(‘ilm al-jamal, lit. ‘science of beauty’)
   Neoplatonism had a lasting influence on Islamic aesthetics during the classical period. Al-Kindi argued that beauty must be linked with perfection, and since God is the most perfect being, He must also be the most beautiful. Other things are beautiful in proportion to their perfection. Perfection was seen very much as being in line with things like the motion of the heavenly spheres, and so acts as an objective guide to beauty. This idea was taken up by the Sufis and their followers, and they argued that there is a natural beauty in certain shapes, sounds and movements since these replicate very basic and perfect aspects of reality. In later philosophy the concept of imagination comes to be used more often, and beauty becomes something that we observe when we mix our ideas up in ways that delight us. Imagination is very much a function of our role as material creatures, and this is emphasized in aesthetics, where different individuals with different experiences and backgrounds often have different ideas of the aesthetic value of a particular thing.
   One of the themes in Islamic aesthetics is the analysis of poetry (shi‘r), a particularly important art form in Arabic culture. It is generally taken to follow a syllogistic form, i.e. it is like an argument, albeit with the conclusion that the audience should be moved to action or emotion, not some statement of fact. Imagination is significant in reflecting our experiences and feelings while at the same time also linking our thinking with more abstract ideas and so extending or broadening those experiences from the purely subjective into something more abstract that can be communicated to others. Art is a function of our nature as emotional creatures, as beings that are not just rational, and we need to find ways of persuading people to see the world, and have the same experiences as we do. The idea of art as following the pattern of reasoning or argument is designed to explain how it is possible to do this, since it is certainly a fact that we can sometimes get others to think as we do after coming into contact with an artistic product that we have created or experienced.
   Further reading: Black 1990; Kemal 1991; Leaman 2004

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

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