On Aesthetic Realism & Eli Siegel

Aesthetic Realism is the philosophy founded in 1941 by Eli Siegel, the great American poet, critic, and educator. It is based on the following principles:
1. The deepest desire of every person is to like the world on an
honest or accurate basis.
2. The greatest danger for a person is to have contempt for the
world and what is in it. Contempt can be defined as the lessening
of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase
as one sees it.
3. All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one
of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.

To show further what Aesthetic Realism is, we quote from two notable American documents:


1. From the Proclamation Honoring the Centenary of Eli Siegel by Mayor Martin O’Malley of Baltimore, Maryland*
“ELI SIEGEL DAY”
“Whereas, the people of Baltimore are proud to join with the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Historical Society, Coppin State College, Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute, Morgan State University, former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, and others in honoring the centenary of the great Baltimorean poet, philosopher, and educator Eli Siegel (1902-1978), who in 1941 founded the philosophy Aesthetic Realism; and
Whereas, Eli Siegel grew up in Baltimore, and his contributions to world thought began with writings completed in this city, some appearing in such Baltimore publications as Horizons of Johns Hopkins University, the Modern Quarterly, his columns in the Baltimore American; and
Whereas, he won the esteemed Nation Poetry Prize in 1925 for his “Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana,” which he said was affected by thoughts of Druid Hill Park, and about which William Carlos Williams wrote, “I say definitely that that single poem, out of a thousand others written in the past quarter century, secures our place in the cultural world”; and
Whereas, the honesty, kindness, and greatness of mind Eli Siegel possessed were described in the Baltimore Sun by Donald Kirkley: “Baltimore friends close to him at the time [that he won the Nation prize] will testify to a certain integrity and steadfastness of purpose which distinguished Mr. Siegel.... He refused to exploit a flood of publicity. He wanted to investigate the whole reach of human knowledge ... to discover in its labyrinth some order or system”; and
Whereas, Eli Siegel showed that 1) the deepest desire of every person is to like the world honestly, 2) humanity’s largest danger is contempt, “the addition to self through the lessening of something else,” 3) “The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites”; and his scholarship and historic comprehension are in his books, beginning with Self and World, the classes he taught which changed people’s lives magnificently, his thousands of lectures on the arts, sciences, and history; and
Whereas, this education he founded, enabling people to see the world and others with the respect and kindness they deserve, including people of different races and nationalities, is continued by Class Chairman Ellen Reiss and the faculty of the not-for-profit Aesthetic Realism Foundation, and is used as a Teaching Method with unprecedented success by educators in public schools. We salute Eli Siegel for his great contributions to knowledge and humanity beginning in the City of Baltimore.”

* Martin O’Malley was elected Governor of Maryland in November 2006 and re-elected in 2010.