Tolstoy ended up dismissing the criterion of beauty in the name of religion

His perspective was that the more we care about beauty the less we care about the good.

While writing the second novel he’s known for he was undergoing a spiritual crisis which culminated a few years later in his rejection of church and state.

Tolstoy dismisses all the aesthetic theories of France, Germany, and England in the opening chapters of What is Art? he wrote at 70.

All this destruction in the name of what he called “true Christianity”. I mean, it’s Tolstoy so we should probably give him a listen?

This is just too funny- he dismisses Dante as a sinner.

He liked to visit monasteries after his spiritual crisis

I don’t know about you, I like to see someone calling virtually everyone in the world a sinner.

Simple point here I think there is great confusion about. This is the response of the initial aestheticians to the coiner of the word “aesthetics”

So much of it today is just so full of hatred for the creators of civilization. There, I said it. And am I wrong? It would take a lot of convincing for me to believe that is in any way “good” and thus “beautiful”.

Tolstoy’s point, so far at least, is that when you’re talking about aesthetics you’re not even talking about aesthetics- you’re always talking about morality.

It’s funny to imagine this eminent artist reading books by non-artists about art. I’m not going to hold it against him for being so grumpy and argumentative. He seems to be very well-read on aesthetics too. He thinks they’re all confused about art being about beauty at all.

Again, this might seem like a simple point to some people. Why do you think I focus so much on this subject? It’s because I don’t find beauty from humanity. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s understood. I don’t find beauty because I don’t find goodness. Tolstoy seems right that the overfocus on beauty in art has lost sight of the good, which is the point of art in the first place.

I know I have a controversial idea of what the good is. Challenging the evils of the world, for one. No, I don’t really ever see that. Thus I never see beauty.

Unless a shrew disagrees?

I think immediately of my favorite art, satire, and how that doesn’t do anything for the good in any real way, in almost all of its contemporary manifestations.

The indirect point Tolstoy is making is that all the arts are distant from God in being preoccupied with beauty which is only an appearance which hides their absence of concern for the good, which is the only true beauty.

Hating the creators of civilization, that’s the sign of the times. You can try to hide what you are all you want. There’s nothing good in that. Only a demon would partake in that, a demon or a conformist, and in either case there’s no beauty to be found. I repeat- hide it all you want. That’s what they constantly do- hide what they are. That’s what it means to have an appearance of beauty that is detached from the good.

It’s rare to see this sort of thing, someone of Tolstoy’s calibre going after all the aestheticians with hammer and tongs.

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