|The Aesthetic Approach|
In his The Systems Approach and its Enemies, West Churchman wrote about aesthetics as one of those "enemies." He suggested an aesthetic sense of the beautiful ugly dynamic was equivalent to intuition. Since intuition had no rules, perhaps he concluded, it was better to call both surprise. Added emphasis appears in red, and my reactions are enclosed in a box: (Note 164)
In classical philosophy it was common to divide the philosopher's task into considerations of the meaning and significance of the Good, the True and the Beautiful. If these were to be the cornerstones of the real system in which humanity lives, then they somehow needed to be interrelated. . . . But, curiously enough, the Beautiful seems to be absent from most of the writings dealing with the whole system. The Beautiful is implicit, I think, in the imagery of the I Ching, which often has a dramatic tone - of peace, or hope, or horror - all of which are qualities of the Beautiful Ugly, which I'll call "aesthetics." . . .
Suppose we begin by listing some of the qualities of human experience that plausibly seem to fall under the rubric of the aesthetic. As a beginning: peaceful, attractive, exciting, anticipatory, luring and threatening, repulsive, boring, anxious, frightening. . . . All this might lure the systems logician to set up the basic categories of the aesthetic. But before he too eagerly jumps into this job, we have to caution him. First of all, what has these qualities? The answer I gave was "experience." I could also have said "the field of consciousness" or "awareness."
Two things seem noticeable. First, all experience, including dreams, has an aesthetic quality. In fact, my logical mind is tempted to say that aesthetics is that which gives the quality - rather than the content - of experience, and that experience without quality is dead - just as experience without thought is unintelligible. . . . The force of the aesthetic image of uniqueness, and the pervasive, noncognitive quality that aesthetics generates in our experience, make a "theory of aesthetics" not merely a contradiction in terms but an anathema. . . .
The word I want is "radiance". The Latin word claritas can be translated into "clearness," meaning" precise," as in Descartes or later in symbolic logic. But it can also mean "light" or "brilliance." Thus, one way to talk about aesthetics is to say that it is the variety of expressions of radiance, including the dark. But it is not merely "black and white," for radiance includes the colors, and sounds, and aromas, and touches. . . .
And, finally, I come to that function of my psyche which I regard as the most radiant and therefore the closest to the aesthetic, intuition. Everyone knows it well; no one knows it at all. . . . If I were to interpret Kant in the present discourse, I'd say that intuition is that which gives experience its quality; that is, I'd identify aesthetics and intuition. But that may be too strong. Jung, strangely enough for me, says that intuition is the "function of unconscious perception," I guess because he found it so difficult to describe in consciousness related terms.
Previously I've talked about alternative "approaches" to the conduct of human affairs. . . . While religion is rather obscure as an "approach" unless it uses politics as its aid, still it is an approach because a great many of the things we do arise out of devotion - to a God, to wealth, to caring, to whatever. But aesthetics is another matter still; it may not even be appropriate to call it an "approach," because there are no rules, no consistencies. And if intuition is close to aesthetics, then "surprise" may be the better expression: to run your life through surprises.