philosophy and social criticism

The beauty of morality. Interview with Ágnes Heller

We speak of ugly crimes, ugly actions or behavior. From this does not follow that evil cannot be beautiful. Evil can seduce, among others, also by its charme and beauty

di Marco Dotti

Ágnes Heller is a philosopher born in Budapest (1929). She earned her doctorate in 1955 under the supervision of Georg Lukács and was also his assistant. She held positions as philosophy professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne and in 1986 was appointed Hannah Arendt Professor of Philosophy in the Graduate Studies Program at the New School for Social Research in New York. 


MD: Is the concept “beauty of morality” possible? How is it possible for a person to be good?

“The beauty of morality” is not a concept, rather the abbreviation of a conditional judgment: Such as “morality can be beautifull” or a “moral person is a sense also beautiful”. In modern times,in times of dissolution of concrete moral norms,a person can be good if she chooses herself as a good person, that is, as a person for whom it is better to suffer ,than to commit injustice. Morality beauty show on the face.

Goethe said that after 30, every person is responsible for his face. All portrait painters knew this. Goodness makes even an otherwise plain face shine.

MD: Any given scientific discussion these days seems to orient itself around a purely ultraistic criteria, why?

I have not experienced the primacy of utilitarian discourse.There is not even a way to tell what is useful in general for men, since something else is useful to A and to B. That most people prefer what is useful to them, and neglect the preferece for the good,is a very old story, formulated already by the discussion partner’s of Socrates, for example by Trasymachos.

But this is a platitude which generates no discourse about utility in general. There are two types of responsibility,A retrospective one (responsible for what I have done) and a prospective one:(being in charge) but neither of them has direct relation to beauty. Actions,however,can becalled beautiful, if performed with tact, elegance, and proper form.

MDBeauty and responsibility can they be brought together? Is a union between beauty and hate possible?

The first definition of beautiful sounded: “beautiful is what we love” .And indeed,if a child loves his father,he is the most beautiful man for him, And a beloved one is always beautiful for the lover..It was also  believed that what we hate is ugly. We speak of ugly crimes, ugly actions or behavior. From this does not follow that evil cannot be beautiful. Evil can seduce, among others, also by its charme and beauty.

MD: In today’s society one’s needs are more often left “unsatisfied.” So the feelings of dissatisfaction and fear are widely diffused, especially amongst young people. Do we live in a society of dissatisfaction?

Modernity is about dissatisfaction,.We live in dissatisfied societies Dissatisfaction s the fuel of change,the change of the world and the change of ourselves.A satisfied world would stagnate, a fully satisfied person is narrow minded.

MD: Can a “good and beautiful” act reduce the feeling of dissatisfaction, giving sense to what seems to be without meaning?

But in case of dissatisfaction we are also entitled to ask “dissatisfied with what?”

An egoist is disatisfied with his own situation, a just man with the victory of injustices in the world.

One can call good life the life of men and women who achieved or are in process to achieve all that they are able to achieve,who have friends for whom they care and who care for them,and who take care of the world. They can live in peace with themselves and enjoy life with all the fruits it offers.

Mantova, 12/09/2010

tysm literary review, vol. 11, no. 16, july 2014

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