The Noumenal and Phenomenal: How to make something beautiful


In my post Art and Metaphysics I talked about the noumenal and phenomenal realms, mentioning that the discussion was a precursor to duscussing three categories defining art and beauty.

Beauty, among many other things, originates in the noumenal realm. But of all the elements originating there, I think beauty is likely the one most evident in the phenomenal realm. This is great news for empirical creatures like us who are obsessed with our phenomenal realm, but whose thirst is for the noumenal. Being experienced seekers of beauty, we also know that Art is a place we often find it.

But the question remains: is everything containing Beauty, Art?

I answer no.

There are many beautiful things in the world: sunsetsPorsche’s, the Taj Mahal and The Raft of The Medusa. But I would only consider the last of these Art. Why?

The answer has to do with whether their ultimate purpose is found in the noumenal or phenomenal realm (taking for granted here that art is man-made). Take the Porsche, for instance. It is a well made car, highly functional for its purpose, and pleasing to the eye (and ear, I’m guessing). But its purpose is to drive, to get from here to there. Its primary function belongs in the phenomenal realm, and therefore is not Art. But it is beautiful, because excellence and beauty, characteristics of the car, are noumenal elements integrated into the form of the phenomenal item.

This is my first category. The beautiful item, created from phenomenal elements for phenomenal ends, but done so according to standards and qualities found in the noumenal realm.

3 thoughts on “The Noumenal and Phenomenal: How to make something beautiful

  1. Your first category looks OK. I believe you’re for real.

    Not much of a comment here, except I’m happy you are grounded in Kant. So glad you scrolled up on my ‘philosophy’ tag surf (not always my most productive tag).

    Thanks for the post, and for the blog – an occasion of reflection for me this morning.

  2. My comment may not be agreeing with you but what I feel, beauty lies in the eyes which we look at. We have many problem (Physical or mental) but life is always beautiful..Is it?

    • You bring up an interesting point. In this post I was focusing on beauty in objects and created things. But there is also beauty in people, in relationships, in human experience. That is an interesting area I have not thought a lot about in philosophical terms.

      I think that what stories do (novels, movies, personal history) is to locate and showcase the beauty inherent to human life.

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