Amel asked:

Following on the idea of universal grammar, is there such a thing as universal aesthetic?

Answer by Tony Fahey

Amel, this is question on an issue which interests me very much. Indeed, in a previous edition of the International Society For Philosophers e-journal, Philosophy Pathways, in an article entitled Philosophy, Science, and Consciousness I make a case that, in the same way that Kant argues that the mind possesses a priori, the intuitions of space and time and the concept of causality, and Chomsky a similar case for universal grammar, so too does the mind possess, a priori, what I call, the ‘instinct of equilibrity’. As you will see from the following extract from my article, I now concede that a more appropriate term for this feature would be what you call the ‘universal aesthetic’.

Consciousness privileges us with an awareness of our existence. Intentionality, as a feature of consciousness, privileges us with the wherewithal to contemplate affairs of the world. However, in order to order phenomena, nature, or natural selection, has furnished the mind/brain with another, equally important, feature which I will call the instinct of equilibrity: an innate sense of equilibrium which is essential in the making of judgement calls necessary for our safety and development. It is this essential feature or element that allows us to intuit that which may serve us best in our struggle of the survival of the fittest. It is in virtue of this feature that we recognise those qualities in others that are worth borrowing for our own evolutionary purposes. It is in virtue of this feature that we turn away from that which we feel may affect us negatively, and turn towards that which we feel may benefit us. It is in virtue of this feature that we have developed our sense of beauty, justice, goodness, and truth, and their opposites – qualities indefinable in themselves but essential in establishing an environment in which human beings can live and prosper.

It could be argued that when Keats said that ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty! – that is all/Ye know and all ye need to know’ it was this sense of balance of which he spoke: at its most refined beauty is truth, and truth is beauty. But it is also justice and goodness; and together they are but manifestations, even interpretations, of the unique feature which I call the ‘instinct of equilibrity’.

As mentioned above, I now concede that a more appropriate term for the ‘instinct of equilibrity’ is that of ‘universal aesthetic’ as suggested by Amel.