Beauty, Creativity, and Healing
Edited By Bandy Lee, Nancy Olson and Thomas Duffy
Beauty and the Pact of Aliveness
by Elaine Scarry
Some discuss beauty in its relation to the healing of an individual; I will be describing beauty and its relation to the healing of large numbers of people. Of course they’re immediately related subjects, whether it is the question of an individual or of public health.
Now I want to speak about the way in which beauty presses us to a greater concern for justice. Both beauty and justice have in English a shared synonym, which is the word “fairness”. We speak in the realm of beauty, of fair faces and fair skies and fair vistas, but we also speak in the realm of justice of fair arrangements and fair playing fields. It may be surprising to be reminded that the word fair as in fair play and fair practice, that is the words for justice, in fact come etymologically from the esthetic word fairness meaning loveliness of countenance or perfection of fit.
Both beauty and justice also have a shared opposite and that is the word “injury”. In the case of justice, this is literally the case. The second syllable of the word injury is the same syllable as that in the word justice, and injustice means injury—and I believe that the most accurate opposite for the word beauty is the word injury. In my book, On Beauty and Being Just, I was sometimes faulted for never having used the word “ugliness”. Ugliness is a word that...
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