John Mark Reynolds spoke at Acton recently on “Beauty and the Destruction of the Individual,” explaining how a proper belief in the existence of objective beauty fuels a culture.
I believe that the beginning of cultural decay provably comes when a culture decides that objective reality is a matter of subjectivity—my opinion, what I feel is true….
You can learn to love something, see its beauty, if you know the beauty is there….
You cannot pay a person to clean up after a [dying] man the way my grandmother cleaned up after my grandfather. But she’ll do it for free—in freedom, without government support or aid—for the beauty she saw in that old man. Not beauty that was subjective and merely a matter of the heart, but beauty that was real, and objective, and true. And she had, over the course of her Christian life, because she was not taught that beauty was subjective, submitted her notions of what was beautiful, and good, and true to her own Christian faith. And so as her husband aged, she came to see the more subtle beauty that exists in an older man and did not love him less; she loved him more….
When we believe in objectivity, we are free from the beholders…. If subjectivity is the only reality when it comes to beauty, and a girl goes to school and everyone says, “You’re fat and unattractive,” and she picks up magazine after magazine, and there’s not one woman of color in it, not one woman with her body shape, not one woman her mother’s age, then beauty being “in the eye of the beholder” is not liberating; it is the ultimate tyranny because the only reality is what those guys in high school say in judgment about you…. The reality becomes, ultimately, what a few people tell us….
If we believe beauty is objective, it is singularly liberating because suddenly, the things that matter most are free…. We can begin to appreciate God’s handiwork, none of which costs money, all of which leads to love as we see things correctly; and love motivates us to do great things and fills us with joy….
Culture will only die when people have to be paid to do what love did voluntarily.
Dr. Reynolds makes the case that this voluntary love will die as we lose our belief in objective beauty. Watch the whole lecture below.