Order and Surprise: Lionel Yaceczko on Beauty and the Western Tradition

Table of Contents


A Map to Help You Make the Most of The Forum

Explore

The Art of Teaching: A Conference for Teaching Men


November 9-11 • The Heights School, Potomac, MD

Learn More

It sounds nice to say, using Dostoevsky’s words, that beauty will save the world. But is this claim true? If so, in what sense is it true? What even is beauty? And what would it mean for it to save the world?

This week, we welcome Dr. Lionel Yaceczko back to HeightsCast to discuss beauty: what it is and what the Western tradition can tell us about it. Today’s episode is rooted in a previous discussion we had with Dr. Yaceczko, in which he spoke with us about Western civilization. In that episode, we considered what Western civilization is and why it is still worth studying today. This week, we look at one reason why the study of the West is a fruitful endeavor: it can help us better appreciate beauty. 

As we hear from Dr. Yaceczko, beauty consists in the marriage of order and surprise. It is the fruit of keeping the commandments and breaking the conventions. As such, seeing part of a beautiful work of art first invites our prediction—there is order and we can discern it—and then astounds our expectation—but that order is not mere slavish repetition.

Whenever we find beauty in this world, we glimpse eternity. Each glimpse spurs us on to find the fullness of that beauty, which is our perfection and which will surpass all predictions: eye has not seen, nor ear heard what has been prepared for those who truly love. And when, God-willing, we find that Beauty—or perhaps, better yet, when He finds us— we will finally be at home. And yet, if our intuition about beauty here is on track, then we will forever be astonished with Whom we find.

Chapters 

  • 2:33 What is the classical style? 
    • 2:53 From the web
    • 2:43 Neoclassical architecture in D.C.
    • 6:33 Balance and classical architecture
  • 8:15 What is beauty? 
    • 11:44 On forms and the form
  • 13:18 Can we have a common conception of beauty? 
    • 14:07 Subjective aspects of beauty
    • 15:00 Beauty as movement toward the final cause
    • 16:10 Use and abuse 
    • 17:28 Personal taste and beauty
  • 19:17 What is nature?
    • 20:18 Ancient philosophers against nature
    • 21:38 Beyond mere accidental arrangement: objective nature
  • 23:08 Beauty: the balance of order and surprise
    • 24:05 Chesterton’s Manalive
  • 27:03 How does beauty relate to happiness?
    • 28:11 The philosopher as teacher of happiness
    • 29:38 The spontaneity of beauty
  • 31:00 Lessons from Classical sculpture: a brief introduction
    • 32:14 Contrapposto and the movement toward perfection
    • 34:23 Verism
    • 35:03 Architecture
  • 38:43 Beauty and the liberal arts

Also on The Forum

A Study for All Seasons: Lionel Yaceczko on the Western Tradition with Dr. Lionel Yaceczko

What Is the Difference between Free Time and Leisure? by Joe Bissex

Five Fruits of a Poetic Education by Nate Gadiano

The Way of Encounter by Joe Breslin

Matter and Form, Substance and Accidents by Michael Moynihan

Additional Resources 

The Making of Europe: An Introduction to the History of European Unity by Christopher Dawson

Beauty: What It Is and Why It Matters by John-Mark L. Miravalle 

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky 

Manalive by G. K. Chesterton

Images

Lionel Yaceczko

About the guest:

Lionel Yaceczko


Dr. Yaceczko has taught regular and online courses to all ages at the primary, secondary, and postsecondary levels, as well as summer programs for inner city boys in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Lionel’s research is focused on Late Antiquity (ca AD 180-800), with a doctoral dissertation on education in the later Roman Empire. His articles have been published in Studies in Late Antiquity, The Medieval Review, Crisis Magazine, HeightsForum.org, and Cavalcade. He has also worked in academic publishing. Lionel lives in Laurel with his wife Janet (another Latinist) and children Stanislaus, Sarah, Thom, Lio and Diego.