I began to appreciate aesthetics at a very young age. From the observation of small things that formed my own universe, at every insignificant choice, I have never been able to dispense with aesthetics as a value to admire and pursue.
Despite the almost immediate association between aesthetics and formal and physical traits, the perception that beauty is formed not only from objects but also from actions and attitudes made me feel, over time, the need to expand my knowledge on this matter. What, then, makes us perceive or define something as beautiful, pleasant or elegant? How do such concepts come up and establish themselves? What about the ability to perceive, would it be innate or socially and culturally constructed? And why does the admiration for aesthetics result in different values and scope for each person?
In 2010, when I came across the book ‘Le gout’ * (‘Essay on Taste’), by Montesquieu – the publication of an unfinished fragment posthumously found among his writings – I finally realized the universal and timeless nature of the subject matter I had begun to investigate. Although, according to Teixeira Coelho in the postscript of the aforementioned book, ‘today’s taste is an idea and word almost superbly banned from the erudite discourse and tolerated only in the popular or informal sphere’, its concept was equivalent, until the mid-eighteenth century, to what philosophy calls today aesthetics – a word created in that very historical moment.
In the very introduction, Montesquieu explains the reasons that led to such writings – ‘In our current way of being, the soul enjoys three kinds of pleasures: one that draws from the depths of existence itself, others that result from their union with the body, and others, finally, are based on biases and prejudices that certain institutions, uses and habits imposed on it. … These different pleasures of the soul form the objects of taste, such as the beautiful, the good, the pleasant…’ . And later declares: ‘The sources of the beautiful, the good, the pleasant, etc, are in ourselves; to seek their reasons is to seek the causes of the soul’s pleasures’.
The works of man, as well as the works of nature, and the various ways of relating to these works and among ourselves, are sources of pleasure for the soul. Of all the things around us, we can draw emotions, passions and pleasures… and the observation and discussion of this mechanism only contributes to the expansion of those pleasures experienced by each different soul.
‘Let us therefore examine and study this soul’s actions and passions, let us seek it in its pleasures: this is where the soul reveals the most. Poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, music, dance, different types of games, the works of nature and art can give you pleasure: let us see why, how and when that happens, let us understand our feelings: this may contribute to the formation of taste, which is nothing but the advantage of subtly finding out the extent of the pleasure that each thing should give people’.
That is what this site is about. About aesthetics, taste, about all things and the different pleasures our souls are given by them.
* ‘Le goût’, Charles de Secondar/Baron de Montesquieu, translated into Portuguese by Teixeira Coelho by the title ‘O Gosto’, Ed. Iluminuras, 2009.