Mexico's Antonio Caso on Beauty: Pleasure and Transcendence

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Philosophical examinations of beauty abound. The first one appeared 2,500 years ago in Plato, The Symposium (between 378-360 BCE), and the latest one came out a few months ago, Ronald Moore, Natural Beauty (2008). Between Plato and Moore, Immanuel Kant published The Critique of Judgment (1790), George Santayana, The Sense of Beauty (1896), and Guy Sircello, A New Theory of Beauty (1975), to name a few. Almost any list of publications on beauty would not include two short works by Mexico’s Antonio Caso (1883-1946), La existencia como economía, como desinterés y como caridad (Existence as economic, as disinterested, and as love) and Principios de Estética (Principles of Aesthetics). Yet, Caso presents the traditional binary of beauty—beauty is a subjective experience with objective claims—in a fascinating and fruitful manner, immensely beneficial to any study of beauty.

Like Moore and Kant, Caso acknowledges that beauty originates in human beings as a pleasant experience. And, like Plato, he asserts that beauty has an objective dimension as a transcendent entity. The concept doing the heavy lifting for Caso in his examination of beauty is empathy, initially formulated by the Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce but expanded by Caso to mean the “effusion of the soul” upon the world.

This paper presents the philosophy of beauty of Antonio Caso in three parts. The first part is introductory. It places Caso in the stream of Latin American (especially Mexican) philosophy of aesthetics at the opening of the twentieth century, and it explores briefly Caso’s philosophy and the significance of aesthetics for him. The second part details his philosophy of beauty. The third part identifies strengths and weaknesses of Caso’s philosophy of beauty, and suggests aspects of this philosophy that may contribute significantly to the current debate on beauty.

Keywords: Caso, Beauty, Mexico, Aesthetics
Stream: Aesthetics, Design
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Mexico’s Antonio Caso on Beauty

Dr. Dan Vaillancourt

Professor, Philosophy Department, Loyola University Chicago
Chicago, IL, USA

Dr. Vaillancourt has served as chairman of humanities and graduate school dean, but he considers aesthetics his expertise and passion. He completed formal training in the field by majoring at the undergraduate level in philosophy and French literature and by specializing at the doctoral level in phenomenology and existentialism, with extensive study in the intersection of philosophy and literature. He has won 15 regional and national grants and 12 teacher of the year awards/commendations. He has created and taught ten undergraduate and graduate courses in aesthetics, ranging from Philosophical Themes in Nobel Prize literature to Philosophy and Theatre, and, of course, Aesthetics. His publications include two books, dozens of articles, and three translations. He also edited a national magazine, Life Beat, for four years. Currently, he is writing for his website ( and working on two books: Beauty: The Sources (a collection of sources on beauty from around the world), and Do Beauty Experiences Boost the Immune System? (a monograph that explores the intersection of aesthetics, neuroscience, and immunology by investigating the impact of beauty, via the brain, on the immune system). He recently completed four chapters of The Genius Next Door Beauty Series, which celebrates and analyzes (philosophically) the beauty created by people like you and me, and he completed in 2007 Aania (a philosophical novel), which chronicles the life of a young orphan and Kosovo survivor, who uses beauty to change the world. He dances and plays the tenor recorder. Like Dostoevsky, he believes beauty changes the world.

Evelyn Salazar

Mulcahy Scholar, College of Arts and Sciences, Loyola University Chicago
Chicago, IL, USA

Ms. Salazar is a Mulcahy Scholar and Senior at Loyola University Chicago. She is majoring in Literature and Political Science with a minor in Women's Studies. She is fluent in Spanish and volunteers some of her time at her local church working with youth groups. After graduation, she plans to attend Law School, where she will focus her studies on immigration law.

Kathy Vaillancourt

Chicago, IL, USA

Kathy Vaillancourt earned degrees in Philosophy and Creative Writing at Mundelein College Chicago. She is the author of several hundred poems, children’s stories, book reviews, newspaper columns, and Looking Glass Woman: Reflections and Poems. She is currently writing My Father’s Hands, which remembers in reflections and poems transforming events like birth and death.

Ref: H08P0664