ICS Calendar Title: Beauty: Theology, Ethics, or Aesthetics?

ICS Course Code: ICS 220105 F19; ICH3757HF L0101 / ICH6757HF L0101

Instructor: Dr. Rebekah Smick

Term and Year: Thursdays, 5:30-8:30 pm, Fall 2019

Location: Classroom 2, Knox College

Last Updated: August 21, 2019. Note: This is not the final version.


1. Course Description

2. Reading Schedule

3. Course Learning Objectives

4. Description and Weighting of Elements to be Evaluated

5. Required Readings

6. Some Recommended Readings

1. Course Description

Is beauty simply “in the eye of the beholder” or is it something more? Is it a way to God, a moral precept, or the specific locus for a unique kind of pleasure? This course examines a variety of subjective and objective views of beauty in the history of Western philosophy and theology from antiquity to the present (e.g. in the thought of Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, Kant, Hegel, Dewey, Scarry and Von Balthasar). It will also consider the implications of these views of beauty for the production of the visual arts, music, and literary culture in Western religion and society.

2. Reading Schedule




Plato’s Beauty

  • Hippias Major
  • Phaedrus, 250b-257b


Symmetry Plus

  • Vitruvius, Ten Books on Architecture, Book III, chapter 1
  • Plotinus, “On Beauty,” Ennead 1.6; 6.7.22


Early Christian Beauty

  • Augustine, De natura boni, Chapter 3; De musica liber VI
  • Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names, Chapter 4, 1-11


Scholastic Beauty

  • Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (see above)
  • Dante , Divina Commedia, Convivio (see above)


Renaissance Beauty

  • Marsilio Ficino, Commentary on Plato’s Symposium, Speech I, 4; Speech V, 3-7
  • Baldessare Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier (see above)
  • Lodovico Dolce, Aretino (see above)

Reading Week – no class


The Standard of Taste

  • Hume, Of the Standard of Taste; An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (see above)


Enlightenment Beauty

  • Kant, Critique of Judgment, Book I, 1-22; Book II, 59


Romantic Beauty

  • Hegel, Aesthetics. Lectures on Fine Art. Part I, Chapters 1 and 2
  • Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, I, 38 and 39


The Abuse of Beauty: the Twentieth Century

  • Clement Greenberg, Review of Exhibitions (see above)


Beauty Retrieved

  • Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just


Theologies of Beauty

  • Von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord, Ch. 1, para. 7, 117-127
  • Viladesau, Theological Aesthetics, Ch. 1, 23-4; Ch. 2, 70-1; Ch. 4, 138-9; Ch. 6, 210-3


Beauty in the Reformational Tradition

  • Dooyeweerd, New Critique, Vol. II, pp. 128-139
  • Seerveld, Rainbows for a Fallen World, pp. 116-125; A Christian Critique of Art and Literature, pp. 32-45

3. Course Learning Objectives

4. Description and Weighting of Elements to be Evaluated

5. Required Readings

Plato. Hippias Major. In Complete Works. Ind.: Hackett, 1997, pp. 898-922. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: B358 .C3]


____. Phaedrus. 250b-257b. In Complete Works. Ind.: Hackett, 1997.  [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: B358.C3]

Vitruvius. Ten Books on Architecture. Trans. Ingrid Rowland. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Book III, chapter 1 [Robarts Library: NA2515 .V613 1999]

Plotinus. Enneads. Trans. A.H. Armstrong. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966-1988. Book I.6   [ICS Library Reserve Shelf:  PA4363 .A2 1966 v.1-3]

Augustine. De natura boni. Trans. A. Anthony Moon. Washington : Catholic University   of America Press, 1955. Chapter 3. [Robarts Library: BT1410. A8 1955; also available electronically via UTL]

________. Aurelius Augustinus: De musica liber VI: a critical edition with a translation and an introduction. Trans. Martin Jacobsson. Stockholm: Almquist and Wiksell International, 2002.  [Music Library: ML168. A946 2002]

Pseudo-Dionysius. The Divine Names. In Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works. Trans. Colm Luibheid. New York: Paulist Press, 1987. Chapter 4, 1-11. [Robarts Library: BR65 .D62 E5 1987; Regis College: BV4495 .C5 v.54]

Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologiae. In The Summa Theologiae of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Scotts Valley, Ca.: Novantiqua, 2008. I, q. 5, a. 4; I, q. 9, 39, a. 8; I-II, q. 27, a. 1. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BX1749 .T46 1964 – not the same edition as cited; also available electronically via UTL]

Dante Alighieri. Inferno. Trans. Mark Musa. New York: Penguin, 1986. Cantos I; II; XI, 97. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: PQ4315 .M8 1984 v.1]

____________ . Paradiso. Trans. Mark Musa. New York: Penguin, 1986. Cantos I; VII, 64; XIII, 76; XXX; XXXIII. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: PQ4315 .M8 1984 v.3]

____________ . Convivio. Trans. R. Lansing. New York: Garland, 1990. II, 1; II, Canzone 1, 53-61; III, 15; IV, 25. [St. Michael's College Library: PQ 4315.57 .L36 1990 SMC; also available electronically via UTL but with a different translator]

Ficino, Marsilio. Commentary on Plato’s Syposium on Love. Trans. Jayne Sears. Dallas: Spring, 1985. Speech I, 4; Speech V, 3-7. [Robarts Library: B785 .F43 D3913 1985]

Castiglione, Baldessare. The Book of the Courtier. Trans. George Bull. New York: Penguin, 1967. Book 1, pp. 99-104; Book 3, pp. 324-345. [ICS Reserve Shelf: BJ1602 .C573]

Dolce, Lodovico. Aretino. In Dolce’s Aretino and Venetian Art Theory of the Cinquecento. Trans. Mark Roskill. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000. Pp. 117-119; 129-143; 157-161; 171-177.  [Robarts Library: ND1130 .D65 R6 2000; also available electronically via UTL]

Hume, David. Of the Standard of Taste. In Essays Moral, Political and Literary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963, pp. 231-255. [Robarts Library: B1475 1963; also available electronically via UTL]

___________. An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. Ed. I.A. Selby-Bigge. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975, tba [Robarts Library: B1480 1975; also available electronically via UTL]


Kant, Immanuel.  Critique of Judgment. Trans. Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987. Book I, 1-22; Book II, 59. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: B2783 .E5 B52]

Hegel, Aesthetics. Lectures on Fine Art, trans. T.M. Knox. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975. Part I, Chapters 1 and 2. [Robarts Library: N64 .H413 v.1-2]

Schopenhauer, Arthur. The World as Will and Representation. Trans. E.F.J. Payne. New York: Dover, 1969. Vol. I, 38 and 39. [Robarts Library: B3138. E5 P32 1969 V.1; available electronically via UTL with a different translator]

Clement Greenberg. “Review of Exhibitions of the American Abstract Artists, Jacques Lipchitz, and Jackson Pollock.” In The Collected Essays and Criticism, Volume 2: Arrogant Purpose, 1945-1949. Ed. John O’Brian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. [Robarts Library: N7445.2 .G74 1986 v.2]

Scarry, Elaine. On Beauty and Being Just. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BH39 .S322 1999X]

Balthasar, Hans Urs von. The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics. I: Seeing the Form. Trans: Joseph Fessio and John Riches. San Francisco: Ignatius press, 1982, Ch. 1, para. 7, 117-127. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BT78 .B2613 v.1]

Viladesau, Richard. Theological Aesthetics: God in Imagination, Beauty, and Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, Ch. 1, 23-4; Ch. 2, 70-1; Ch. 4, 138-9; Ch. 6, 210-3. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BR115 .A8 V55 1999]

Dooyeweerd, Herman. A New Critique of Theoretical Thought. Trans. D.H. Freeman and W.S. Young. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969. Vol. II, 128-139. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: B4051 .D64 W5513 1969 v.2]

Seerveld, Calvin. A Christian Critique of Art and Literature. Toronto: Association for the Advancement of Christian Scholarship, 1977, pp. 32-45. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BR115 .A8 S44 1977; also the 1968 edition]

Seerveld, Calvin. Rainbows for a Fallen World. Toronto: Tuppence Press, 1980, pp. 116-125. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BH39 .S432 1980]

6. Some Recommended Readings

Begbie, Jeremy. In Voicing Creation’s Praise: Towards a Theology of the Arts. London: T & T Clark, 1991. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BR115 .A8 B44]

Bohning, Elizabeth. “Goethe’s and Schiller’s Interpretation of Beauty.” The German Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Nov., 1949), pp. 185-194.

Burch Brown, Frank. Religious Aesthetics: A Theological Study of Making and Meaning

Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1989. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BR115 .A8 B78 1989]

Coleman, Francis, “Introduction” and “The Analysis of the Beautiful,” in The Harmony of Reason: A Study in Kant’s Aesthetics.  University of Pittsburgh Press, 1974, 3-20 and 21-84. [Robarts Library: B2799 .A4 C63]

Danto, Arthur C. The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art. Chicago and   LaSalle: Open Court, 2003. [Regis College Library: BH39 .D36 2003]

Dengerink-Chaplin, Adrienne. “Art and Embodiment: Biological and Phenomenological Contributions to Understanding Beauty and the Aesthetic.” Contemporary Aesthetics (June 30) 2005.  

Dooyeweerd, Herman. A New Critique of Theoretical Thought. Trans. D.H. Freeman and W.S. Young. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: B4051 .D64 W5513 1969 v.1-4]

Dunaway, John M. and Springstead, Eric O., eds. The Beauty that Saves: Essays on Aesthetics and Language in Simone Weil. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1996. [Robarts Library: B2430 .W474 B43 1996X]

Eco, Umberto. Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages. Trans. Hugh Bredin. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986.[ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BH131 .E26 1986]

Eco, Umberto. The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas. Trans. Hugh Bredin. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1988. [Robarts Library: B765 .T54 E3313 1988]

Eco, Umberto. History of Beauty. Trans. by Alastair McEwen. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 2004. [Robarts Library – Course Reserves: BH81 .H57 2004]

Ellsmere, Patricia K. “Augustine on beauty, art and God.” In Augustine on Music: a series of interdisciplinary essays. Ed. by Richard R. La Croix. Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1988. [St. Michael's College Library: ML3849 .A9 1988]


Evdokimov, Paul.The Art of the Icon: A Theology of Beauty. Trans. Seven Bigham. Redondo Beach, CA: Oakwood Publications, 1990. [Robarts Library: N8187 .E8513 1990]

Gadamer, Hans-Georg. The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays. Trans. Nicholas Walker. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: B3248 .G34 G33 1986]

Gawronski, Raymond. “The Beauty of the Cross: The Theological Aesthetics of Hans Urs von Balthasar.” Logos 5.3 (Summer 2002) 184-206.

Gill, Theodore A. “Barth and Mozart.” Theology Today (October, 1986) 403-411.

Guyer, Paul. Values of Beauty: Historical Essays in Aesthetics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. [Robarts Library: BH81 .G89 2005]

Harrison, Carol. Beauty and Revelation in the Thought of Saint Augustine. Oxford: Clarendon press, 1992. [Robarts Library: BR65 .A9 H35 1992]

Leeuw, Geraardus van der. Sacred and Profane Beauty. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Wilson, 1963. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: N72 .L413]

Martin, James Alfred, Jr. Beauty and Holiness: The Dialogue between Aesthetics and Religion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990. [Robarts Library: BL65 .A4 M35 1990]

Meyer-Baer, Kathi, “Psychologic and Ontologic ideas in Augustine's De Musica,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 2.3 (March 1953), 224-230.

Nehamas, Alexander. Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in the World of Art. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. [Robarts Library: BH39 .N378 2007X]

O'Connell, Robert J., Art and the Christian Intelligence in St. Augustine. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1978. [Robarts Library: B655 .Z7 O26]

O’Donaghue, Noel. “A Theology of Beauty.” In The Analogy of Beauty: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar. Ed. John Riches. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1986, 1-10. [Robarts Library: BX4705 .B163 A75 1986]

Rookmaaker, Hans. “Modern Art and Gnosticism.” Zeitschrift für Aesthetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft 18 (1973), 162-174.

Seerveld, Calvin. “The Relation of the Arts to the Presentation of Truth.” In Truth and Reality. Braamfontein: De Jong, 1971, 161-175.


Sherry, Patrick. Spirit and Beauty: An Introduction to Theological Aesthetics. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BR115 .A8 S53 2002]

Sider, David. “Plato's Early Aesthetics: 'The Hippias Major'.” Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism; 35.4 (June 1977), 465-468.

Stolnitz, Jerome. “’Beauty’: Some Stages in the History of an Idea.” Journal of the History of Ideas. Vol. 22, no. 2 (Apr.-Jun., 1961), 185-204.

Tartarkiewicz, Wladyslaw. History of Aesthetics. Vol. 3. Modern Aesthetics. Trans. Adam and Anna Czerniawski. London: Continuum, 2005. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BH81 .T351 v.3]

Tatarkiewicz, Wladyslaw. “The Great Theory of Beauty and Its Decline.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 31 (1972), 165-180.

Thompson, John. “Barth and Balthasar: An Ecumenical Dialogue.” In The Beauty of Christ: An Introduction to the Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar. Eds. Bede McGregor and Tomas Norris. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1994, 171-192. [Robarts Library: BX4705 .B163 B43 1994]

Students with diverse learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. In particular, if you have a disability/health consideration that may require accommodations, please feel free to approach me and/or Student Services as soon as possible.

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