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Beauty in a Fallen World:

St. Thomas Aquinas on

Beauty as a Transcendental

Mattison Hale

Everest Academy & Boston College

In his metaphysical philosophy, Saint Thomas identifies five qualities that all real beings have. Thomists call these transcendentals, as they cross all boundaries and apply to every existing thing. But how could a universe that includes suffering and evil be called "beautiful?" Saint Thomas's answer lights a path to appreciating both the loveliness of God's creation and the splendor of the Creator.


Monday May 15 |  7:30 PM

COP Room | Campus Center

St. John Fisher University

Open to the public

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Ents against the Futurists: Tolkien on Beauty and Vanity

Loyola University, Maryland.

Tolkien's Elves are beautiful, yet dogged by constant war, including civil war. Why is beauty insufficient in maintaining peace? Why can the Elves not just enjoy their magnificent art and one another? The problem is vanity. Unless properly set within a wider value framework, beauty can cause mayhem. Pascal famously observed that had Cleopatra's nose been a few millimeters shorter the history of the world would be entirely different. I dwell a good deal on The Lord of the Rings but also The Silmarillion, Tolkien's magnum opus and the story of how three beautiful jewels cause havoc in Middle-earth. I will argue that Tolkien's lore is one long meditation on beauty, and its problematic twin, vanity. I will further argue that Tolkien contemplated this problem not only because it is an ancient one, reaching back to Plato and Aquinas, but because the Futurism art movement had brought it clearly into focus again. Futurism (known as Vorticism in England) celebrated values of beauty which Tolkien, and the older Platonic and Christian traditions, considered vanity, and thus malign. It was no surprise to Tolkien that Futurism was the art movement embraced by fascism. The lecture will include some slides of Tolkien's own drawings and artworks by the Futurists to illustrate their aesthetic dispute.


November 10 |  7:30 PM

R I T | Liberal Arts Hall: ROOM 1251 - Stan McKenzie Commons

Open to the public


Displayed with permission from the author

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October 6 | 4:00 PM

RIT, room: SAU:1829

Open to the public

The Concept of Beauty in the Enlightenment, and the Music it Shaped.

Timothy Engström & Michael Ruhling

R I T, College of Liberal Arts

The Enlightenment was a period in which the concept of Beauty and the role of the arts in society gave rise to deep and broad reconsideration by philosophers and artists alike.  RIT College of Liberal Arts professors Timothy Engström (philosophy, emeritus) and Michael Ruhling (musicology) offer an introduction to 18th-century philosophical concepts of Beauty and the Sublime by aesthetic theorists such as Burke, Hume, Kant  and Schiller, and how such concepts shaped the music of two of the Enlightenment’s most iconic composers, Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven. Presentations by Drs. Engström and Ruhling will be followed by questions and discussion.

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