Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

Volume 94, 2020

The Good, the True, the Beautiful: Through and of the Ages

Michael J. Rubin
Pages 259-279

Aquinas on Bodily or Sensible Beauty

Thomas Aquinas consistently maintains that there are two kinds of beauty: bodily or sensible beauty and spiritual or intelligible beauty. Due to the lively debate over whether intelligible beauty is a transcendental for Thomas, discussions of his aesthetics have tended either to ignore his views on sensible beauty or to mention them only in passing. The present paper will therefore give a brief overview of Thomas’s thought on bodily beauty. The first section will discuss the objective aspects of sensible beauty for Thomas, i.e., its definition and three conditions, while the second will present his views on its subjective aspects, i.e., how we experience it, why it pleases us, and its importance for human flourishing. The third and final section will examine how Thomas’s account of sensible beauty affects his views on the beauty of the glorified human body and of the universe as a whole after the Last Judgment.

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