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Posted in: Reading

The dean rested back on his hunkers and watched the sticks catch. Stephen, to fill the silence, said:

- I am sure I could not light a fire.

- You are an artist, are you not, Mr Dedalus? said the dean, glancing up and blinking his pale eyes. The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful. What the beautiful is is another question.

He rubbed his hands slowly and drily over the difficulty.

- Can you solve that question now? he asked.

- Aquinas, answered Stephen, says “Pulcra sunt que visa placent.”

- This fire before us, said the dean, will be pleasing to the eye. Will it therefore be beautiful?

- In so far as it is apprehended by the sight, which I suppose means here esthetic intellection, it will be beautiful. But Aquinas also says “Bonum est in quod tendit appetitus.” In so far as it satisfies the animal craving for warmth fire is a good. In hell however it is an evil.

- Quite so, said the dean, you have certainly hit the nail on the head.

Taken from “A portrait of the artist as a young man” by James Joyce