Creideamh reader Janovich asked me to elaborate on how Elaine Scarry argues that beauty relates to justice. His question was:
Could you expand on “the experience of beauty maps onto to the symmetrical fairness that justice seeks after. As such, beauty prepares and paves the way for those who enjoy it to be just.”, even briefly?
Here goes, briefly.
Justice can be understood as fair distribution. Economic justice is the appropriate distribution of wealth in relation to labour, skill and human dignity. Social justice is the unprejudiced distribution or rights, responsibilities and opportunities between groups and people in the public sphere. And so we can go on.
The experience of beauty involves a similar dynamic. That which is beautiful is that which is arranged in a pleasing and balanced fashion. Even when no classical concepts of balance are utilised, like in much modern art, there is an implicit balance in the exaggerative assumption underlying the logic of the work.
When we encounter the thing of beauty we are struck by its beauty with certainty. The combination of certainty and balance or symmetry or fairness or whatever precise term an aesthetician might prescribe then glides over to the sphere of justice without difficulty. When we experience the certainty that change must come in the face of injustice, Scarry is arguing that we are drawing on the wells of virtue that are largely informed by the certain and balanced beauty in the world and created by humankind from which we have drunk deeply.
Does that work?
Your Correspondent, The quest for justice is not a for-profit endeavour