Chrétien on Beauty

The Lion and the Captive: Phenomenological Aesthetics in Jean-Louis Chrétien’s “Does Beauty Say Adieu?”
From Javier Carreno, SOPHERE lecture on March 24

What would it take for our encounters with beauty to tease us out of a stance of mere disinterestedness, and for our conversations on beauty even as a divine attribute to no longer sound hollow? For Chrétien, both philosophical and theological aesthetics are in need of a phenomenology that addresses beauty not just as another phenomenal quality – in things, in the world, and in God – but as an event that uniquely implicates objects and subjects into a veritable drama.

By pursuing a phenomenological line of thinking that is conversant with the testimonies of poets, theologians, and painters, Chrétien persuasively argues that the self-manifestation of beauty not only fills us with joy but also wounds us, since it is at the point of vulnerability that we break forth into prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. And by delving into this personal response, Chrétien clarifies the relation between God’s glory and beauty, clearly outlining the role that the beauty of the Incarnation plays in redemption.

The major part of my presentation will be devoted to Chrétien’s ambitious proposal to take beauty and its opposite beyond aesthetics and into the drama of human salvation. This will enable us, at a second move, to look more closely at what Chrétien has to say about the inexhaustible character of the vision of the beautiful, and ponder at how this “inexhaustibility” still differs from the inexhaustibility of perception as understood by phenomenology.

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