Beauty endures. It has survived the tooth and claw struggle of human beings in prehistoric times, the yoked helplessness of slaves during the Roman Empire, the bloody screams of holy warriors in the Middle Ages, the black lungs of proletarians digging coal for wealthy bourgeois, and the senseless slaughter of a mind-boggling 100 million people in two world wars. Beauty has survived all the evils of nature and the cruelties of human beings, not only in the West but throughout the world. Why? Intellectuals have advanced differing theories on the persistence and significance of beauty in the lives of human beings. For example, Plato described beauty in the “Symposium” (between 378-360 BCE) as an enduring immaterial form, and Immanuel Kant in “The Critique of Judgment” (1790) explained beauty as the pleasure of the mind’s free play between understanding and imagination when perceiving the form of an object; Hans Urs von Balthasar in his seven-volume theological aesthetics, “The Glory of the Lord” (Volume 1 in 1961), presented beauty as the glory of creation leading human beings to transcendence itself. These views of beauty (and many others like them), as powerful as they are, do not address the healing dimension of beauty, one of the most important functions of beauty in the lives of human beings. We will argue that advances in affective neuroscience, especially psychoneuroimmunology, suggest that beauty experiences boost the immune system and, therefore, enhance the healing process. In the end, the persistence of beauty throughout the ages and its prevalence in various cultures may be due to its healing capacity, something known intuitively by many people but needing the sophisticated studies and technology of neuroscience to explain its impact on the body. In this sense, the humanities and sciences work together to understand one of life’s most significant and enduring entities, beauty.
|Keywords:||Beauty, Healing, Neuroscience, Psychoneuroimmunology|
Professor, Philosophy Department, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
Provost Research Fellow, Philosophy, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
Provost Research Fellow, Chemistry, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
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