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III. BEAUTY ATTACHES ONLY TO UTILITY—continued.
2. Subjective Utility.
SUBJECTIVE utility admits of the same division as objective, and consists in knowledge, which teaches us either (1) how to avoid pain, or (2) how to secure pleasure. And as objective utility relates to material things upon which the senses can work, so this relates to immaterial thoughts upon which the faculties can operate. The above division does not indicate two kinds of utility: it merely exhibits two aspects of the same thing. For utility is a relative term and necessarily implies both the objective and subjective elements. If I wanted to cross a dyke fifteen feet wide, and had but two planks each less than fifteen feet long, it would be as necessary for me to know how to make use of my planks as to have the planks to make use of. I might as well know how to adjust the planks and not possess them as possess them and not know how to adjust them. Any one, therefore, who will tell me how to utilise my planks, when possessed, will do me as great a service as he that supplies me with the planks to be utilised. As under objective utility, therefore, we considered chiefly the materials which operate on the mind, we shall now address ourselves more particularly to the mind which operates on the materials.
Objective utility springs from what is materially serviceable; subjective utility from what is morally profitable. Some tangible advantage must underlie the first; some didactic lesson must be derivable from the second. If these conditions be not fulfilled there will be no beauty, and, consequently, no admiration. We have seen this to be the case in the first department of utility—the objective; we shall now proceed to test it in the latter departmentthe subjective.
Subjective utility appertains, as was said, to the mind. In entering this department of beauty we shall find some difficulty in keeping clear of ethical considerations which meet us half way; for æsthetics and ethics join hand in hand; beauty and virtue embrace each other; so that before we can finish the first we must have begun the second. It is no part of our business, however, to investigate the basis or details of moral philosophy or the laws of duty, inculcated by appeals to reason and ending in wisdom. Our purpose is to investigate æsthetic science, or the laws of beauty inculcated by appeals to fancy and ending in admiration. It is our purpose not to discuss the causes of those virtuous principles of conduct which beget love, but to inquire into the qualities and phenomena of matter which occasion admiration.
Matter or material qualities can, of course, beget admiration or awaken emotion only mediately and indirectly by means of the intellect, just as a blow by a mallet on croquet-ball sends another ball lying hard by flying off across the lawn, without having actually touched it at all. It must be remembered that as genius is only an advanced form of knowledge, so virtue is only a higher form of beauty; and as we respect the learned but reverence the great, so we admire the beautiful but love the virtuous. Thus as reverence is only deep-rooted respect, so love is only deep-rooted admiration. There is no difference in kind between the two emotions; the distinction must be sought for in the degree of feeling and in the thoughts by which it is raised. It may seem a contradiction to assert that love is only advanced admiration, since brutes, who are undoubtedly capable of love, not only for each other, but for man, are apparently as incapable of admiration. The paradox, however, is only superficial. Love is the very first instinct which any sentient being manifests, and its primary form is self-love ; but as self is not sufficient for self, this self-love is refracted to what serves and sustains self—to food, to heat, to shelter, to parents, to kindred, and to whatever will, as Hobbes puts it,"serve its turn.” This love is simple enough, and it is easy for brutes to feel it, for it is nothing more than a better form of desire. Man, however, is capable of more than this. He can contemplate with a delicate affection things he cannot love and scarcely desires. He can divide his emotion into two; he can stop at admiration for things which serve another's turn but may never serve his own. As the appropriate emotion for just actions is approbation and for virtuous conduct is love, so the appropriate emotion for beautiful qualities is admiration, for sublime qualities is awe, for ugly ones disgust, and for mean ones contempt. Now all these æsthetic emotions are partial forms of stronger ethical ones, the stronger being common to almost all sentient creatures, while the partial forms are apparently peculiar to man. Thus admiration is love curtailed, disgust is hatred halved, awe is terror cut short, and contempt is resentment in little ; and while brutes are capable of feeling love, hatred, terror, and resentment, they are incapable of admiration, disgust, awe, or contempt; a coincidence, moreover, which throws light upon the fact that when any of these stronger emotions are present, the mind cannot experience the partial forms.
Starting, then, from this great fact, that in the division of beauty we are about to consider—that which attaches to subjective utility—there must be knowledge of some kind communicated to the intellect, or good of some kind promised of an intellect, we may call this subjective utility, this knowledge, or this good, a moral; and we shall seek to justify the proposition by a consideration of beauty as exhibited, first, in the human features; secondly, in statuary, which deals with persons; thirdly, in painting, which deals with persons and things; and fourthly, in poetry, which deals with persons, things, and conduct.
Human features.—We are all judges of beauty and ugliness in the human form; but it does not follow because we all are judges that all our judgments are equally just. If there were no erroneous judgments there could be no degrees of taste. We are all judges of the future consequences of actions, and necessarily so, but it does not thereby follow that all our anticipations are equally correct, for in that case there could be no degrees of wisdom. In respect of taste, or æsthetic pronouncements, mankind may be divided into three sections—a right, a centre, and a left. The right are those few who of themselves discover paramount truths, who instruct the rest, and whose opinions are pre-eminently judicious. The centre is the mass who are incapable of discovering great truths, but not incapable of appreciating them when discovered and explained by others, and whose opinions are characterised by what is called “common sense.” The left are those whose intellect is so incurably perverted that they are neither capable of discovering anything new, of appreciating it when explained, nor of pronouncing with certainty in any matters of taste.
If a face is decreed by half a dozen persons to be beautiful, and by another half dozen to be plain or ugly, it does not follow that there is no such thing as a standard of beauty for the human countenance. For if the central many are equally divided, we must call in the advice of the right minority, the pre-eminent few, or those among them who have made the subject their special study. Again, if a face is decreed by six persons to be handsome and by one to be ugly, it does not follow that the matter is one of opinion, and that there are no certain rules whereby to decide as to what is beauty and what is not. How often do we hear a conversation like the following:
“ Is she not very pretty ?” “Do you think so ? I was really thinking how plain she is. I cannot say that I see any beauty in her face.” “Well, they say every eye forms a beauty,' and I suppose it is all a matter of taste, and cannot be accounted for.” That it is all a matter of taste is certain, but that it cannot be accounted for is wholly untrue. Taste implies judgment, and judgment is an exercise of the intellect; and as there is great disparity in the capacity of intellects, there will necessarily be great disparity in the judgments they form. A
and paltry intellect will bring in foolish and short-sighted verdicts, while a strong and comprehensive one will make farsighted and discreet calculations. This is common reason, and, in fact, a truism. If, therefore, I admire a face which a friend of mine thinks ugly, what am I to do? There is only word for word, opinion for opinion; and although I may believe my judgment to be right and suspect my friend of a vitiated taste, it is evident that he may suspect mine in like manner, and thus we shall never convince each other. In such a case I must take a poll of a large number of persons, our peers, and if the vast majority of these pronounce in my favour I shall be satisfied-and perhaps my friend too—that I am right; if against me, I shall begin to suspect that I was wrong. If they are equally divided, we shall lay the matter before those who are known to be specially conversant with these subjects, whose sentence under such circumstances will probably be that the face in question is neither very beautiful nor very ugly; that it possesses some admirable qualities, but lacks others of equal importance, or betrays certain suspicious symptoms. I shall then discover, perhaps tardily, that I had attributed too much to an expression here and too little to one there; that I had overvalued this feature and undervalued that, and so on. But to conclude, because there is difference of opinion about the beauty of faces, that there is no law or rule of human beauty at all, were as false and foolish as to say, because there is difference of opinion as to the morality of actions, that there is no