Verum, Bonum, Pulchrum

Libraries symbolize and communicate values. The façade of the M. Crist Fleming Library contains three words that have inspired Western educators since the time of Plato: Truth, Goodness, Beauty. Plato saw these as “fundamental” or “transcendental” values by which anything can be exhaustively judged. To some degree, everything can be judged as true or false, good or evil, beautiful or ugly. Truth, Goodness, Beauty also apply to specific dimensions of human existence — Truth to thought and logic, Goodness to action and morals, Beauty to enjoyment and aesthetics.

Truth, Goodness, and Beauty are supreme ideals. Beauty, the most accessible of the three, often opens up human awareness to the existence of the other two. The harmonious proportions of a building's architecture could prompt students to reflect on harmonies in music or mathematics, or even the qualities possessed by a good person who balances practical concerns with noble ideals. Plato believed that a diligent mind would eventually attain a vision in which these three values and their complex relationship would transparently unfold. The Good would reign supreme, for “although knowledge and Truth are beautiful things, the Good is other, and more beautiful even than they” (Republic 509a).

Facade of Library