Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
— John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn
The notion that there might be a relationship between truth and beauty is not a new one – there is however much that is debated about whether and how these two concepts are related to each other. There is certainly an intrinsic longing to accept the existence of a correlation between the two, and even many notable scientists such as Paul Dirac and Albert Einstein have argued for using aesthetic judgments as a test for how close a scientific theory is to the truth (Paul Dirac, for example, once famously asserted that “it is more important to have beauty in one’s equations than to have them fit experiment”) – but a purely rational and scientific justification for this claim seems elusive. Is beauty really a valid criterion for truth? Is there even an objective measure of beauty, or is it purely in the eye of the beholder? What, fundamentally, relates beauty and truth? And if there is such a relation, can we use the notion of beauty to guide us, in some way, towards the truth?
One could probably spend many a page exploring this theme, so I will confine myself to a few brief comments – not so much in hopes of definitively answering these questions, but rather just as some initial thoughts to hopefully spark more discussion. I shall first approach these questions from the angle of scientific truth claims and theories, and then present some perspectives from the spiritual side that will hopefully help bring these seemingly immiscible ideas together.