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“La Sagrada Familia” by Antonio Gaudi: Philosophy of Art


The world of art has attracted many philosophers and theorists’ opinions on the subject of their attractiveness to our cognition. In this 21st century that is marked by technological advancement, art theories and philosophies continue to judge artifacts. So when efforts are made to evaluate a piece of art, how is the judgment of aesthetics impartially certified as a profitable input to the world of art or as a creation resulting from artistic attempt? The search to validate aesthetics has resulted in many evaluation theories in the world of art. La Sagrada Familia is one of the remarkable works of art by Antonio Gaudi. It is a giant temple found in the city of Barcelona and has been undergoing construction since 1882. The building is expected to be complete in the next 30 to 80 years (Barcelona tourist guide, 2009, para. 1).This paper carries out an aesthetic evaluation of La Sagrada Familia based on two theories of evaluation. The first one is the rational approach by Monroe Beardsley and the second is a family of more relativist theories of aesthetic evaluation.

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Beardsley’s theory of aesthetic evaluation

Beardsley renewed theories about the criteria for assessing artifacts. He asserted that the role of a work of art is to create aesthetic experience and that the works of art are to be assessed based on their capacity to create such experience. Relating the aesthetic attitude principles to a certain degree, he asserted that the aesthetic experience is separated from the rest of the experience and that referential features of artifacts, which connect creations of art to the world outside aesthetic beauty, are insignificant in assessing works of art. He maintains the opinion that only aesthetic principles are significant in assessing the works of art. La Sagrada Familia design fits in this criteria by Beardsley of assessing a work of art since it has the capacity to create aesthetic experience. Until his sudden death in 1926, Gaudi played a vital role in directing the design of Sagrada Familia to its present aesthetic beauty status. He often asked for the work to be altered and adjusted to portray what he perceived in the mind.

Beardsley claimed that the significant assessment properties of art works are subsumable under unity, complexity, and intensity. Unity is evaluated as a blend of completeness and coherence. An artifact is authorized as complete when it does not require external encroachment.It is deemed as coherent when it possesses no external material. Intensity appears to the vigor of what Beardsley refers to as the “human regional qualities of artworks.” The three qualities are themselves human regional qualities. La Sagrada’s primary features conflict with the other features. Although the building is complex in design, the materials for its construction are not unified, as new materials are currently in use which Gaudi himself did not consider using in its construction. The building is still very good since it has some of the primary attributes to a high level. The achievement of the distinct primary features required sacrifice of some of other primary attributes.

Beardsley claimed that all aesthetic reasons are inductive. For instance, it does not mean that an artifact that is characteristically as unified is good. Applying Beardsley’s principles, La Sagrada Familia is good based on its level of complexity and intensity and it is truly a magnificent building in Barcelona. The design of the towers, facades, interior and the geometric details of the building makes it a wonderful work of art.


This is the first of a series of relativist theories of aesthetic evaluation. In contrast to Beardsley’s instrumentalist theory, it suggests that reason giving is a pointless action. It attempts to explain the essential phrase of evaluation as “aesthetic value” or “aesthetically good.” Subjectivism is distinct from other theories because it tries to define expressions in relation to the attitudes of subjects or persons. There are different versions of this theory, but the one that stands out is the personal subjectivism, which claims that “aesthetically good” has an implicit reference to the one who speaks these words.

In proclaiming that the building Sagrada Familia is good seems plausible in personal subjectivism terms. The definition suggests a close association between the goodness of the building and its liking. Art has often undergone varied transitions through the ages of in terms of what is perceived as good. La Sagrada Familia has been in existence from 1882. Although it might have undergone change due to the use of different materials and architects, its being regarded as good brings comfort to the theory of subjectivism. In evaluating Sagrada Familia, it makes critical disputes about how different people may view it hard. For example, the statements “Peter likes the building’s design” and “Mary does not like the building’s design” can both be subjectively true at the same time minus causing any disagreements.

This theory of evaluation shades more light and expounds the custom of critical reasoning and assessment in understanding the works of art. It puts away reform principles in evaluating the artifacts as that notion degrades evaluation efforts to mere “liking of the art”. This may eventually eradicate the need of explaining the assessments if not timely addressed.

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Platonism 1

This theory originates from Plato’s view of beauty. This theory asserts that artifacts and innate things, together with their natural or empirical aspects for instance being of a different form, colour, and size, or comprising varied tones, sounds, and many others, may also harbour a non-innate or a non-empirical characteristic. These properties are perceived in terms of beauty, aesthetic values, and aesthetic goodness. This theory claims that the nonempirical aspects of beauty are incapable of being analyzed and hence properly described. The meaning of the word beauty can only be learnt by experiencing beauty itself not by definition or verbal illustration. Empirical properties are made known through the senses while beauty’s nonempirical properties are made known by the principle of intuition. The latter depend on the former for effective operation.

Platonism 1 gives the opportunity of assessing artifacts on objective principles. In applying this theory to Sagrada Familia, the building can be perceived as aesthetically good or beautiful. This is because beauty is a property of the structure and it is present to be experienced by any person who possesses the ability to capture it. According to this theory, a person who does not have the intuitive ability to apprehend what is beautiful is considered blind to beauty. If two people are having a dispute whether Sagrada Familia is beautiful or not, one of them must be wrong and the other right, since an object either possesses the characteristic of beauty or does not. A person may also have the ability to sense beauty in one type of art and lacks the ability in other types of art. Platonism 1 analyzes intuition of beauty on an individual not general basis.

Platonism 2

This theory is identical to its counterpart, Platonism 1, except in a single aspect. This theory asserts that all beautiful objects posses a certain empirical property A and that all things with this empirical property are termed as beautiful. Platonism 2 has the merit over Platonism 1 in that it enables individuals, who lack the ability to sense beauty, the capacity to differentiate between the things that are beautiful and those that are not. Once individuals who can sense beauty identify the characteristic empirical property A in an object, then they can comfortably relate this property to determine the beauty of other objects. For example, According to this theory, the fact that Sagrada Familia harbours the characteristic property A is enough to substantiate its being beautiful. This reason giving is essential in grounding the claim that an artifact is full of beauty. Sagrada Familia is an enormous and complicated building, hence in its analysis to appreciate its beauty is a daunting task. However, the time and energy taken to evaluate it can be reduced drastically in discovering that it has the characteristic empirical property A. In harmony with its counterpart Platonism 1, Platonism 2 also promises an objective way of settling disagreements in aesthetic principles.


The emotive theory sprang up from within the spheres of logical positivism philosophical movement of the 1930s to 1950s. Logical positivism maintains that all knowledge is categorized as either empirical, as are the scientific facts, or tautological, as are the facts of pure mathematics. This theory totally rejects the view that intuitionism maintains that there are nonempirical, non tautological facts that state moral and aesthetic assessments and which are generally perceived to be true through intuition principles. The theory of emotivism regards intuition as a philosophical tool created to provide moral and aesthetic assessments about the perception of truths.

The philosophy of emotivism contradicts the principles of subjectivism and hedonism as incorrect. Hedonism asserts that good has the same meaning as pleasure, or with its other forms such as pleasant. Hedonism has the merit that it is right, and then moral and aesthetic assessments can be empirical prepositions regarding pleasure and can be authenticated or fabricated. For hedonism, it is not self-contradictory to perceive that some pleasant things exist that are not good. However, if this view of hedonism had some substance, if good was the same as pleasant, then it beats logic to claim that some pleasures are not good. Therefore, the theory of hedonism is false in trying to substitute “good” and “pleasant.” The same argument against hedonism is applied to subjectivism.

Subjectivism defines the use of the term “good” to relate to the person speaking it; evaluative terms refer and evaluative sentences assert something about an object that is either false or true. Emotivism is the direct opposite of this as evaluative terms are simply expressive and evaluative sentences fails to assert anything. If two individuals disagree regarding Sagrada Familia, one person may claim that it is beautiful while the other refutes that claim. This dispute is only apparent and not real as one individual expresses his pro attitude towards the building while the other expresses his con attitude towards the building, but none of them asserts anything in their claims, hence there is no dispute amongst them. The theory of emotivism maintains that misunderstandings over values cannot be settled by the mere findings of the truth of some prepositions.


This theory adapts some of the basic attributes of moral philosophy to the difficulty of assessing criticism. This view is grounded on the type of analysis done on the word “good.” This scrutiny regards the description of the use of the word “good” in both moral and nonmoral contexts. According to this theory, “good” serves both purposes in spite of the context. If this analysis is true, then there is absolutely no reason for not formulating a “good work of art.” Whereas the theory of emotivism makes no serious efforts to investigate how evaluative language actually works but swiftly wraps up that “good” lacks any cognitive meaning and is just an expression of feelings, relativism investigates carefully the issue of evaluative language and concludes that the term “good” refers to its commending function. The theory asserts that what is common to all routine uses of the term “good” in any context is that a commendation is being made, and nothing is usual to such uses. The theory of relativism focuses entirely on the use of evaluative words.

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For example, saying that “La Sagrada Familia is good,” implies that one is commending the building and one is affirming that the building satisfies all (or some adequate set) of the standards of good buildings. If the assessment meets other challenging views, then the individual who made the statement is obliged to give valid reasons to ascertain that the building is good. Some of the reasons may be that the building has great architectural design, its goodness attracts people from various parts of the world to come and see, and it has been under construction for over two centuries now. The theory of relativism attempts to explain the logical structure of evaluation, moral, critical or otherwise.

Critical Singularism

Some philosophers have recently argued that that principle plays no role in analyzing a work of art. Critics often fail to relate reason-giving in criticism with reason- giving in morality when carrying out evaluation. Critical Singularism is a theory of evaluation that gives account of how the language of evaluation works when applied to art, but it claims that when such a language is applied to art, it has no evaluational purpose. When a critical singularist says that Sagrada Familia is good, and validates it with a reason, then the reason does not substantiate referring to the work as “good.” According to this theory, the reason serves the purpose of drawing the attention of the individual who reads or hears about this critical remark. Once attention has been called to the artifact, the reader or hearer either appreciates or discriminates against the quality of the work of art.


From all these diverse viewpoints of evaluating the works of art, in this case La Sagrada Familia, it is evident that the difficulties involved in this process are far from being resolved. However, embracing these theories is starting a journey of a thousand miles in achieving unity of purpose of evaluating the works of art.

Reference List

Barcelona tourist guide (2009). La Sagrada Familia by Antonio Gaudi. Web.

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"“La Sagrada Familia” by Antonio Gaudi: Philosophy of Art." StudyCorgi, 21 Nov. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "“La Sagrada Familia” by Antonio Gaudi: Philosophy of Art." November 21, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "“La Sagrada Familia” by Antonio Gaudi: Philosophy of Art." November 21, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "“La Sagrada Familia” by Antonio Gaudi: Philosophy of Art." November 21, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) '“La Sagrada Familia” by Antonio Gaudi: Philosophy of Art'. 21 November.

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