KALON is ‘moral beauty’. However, for ancient Greek philosophers, what is morally laudable is also good-looking and agreeable. There is sort of a unity between goodness, beauty and pleasentness. In other words, a morally commendable thing cannot be ugly or unpleasant. What is laudable is certainly beautiful and nice. Consequently, if we perceive a moral beauty as ugly or maybe displeasing, it depends on a mistake on our part. For instance, a man kneeling down, out of heartfelt respect, in front of his meritorious commander is a beautiful act. Apart from its beauty, such a scene gives also pleasure to the viewer’s eyes. So, we are in front of an act which is moral, beautiful and pleasant.

The ancient Greek term <kalon> is in opposition to <aischron> which is ‘moral evil’.

Sokratiko Logo

Platon (Plato) considers <kalon> one of the attributes of the universe and of our existence. For him, absolute beauty is identical with absolute good. Also it is identical with the truly pleasant, as it is for Aristoteles (Aristotle) (Eudemian Ethics I.1, 1214a1–8). Therefore the Aristotelian ‘good man’ acts “for the sake of the fine (<to kalon>)” (Nicomachean Ethics IV.2, 1122b6–7). This is the reason for attributing to Aristoteles the notion of an ideal person as acting morally, even altruistically. Of course, such an attitude is profoundly different from being preoccupied with one’s pleasure.

<Kalon> is ‘moral beauty’ or ‘perfect beauty’. Also this word conveys the notion of ‘ideal beauty’. But, this kind of ‘beautiful’ and ‘admirable’, is not just moral and ideal. In fact, at the same time, the term includes a physical quality. Again it is an Ancient Greece concept: what is ideally perfect is also bodily good and pleasant. Equally, what is morally fine is beautiful and pleasing.