Talk of the Town - Beauty and sin July 15 2000

Study the gorgeous, enact the lascivious

Gregory Johnson, a philosopher who offers private consultations, has announced two classes he will teach through the Invisible College. The first is titled "Philosophies of Art and Beauty: The Basic Concepts of Aesthetics." The class is inspired by Johnson's participation in the recent "Beauty: The Soul's Obsession" workshop featuring Enrique Pardo. Johnson participated as a lawyer for the defense in a tribunal in which beauty was put on trial. (The judge called the trial a draw.)

"Beauty," says Johnson, "is one of the things that makes life worth living. Aesthetics is the study of the beautiful in art and nature. The goal of this eight-week class is twofold. First, we will study basic aesthetic concepts such as beauty, sublimity, taste and the grotesque in writings by Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Ficino, Hume, Kant and Hegel. Second, by reflecting on these concepts from different points of view, we will deepen and refine our own aesthetic experiences. Each concept will be copiously illustrated with examples from music, literature and the visual arts."

The sequel to this class will be a detailed examination of the connections between metaphysics, aesthetics and music in the works of Schopenhauer, Wagner and Nietzsche.

The class will be held Tuesdays from 7:30-9:30 p.m., July 25-Sept. 12. Cost is $100, to be paid in advance. The text for the class is Philosophies of Art and Beauty: Selected Readings in Aesthetics From Plato to Heidegger, available at a discount from Borders in Buckhead.

Johnson will teach a second class titled "Metaphysics With Aquinas: An Introduction."

"The philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas," says Johnson, "is an unparalleled synthesis of faith and reason, Christian revelation and pagan Greek philosophy, particularly Aristotle. Aquinas has had an immense influence on philosophy and theology, and with good reason. The questions he raises are timeless, and his answers are among the most plausible ever offered."

The four-week introductory class will cover four main topics: the relationship of metaphysics and natural theology, Aquinas' revolutionary reworking of the distinction between existence and essence, Aquinas' five arguments for the existence of God, and his account of God's characteristics and our knowledge of them. Depending on interest, a four-week sequel will be offered.

The class will be held Wednesdays from 7:30-9:30 p.m., July 26-Aug. 16. Cost is $50. The text, Aquinas, Selected Philosophical Writings, is also available from Borders. Both classes will be held at 3060 Pharr Court North, Business Suite 22, in Buckhead. Contact Greg Johnson at 404-378-5132 or at gregoryrjohnson@ mindspring.com.

Seven Months of Sin: "There is no sin except stupidity," wrote Oscar Wilde. "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom," wrote William Blake.

In that spirit, SoulWorks LLC is sponsoring a seven-session workshop titled "Deadly Sins." Sessions will be held approximately one Saturday a month and each will cover one of the Bible's seven deadly sins: gluttony, envy, lust, pride, wrath, greed and sloth.

The idea is to debunk the way natural feelings and appetites of the body continue to be demonized in our culture. Whether they are called sins, addictions, character defects or psychological problems, these natural and often "excessive" expressions of human existence are repressed through a wish for mythical innocence as old as the Garden of Eden.

The repression is reinforced by religious (and New Age) institutions that attempt to spiritualize the body, and by the state's effort to regulate the body's pleasure. Professional psychology has become an accomplice in this fundamentally puritanical agenda through its own long history of pathologizing pleasure for its own sake — pleasure that is disconnected from psychology's narratives of personal growth and individuation.

The irony is that the more the body's natural desire for pleasure is repressed, the more pleasure demands satisfaction. The "deadly sins," as excessive expressions of the pleasure drive, call us not to perdition but to our real natures. The Greeks recognized this in their religion. The gods were plagued by all manner of appetites, ranging from the cruel and petty to the excessive, perverse and ecstatic.

The workshop will be experiential, based on the work of James Hillman, Enrique Pardo and others engaged in archetypal psychology. Using movement, music, enactment and text, participants will be encouraged to bring an attitude of curiosity and play to their bodies' natural desire for pleasure.

Call co-leader Rose D'Agostino at 404-929-9030 for information.

Cliff Bostock, M.A., is a doctoral candidate in depth psychology. Contact him at 404-525-4774 or in care of his website, www.soulworks.net, at cliff@soulworks.net.

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