Aesthetic Identity, Well-Being, and the Right to Beauty
As human beings we may have normative as well as descriptive identities. One important kind of normative identity centres around aesthetic norms and values. To satisfy one’s aesthetic identity by devoting oneself to the pursuit of the beautiful is an important aspect of persons’ well-being, as is witnessed in studies of how aesthetic activities improve the recovery of hospital patients. One reason for this may be that a strong aesthetic identity contributes to making life meaningful by establishing emotional connections between ourselves and the external world.
The more we can relate to the external world in terms of it being beautiful, amazing, pleasant, exciting, magnificent, and so on, the more lively will our engagement with that world be. We come to find the world not only as a place worth living in, but also as an exciting territory to explore. The more attuned we are to the possibility of experiencing beauty, the richer our lives will be, and with this comes also an increased willingness to interact with our external environment.
Taking our point of departure in the theory of well-being as a necessary component of successful agency, and hence a necessary object of an agency-related right-claim, as developed by Alan Gewirth, we will go on to discuss beauty as not only the central concept of any aesthetic identity, but also as an important moral concept. There is a right to beauty, we will argue. Here we will bring in an older line of argument, going back to William Morris and the Arts & Crafts movement, insisting on the importance of beauty in our everyday lives. In the line of this argument, we will criticize formal theories of art as well as architectural functionalism.
Keywords: Normative Identity, Beauty, Well-Being, Formalism
Prof. Per Bauhn
Professor, Practical Philosophy