Volume 39, Issue 2, Fall/Winter 2019
David Bentley Hart
A Sense of Style
Beauty and the Christian Moral Life
This essay addresses the alienation of aesthetics from ethics in the context of modernity. In examining the modern development of moral theory, it offers a critique of the dominant trends within that tradition, arguing that the result is a fragmented and disordered conception of the good life. Christian ethics, grounded in a conception of the beauty of God’s being as a disclosure of the true good, can reaffirm the connection between ethics and aesthetics, that beauty is not simply a matter of inward reflection but also of action toward the world, which gives content to moral life. Christian ethics ultimately requires a “sense of style” through which we are attracted to a life lived in imitation of Christ, and through which our conceptions of virtue are grounded in a desire to act in such a way as to manifest God’s beauty before the world.