The Ethical and Existential Meaning of Beauty

Juhani Pallasmaa


Ethics and beauty have been neglected subjects in modern artistic and architectural discourse. These essential dimensions have been replaced by performative qualities and a manipulative aestheticization. As visual image and techno-economic criteria have replaced existential concerns, mental meanings, experiences and the sense of empathy have been lost. However, beauty and reason are valid criteria in art, architecture as well as science. Beauty is not an added aesthetic surface value, as it expresses the coherence, wholeness and integrity of the work. We should even acknowledge the existence of an aesthetic intelligence along with ethical, emotional, spiritual and existential intelligences.
Art and architecture are modes of existential thinking about the world and the human situation. They need to create a temporal continuum, an existential tradition, and also include the bio-cultural and evolutionary dimension in their truly humanist visions.


Aestheticization, Beauty, Ethics, Existential, Integrity.

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