it must understand the power and GIFT of forgiveness. We find this in the person of Christ. The self-sacrificial aspect of the soul-is a central aspect of beauty, truth, and love.

    Beauty, love and truth are all part of a communion with one another. You cannot truly compare the “sunset” in itself to love of a mother & her child… Nor the love of a husband & wife together & for their children can you compare to a gorgeous garden, or the Sistine Chapel… Or the love of a priest for the Church can you compare to the most incredible mountain on earth with all its grandness! or the love Our Lady for Christ?….seriously….how can anyone look at this and think that the beauty we are talking about is of the same substance as that we find in nature?! Beauty is centrally about being part of a communion, a relationship, and that it conforms to the order of truth and love for it to be fully realized as beauty. Without the understanding of communion, in essence, beauty is reduced to prettiness, as you said, and of course”usage” alone becomes its central focus.

    We find true beauty when its proper order-in relation to love and truth is preserved. So of course, if love and truth are absent, if there is no “communion” of self sacrifice and giving, can we really say there is beauty? just pondering this topic

  • Stephen

    Did someone come by and downvote every comment, just because? Odd.

  • Shea Acott

    I’m so glad you did this. I do have a question though – would you say that Beauty reflected through the art or is it an intrinsic part of the object? Or both?