Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION II: Of Original or Absolute Beauty. - An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue
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SECTION II: Of Original or Absolute Beauty. - Francis Hutcheson, An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue 
An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue in Two Treatises, ed. Wolfgang Leidhold (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004).
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Of Original or Absolute Beauty.
Sense of Men.I. Since it is certain that we have Ideas of Beauty and Harmony, let us examine what Quality in Objects excites these Ideas, or is the occasion of them. And let it be here observ’d, that our Inquiry is only about the Qualitys ∥1 which∥ are beautiful to Men; or about the Foundation of their Sense of Beauty: for, as was above hinted, Beauty has always relation to the Sense of some Mind; and when we afterwards shew how generally the Objects ∥2 which∥ occur to us, are beautiful, we mean ∥3 that such Objects are∥ agreeable to the Sense of Men: ∥4 for as there are not a few∥ Objects, which seem no way beautiful to Men, ∥5 so we see a variety of∥ other Animals ∥6 who∥ seem delighted with them; they may have Senses otherwise constituted than those of Men, and may have the Ideas of Beauty excited by Objects of a quite different Form. We see Animals fitted for every Place; and what to Men appears rude and shapeless, or loathsom, may be to them a Paradise.
II. That we may more distinctly discover the general Foundation or Occasion of the Ideas of Beauty among Men, it will be necessary to consider it first in its simpler Kinds, such as occurs to us in regular Figures; and we may perhaps find that the same Foundation extends to all the more complex Species of it.
Uniformity with Variety.III. The Figures ∥7 which∥ excite in us the Ideas of Beauty, seem to be those in which there is Uniformity amidst Variety. There are many Conceptions of Objects ∥8 which∥ are agreeable upon other accounts, such as Grandeur, Novelty, Sanctity, and some others, ∥9 which shall be mention’d hereafter.* ∥ But what we call Beautiful in Objects, to speak in the Mathematical Style, seems to be in a compound Ratio of Uniformity and Variety: so that where the Uniformity of Bodys is equal, the Beauty is as the Variety; and where the Variety is equal, the Beauty is as the Uniformity. This ∥10 will be plain from Examples.∥
Variety.First, the Variety increases the Beauty in equal Uniformity. The Beauty of an equilateral Triangle is less than that of the Square; which is less than that of a Pentagon; and this again is surpass’d by the Hexagon. When indeed the Number of Sides is much increas’d, the Proportion of them to the Radius, or Diameter of the Figure, ∥11 or of the Circle to which regular Polygons have an obvious Relation,∥ is so much lost to our Observation, that the Beauty does not always increase with the Number of Sides; and the want of Parallelism in the Sides of Heptagons, and other Figures of odd Numbers, may also diminish their Beauty. So in Solids, the Eicosiedron surpasses the Dodecaedron, and this the Octaedron, which is still more beautiful than the Cube; and this again surpasses the regular Pyramid: The obvious Ground of this, is greater Variety with equal Uniformity.
Uniformity.The greater Uniformity increases the Beauty amidst equal Variety, in these Instances: An Equilateral Triangle, or even an Isosceles, surpasses the Scalenum: A Square surpasses the Rhombus or Lozenge, and this again the Rhomboides, ∥12 which is∥ still more beautiful than the Trapezium, or any Figure with irregular curve Sides. So the regular Solids ∥13 vastly∥ surpass all other Solids of equal number of plain Surfaces: And the same is observable not only in the Five perfectly regular Solids, but in all those which have any considerable Uniformity, as Cylinders, Prisms, Pyramids, Obelisks; which please every Eye more than any rude Figures, where there is no Unity or Resemblance among the Parts.
Compound Ratio.Instances of the compound Ratio we have in comparing Circles or Spheres, with Ellipses or Spheroids not very eccentric; and in comparing the compound Solids, the Exoctaedron, and Eicosidodecaedron, with the perfectly regular ones of which they are compounded: and we shall find, that the Want of that most perfect Uniformity observable in the latter, is compensated by the greater Variety in the ∥14 others∥, so that the Beauty is nearly equal.
IV. These Observations would probably hold true for the most part, and might be confirm’d by the Judgment of Children in the simpler Figures, where the Variety is not too great for their Comprehension. And however uncertain some of the particular aforesaid Instances may seem, yet this is perpetually to be observ’d, that Children are fond of all regular Figures in their little Diversions, altho they be no more convenient, or useful for them, than the Figures of our common Pebbles: We see how early they discover a Taste or Sense of Beauty, in desiring to see Buildings, regular Gardens, or even Representations of them in Pictures of any kind.
Beauty of Nature.V. ∥15 It is∥ the same foundation ∥16 which∥ we have for our Sense of Beauty in the Works of Nature. In every Part of the World which we call Beautiful, there is a ∥17 vast∥ Uniformity amidst ∥18 an∥ almost infinite Variety. Many Parts of the Universe seem not at all design’d for the use of Man; nay, it is but a very small Spot with which we have any acquaintance. The Figures and Motions of the great Bodys are not obvious to our Senses, but found out by Reasoning and Reflection, upon many long Observations: and yet as far as we can by Sense discover, or by Reasoning enlarge our Knowledge, and extend our Imagination, we generally find ∥19 their Structure, Order∥, and Motion, agreeable to our Sense of Beauty. Every particular Object in Nature does not indeed appear beautiful to us; but there is a ∥20 vast∥ Profusion of Beauty over most of the Objects which occur either to our Senses, or Reasonings upon Observation: For not to mention the apparent Situation of the heavenly Bodys in the Circumference of a great Sphere, which is wholly occasion’d by the Imperfection of our Sight in discerning distances; the Forms of all the great Bodys in the Universe are nearly Spherical; the Orbits of their Revolutions generally Elliptick, and without great Eccentricity, in those which continually occur to our Observation: ∥21 now∥ these are Figures of great Uniformity, and therefore pleasing to us.
22 Further, to pass by the less obvious Uniformity in the Proportion of their Quantitys of Matter, Distances, Times of revolving, to each other; what can exhibit a greater Instance of Uniformity amidst Variety, than the constant Tenour of Revolutions in nearly equal Times, in each Planet, around its Axis, and the central Fire or Sun, thro all the Ages of which we have any Records, and in nearly the same Orbit? ∥23 by which∥, after certain Periods, all the same Appearances are again renew’d; the alternate Successions of Light and Shade, or Day and Night, constantly pursuing each other around each Planet, with an agreeable and regular Diversity in the Times they possess the ∥24 several∥ Hemispheres, in the Summer, Harvest, Winter and Spring; and the various Phases, Aspects, and Situations, of the Planets to each other, their Conjunctions and Oppositions, in which they suddenly darken each other with their Conick Shades in Eclipses, are repeated to us at their fixed Periods with invariable Constancy: These are the Beautys which charm the Astronomer, and make his tedious Calculations pleasant.
Earth.VI. Again, as to the dry Part of the Surface of our Globe, a great Part of which is cover’d with a very pleasant inoffensive Colour, how beautifully is it diversify’d with various Degrees of Light and Shade, according to the different Situations of the Parts of its Surface, in Mountains, Valleys, Hills, and open Plains, which are variously inclin’d toward the great Luminary!
Plants.VII. If we descend to the minuter Works of Nature, what ∥25 vast∥ Uniformity among all the Species of Plants and Vegetables in the manner of their Growth and Propagation! ∥26 what exact∥ Resemblance among all the Plants of the same Species, whose Numbers surpass our Imagination! And this Uniformity is not only observable in the Form in gross; ∥27 nay, in this it is not so very exact in all Instances∥, but in the Structure of their ∥28 minutest Parts,∥ which no Eye unassisted with Glasses can discern. In the almost infinite Multitude of Leaves, Fruit, Seed, Flowers of any one Species, we ∥29 often∥ see ∥30 an exact∥ Uniformity in the Structure and Situation of the smallest Fibres. This is the Beauty which charms an ingenious Botanist. Nay, what ∥31 vast∥ Uniformity and Regularity of Figure is found in each particular Plant, ∥32 Leaf∥, or Flower! In all Trees and ∥33 most of the∥ smaller Plants, the Stalks or Trunks are either Cylinders nearly, or regular Prisms; the Branches similar to their several Trunks, arising at nearly regular Distances, when no Accidents retard their natural Growth: In one Species the Branches arise in Pairs on the opposite Sides; the perpendicular Plain of Direction of the immediately superior Pair, intersecting the Plain of Direction of the inferior, nearly at right Angles: In another species, the Branches ∥34 spring∥ singly, and alternately, all around in nearly equal Distances: And the Branches in other Species ∥35 sprout∥ all in Knots around the Trunk, one for each Year. And in ∥36 every∥ Species, all the Branches in the first Shoots preserve the same Angles with their Trunk; and they again sprout out into smaller Branches exactly after the Manner of their Trunks. Nor ought we to pass over that great Unity of Colours ∥37 which we often see∥ in all the Flowers of the same Plant or Tree, and often of a whole Species; and their exact Agreement in many shaded Transitions into opposite Colours, in which all the Flowers of the same Plant generally agree, nay often all the Flowers of a Species.
Animals.VIII. Again, as to the Beauty of Animals, either in their inward Structure, which we come to the Knowledge of by Experiment and long Observation, or their outward Form, we shall find ∥38 vast∥ Uniformity among all the Species which are known to us, in the Structure of those Parts, upon which Life depends more immediately. And how amazing is the Unity of Mechanism, when we shall find ∥39 an∥ almost infinite diversity of Motions, all their Actions in walking, running, flying, swimming; all their serious Efforts for Self-preservation, all their freakish Contortions when they are gay and sportful, in all their various Limbs, perform’d by one simple Contrivance of a contracting Muscle, apply’d with inconceivable Diversitys to answer all these Ends! Various Engines might have obtain’d the same Ends; but then there had been less Uniformity, and the Beauty of our Animal Systems, and of particular Animals, had been much less, when this surprizing Unity of Mechanism had been remov’d from them.
IX. Among Animals of the same Species, the Unity is very obvious, and this Resemblance is the very Ground of our ranking them in such Classes or Species, notwithstanding the great Diversitys in Bulk, Colour, Shape, which are observ’d even in those call’d of the same Species. And then in each Individual, ∥40 what vast Beauty∥ arises from the exact Resemblance of all the external double Members to each other, which seems the universal Intention of Nature, when no Accident prevents it! We see the Want of this Resemblance never fails to pass for an Imperfection, and Want of Beauty, tho no other Inconvenience ensues; as when the Eyes are not exactly like, or one Arm or Leg is a little shorter or smaller than its fellow.
∥41aAs to that most powerful Beauty in Countenances, Airs, Gestures, Motion, we shall shew in the second Treatise,* that it arises from some imagin’d Indication of morally good Dispositions of ∥42bMind.ab∥
Proportion.X. There is a further Beauty in Animals, arising from a certain Proportion of the various Parts to each other, which still pleases the Sense of Spectators, tho they cannot calculate it with the Accuracy of a Statuary. The Statuary knows what Proportion of each Part of the Face to the whole Face is most agreeable, and can tell us the same of the Proportion of the Face to the Body, or any Parts of it; and between the Diameters and Lengths of each Limb: When this Proportion of the Head to the Body is remarkably alter’d, we shall have a Giant or a Dwarf. And hence it is, that either the one or the other may be represented to us even in Miniature, without Relation to any external Object, by observing how the Body surpasses the Proportion it should have to the Head in Giants, and falls below it in Dwarfs. There is a further Beauty arising from that Figure, which is a natural Indication of Strength; but this may be pass’d over, because probably it may be alleg’d, that our Approbation of this Shape flows from ∥43 an∥ opinion of Advantage, and not from the Form it self.
The Beauty arising from Mechanism, apparently adapted to the Necessitys and Advantages of any Animal; which pleases us, even tho there be no Advantage to our selves ensuing from it; will be consider’d under the Head of Relative Beauty, or Design.*
Fowls.XI. The peculiar Beauty of Fowls can scarce be omitted, which arises from the ∥44 vast∥ Variety of Feathers, a curious Sort of Machines adapted to many admirable Uses, which retain a ∥45 vast∥ Resemblance in their Structure among all the Species, ∥46 and∥ a perfect Uniformity in those of the same Species in the corresponding Parts, and in the two Sides of each Individual; besides all the Beauty of lively Colours and gradual Shades, not only in the external Appearance of the Fowl, resulting from an artful Combination of shaded Feathers, but often visible even in one Feather separately.
Fluids.XII. If our Reasonings about the Nature of Fluids be just, the vast Stores of Water will give us an Instance of Uniformity in Nature above Imagination, when we reflect upon the almost infinite Multitude of small, polish’d, smooth Spheres, which must be suppos’d form’d in all the parts of this Globe. The same Uniformity there is probably among the Parts of other Fluids as well as Water: and the like must be observ’d in several other natural Bodys, as Salts, Sulphurs, and such like; whose uniform Propertys do probably depend upon an Uniformity in the Figures of their Parts.
Harmony.XIII. Under Original Beauty we may include Harmony, or Beauty of Sound, if that Expression can be allow’d, because Harmony is not usually conceiv’d as an Imitation of any thing else. Harmony often raises Pleasure in those who know not what is the Occasion of it: And yet the Foundation of this Pleasure is known to be a sort of Uniformity. When the several Vibrations of one Note regularly coincide with the Vibrations of another, they make an agreeable Composition; and such Notes are call’d ∥47 Concords∥. Thus the Vibrations of any one Note coincide in Time with ∥48 two Vibrations∥ of its Octave; and two Vibrations of any Note coincide with three of its Fifth; and so on in the rest of the ∥49aCon-cords. ∥50bNow no Composition can be harmonious, in which the Notes are not, for the most part, dispos’d according to these natural Proportions. Besides which, a due Regard must be had to the Key, which governs the whole, and to the Time and Humour, in which the Composition is begun: ∥51ca frequent and inartificialc∥ Change of any of which will produce the greatest, and most unnatural Discord.b∥ This will appear, by observing the Dissonance which would arise from tacking Parts of different Tunes together as one, altho both were separately agreeable. A likea∥ Uniformity is also observable among the Bases, Tenors, Trebles of the same Tune.
∥52aThere is indeed ∥53bobservableb∥, in the best Compositions, a mysterious Effect of Discords: They often give as great Pleasure as continu’d Harmony; whether by refreshing the Ear with Variety, or by awakening the Attention, and enlivening the Relish for the succeeding Harmony of Concords, as Shades enliven and beautify Pictures, or by some other means not yet known: Certain it is however that they have their place, and some good Effect in our best Compositions.a∥ Some other Powers of Musick may be consider’d ∥54 hereafter∥.*
XIV. But in all these Instances of55 Beauty let it be observ’d, That the Pleasure is communicated to those who never reflected on this general Foundation; and that all here alledg’d is this, “That the pleasant Sensation arises only from Objects, in which there is Uniformity amidst Variety:” We may have the Sensation without knowing what is the Occasion of it; as a Man’s Taste may suggest Ideas of Sweets, Acids, Bitters, tho he be ignorant of the Forms of the small Bodys, or their Motions, which excite ∥56 these∥ Perceptions in him.
[* ]See Sect. vi. Art. 11, 12, 13.
[* ]Hor. Lib. 2. Sat. 2 v. 12.
[i. ]Translation: “Where the excitement pleasantly beguiles the hard toil.” Horace, Satires, Epistles, and Ars Poetica, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970), 136.
[* ]Sect. vi. Art. 3.
[* ]See Sect. iv. Art. 7.
[* ]See Sect. vi. Art. 12.
[1.]A (p. 15): that
[2.]A (p. 15): that
[3.]Not in A (p. 15).
[4.]C (p. 16), D (p. 16): for there are many
[5.]C (p. 16), D (p. 16): and yet
[6.]Omitted in C (p. 16), D (p. 16).
[7.]A (p. 15): that
[8.]A (p. 16): that
[9.]A (p. 16): that shall be touched at* afterwards. [Same footnote.]
[10.]D2, D3 [Corrigenda, p. 310]: may seem probable, and hold pretty generally.
[11.]Not in A (p. 18). Instruction for addition already in Alterations and Additions (p. 4).
[12.]A (p. 17): which yet is
[13.]Not in C (p. 18), D (p. 18).
[14.]C (p. 19), D (p. 19): former
[15.]Omitted in C (p. 19), D (p. 19).
[16.]Omitted in C (p. 19), D (p. 19).
[17.]C (p. 19), D (p. 19): surprizing
[18.]Not in A (p. 18).
[19.]A (pp. 18–19): the Structure, and Order
[20.]C (p. 20), D (p. 20): great
[21.]A (p. 19): and
[22.]No new paragraph in A (p. 19).
[23.]C (p. 21), D (p. 21): Thus
[24.]A (p. 20): various
[25.]C (p. 22), D (p. 22): great
[26.]C (p. 22), D (p. 22): how near the
[27.]C (p. 22), D (p. 22): in brackets.
[28.]D2, D3 [Corrigenda, p. 310]: minuter Parts, even of those,
[29.]Not in A (p. 21).
[30.]C (p. 22), D (p. 22): a very great
[31.]C (p. 22), D (p. 22): great
[32.]A (p. 21): or Leaf
[33.]Not in A (p. 21).
[34.]A (p. 21): shall spring
[35.]A (p. 21): shall sprout
[36.]C (p. 23), D (p. 23): each
[37.]Not in A (p. 22).
[38.]C (p. 23), D (p. 23): surprizing
[39.]A (p. 22): that
[40.]C (p. 24), D (p. 24): how universal is that Beauty which
[41.]Not in A (p. 23).
[42.]C (p. 25), D (p. 25): Mind. In Motion there is also a natural Beauty, when at fixed Periods like Gestures and Steps are regularly repeated, suiting the Time and Air of Music, which is observed in regular Dancing.
[43.]Not in A (p. 24).
[44.]C (p. 26), D (p. 26): great
[45.]C (p. 26), D (p. 26): considerable
[46.]D2, D3 [Corrigenda, p. 310]: and frequently
[47.]A (p. 25): Chords
[48.]A (p. 26): every second Vibration [Instruction for alteration already in Alterations and Additions (p. 4).]
[49.]A (p. 26): Chords. Now good Compositions, beside the Frequency of these Chords, must retain a general Unity of Key, an Uniformity among the Parts in Bars, Risings, Fallings, Closes. The Necessity of this will appear, by observing the Dissonance which would arise from tacking Parts of different Tunes together as one, altho both were separately agreeable. A greater
[50.]Instruction for addition already in Alterations and Additions (p. 4).
[51.]Alterations and Additions (p. 4): an artificial
[52.]Not in A (p. 26), and no new paragraph. Instruction for addition already in Alterations and Additions (pp. 4–5).
[53.]Not in Alterations and Additions (p. 4).
[54.]A (p. 26): afterwards
[55.]New footnote in D2, D3 (p. 29): *There is nothing singular in applying the Word Beauty to Sounds. The Antients observe the peculiar Dignity of the Senses of Seeing and Hearing, that in their Objects we discern the καλὸν [beauty], which we don’t ascribe to the Objects of the other Senses.
[56.]D1 (p. 29): the