Sunday, December 2, 2007

Golden Mean

The “golden mean” is a sentiment that stems back to the philosophers of ancient Greece. It proposes that there is an intricate relationship between truth and beauty, the latter of which is a product of symmetry, proportion and harmony. Aesthetics results from the correct ratios, reflecting the perception of truth in the physical realm. The golden mean values balance and moderation and opposes extremity; Socrates stated that one "must know how to choose the mean and avoid the extremes on either side, as far as possible".

Many romantic authors beckon this sense of equilibrium and truth in their perceptions of beauty. Keats states explicitly in “Ode to a Grecian Urn,” that “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

This term is relevant to the overall course of English 10B because it concerns the perception and recognition of aesthetics, a topic extensively explored by nearly all of the authors in the course. It serves as an alternative explanation, or even extended explanation, of to the notion that beauty is the product of a wholly divine being, an idea endorsed by authors such as Pope and even Wordsworth and Coleridge.

Lisa Wahl


Golden Mean: Everything in moderation; the golden mean refers to the desirable middle between two extremes (usually one of excess and one of deficiency).

In "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell," William Blake mentions as one of his "Proverbs of Hell" that:
"The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom" (Plate 7, line 3). These proverbs are Hell's version of the proverbs found in the Bible and this one refers to the "Golden Mean" or the mean between two extremes: between excess and shortage.

In "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell," Blake is trying to give the reader an alternate way of looking at the world as opposed to the one we received while growing up: the "Christian" way of looking at the world. There is tension between the proverbs of hell and the proverbs of heaven, but Blake is showing the reader that the "Marriage" of these two extremes is an alternate way of viewing the world: the Golden Mean.

[Kyrsten Caires]

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