Piero della Francesca



“One can see why beauty—by Homer, by Plato, by Aquinas, by Dante (and the list would go on, name upon name, century by cen- tury, page upon page, through poets writing today such as Gjertrud Schnackenberg, Allen Grossman, and Seamus Heaney) —has been perceived to be bound up with the immortal, for it prompts a search for a precedent, which in turn prompts a search for a still earlier precedent, and the mind keeps tripping backward until it at last reaches something that has no precedent, which may very well be the immortal. And one can see why beauty—by those same artists, philosophers, theologians of the Old World and the New—has been perceived to be bound up with truth. What is beautiful is in league with what is true because truth abides in the immortal sphere. But if this were the only basis for the association, then many of us living now who feel skeptical about the existence of an immortal realm might be required to conclude that beauty and truth have nothing to do with one another. Luckily, a second basis for the association stands clearly before us: the beautiful per- son or thing incites in us the longing for truth because it provides by its compelling “clear discernibility” an introduction (perhaps even our Šrst introduction) to the state of certainty yet does not it- self satiate our desire for certainty since beauty, sooner or later, brings us into contact with our own capacity for making errors. The beautiful, almost without any effort of our own, acquaints us with the mental event of conviction, and so pleasurable a mental state is this that ever afterward one is willing to labor, struggle, wrestle with the world to locate enduring sources of conviction— to locate what is true. Both in the account that assumes the exis- tence of the immortal realm and in the account that assumes the nonexistence of the immortal realm, beauty is a starting place for education.”  Elaine Scarry -The Tanner Lecture