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Philosophical Quotes on Beauty

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Beauty is one of the most intricate and fascinating topics of philosophical discussion. It has been taken up in relationship to a host of other subjects, such as truth, the good, the sublime, and pleasure. Here is a selection of quotes on beauty, divided into different themes.

Beauty and Truth
""Beauty is truth, truth beauty," – that is all \ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." (John Keats, One on a Grecian Urn, 1819)

"Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated." (Albert Einstein, My Credo, 1932)

"The pursuit of beauty is much more dangerous nonsense than the pursuit of truth or goodness, because it affords a greater temptation to the ego." (Northrop Frye, Mythical Phase: Symbol as Archetype, 1957)

"I must not say that she was true |
Yet let me say that she was fair |
And they, that lovely face who view |
They should not ask if truth be there." (Matthew Arnold, Euphrosyne)

"Truth exists for the wise, beauty for the feeling heart." (Friedrich Schiller, Don Carlos)

"O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
| By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!" (William Shakespeare, Sonnet LIV)

"If truth is beauty how come nobody has their hair done in a library?" (Lily Tomlin, American comedian)

Beauty and Pleasure
"'Tis impious pleasure to delight in harm.
And beauty should be kind, as well as charm." (George Granville, To Myra)

"Beauty is pleasure objectified – pleasure regarded as the quality of an object" (George Santayana, The Sense of Beauty)

"The roses of pleasure seldom last long enough to adorn the brow of him who plucks them; for they are the only roses which do not retain their sweetness after they have lost their beauty." (Hannah More, Essays on Various Subjects, On Dissipation)

Beauty and the Sublime
"Whereas the beautiful is limited, the sublime is limitless, so that the mind in the presence of the sublime, attempting to imagine what it cannot, has pain in the failure but pleasure in contemplating the immensity of the attempt." (Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment)

"What give all that is tragic, whatever its form, the characteristic of the sublime, is the first inkling of the knowledge that the world and life can give no satisfaction, and are not worth our investment in them. The tragic spirit consists in this. Accordingly it leads to resignation." (Arthur Shopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation)

"When I look out on such a night as this, I feel as if there could be neither wickedness nor sorrow in the world; and there certainly would be less of both if the sublimity of Nature were more attended to, and people were carried more out of themselves by contemplating such a scene." (Jane Austen, Mansfield Park)

"Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling .... When danger or pain press too nearly, they are incapable of giving any delight, and [yet] with certain modifications, they may be, and they are delightful, as we every day experience." (Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful)

"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever | Its loveliness increases; it will never |Pass into nothingness; but still will keep | A bower quiet for us, and a sleep |Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing." (John Keats)

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