Beauty and subjectivity

08 March 2005

Here are two truisms about beauty:

Beauty is only skin deep

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

With respect to the first I can only say, “Thank God.”  The idea is that beauty is a superficial characteristic that does not provide great evidence for character, personality, wit, intelligence and other such virtues.  As a one of the beauty-challenged members of our species, I would really resent it if beauty were a good indication of those things.  Enough is enough.  Let the rich and the beautiful be boring and dimwitted as far as I am concerned.

It’s the second truism I want to discuss a little.  What in the world does it mean to say the beauty is in the eye of the beholder?  And why would anyone say that?

We might put a literate-sounding gloss on this by saying it means “beauty is subjective”.  But, then, what does that mean?

Subjective is now opposed to objective.  Oddly enough, “objective” originally meant “in the mind” as the object of one’s desires, hopes, fears and the like is in the mind, even if it is not out their in reality.  My Porsche roadster, the object of one of my desires, has objective reality, but not formal reality, given Descartes’ use of these terms.  He argued that given the nature of God’s objective reality (i.e., what my idea of God is like), we can infer to his formal reality,(i.e., that there really is something that instantiated all the forms, or properties, required to be God, which is pretty much all of the good ones and none of the bad ones.)

Now “objective” usually connotes having to do with facts about the physical, material world.  Subjectivity means “in the mind of a subject”.  A “subject” is the thinker of thoughts, the haver of experiences.  Objective truths are true apart from what goes on in any subject who is thinking about the truth.  Most philosophers agree that truths about that material world, or at least a lot of them, are like that.  After all, the material world was around for a long time before there were any minds to think about it.  Some believe that truths about numbers are also objective, while others believe they fit better somehow into the next category we will discuss.

These are truths about phenomena that is in some way depends on there being minds, that is, thinking, perceiving, sub jects.  Such truths depend on subjectivity, on there being minds around to perceive and think thoughts about the things the truths are about.

Galileo, Descartes, Boyle, and Locke all were impressed with the difference between “primary” and “secondary” qualities.  Primary qualities were objective in the sense we now assign to this word.  Objects would have shape, size and motion whether or not there were any minds around to perceive them.  But, it seemed, at least to these thinkers, that objects would not have secondary qualities, that is, colors, sounds, smells and tastes, if there were not minds to see, hear, smell and taste them.  The idea is that secondary qualities have to do with the effects that the objects have on minds.  No minds, no secondary qualities.  So secondary qualities are subjective.  They are in the eye (ear, nose, or tongue) of the beholder.

There is a weaker grade of objectivity that secondary qualities have, however.  Although they might not exist without minds, the minds that there are agree about them, at least in favorable conditions.  If your vision is normal and my vision is normal and we are both in favorable lighting conditions we should agree on which objects are red, which green, and so forth.

But what about the fact that you like green, while I don’t; I love red; but you hate it? How about the fact that I hate lima beans, while others (I’m told) actually like their taste?  How some object strikes us, whether it arouses pleasure or something more like pain when we see, smell, hear or taste it,  seems doubly subjective.  First of all, our perception will involve secondary qualities, and so depend on the existence of thinking, perceiving subjects.  Second, the combination of qualities we perceive will strike individual subjects as pleasant or unpleasant.  On this second matter, we don’t expect intersubjective agreement.  Tastes differ; to each his own, and the like.

Where does beauty fit in?  Is it an objective, mind-independent property of things?  I’m sure that some philosophers have thought this, but it doesn’t seem very plausible.  Lots of beautiful objects, like mountains and forests and lakes, could exist without minds.  But they wouldn’t really be beautiful would they, if there weren’t minds around to gain some enjoyment from observing them?

Is beauty like a secondary quality, mind-independent, but intersubjective?  That is, if people are in the right conditions, will they agree on what is beautiful and what is not?  What would the right conditions be?  Not just good lighting, but also, perhaps, a proper upbringing, a well-trained eye, ear, or palate.  I have some sympathy with this idea.  It seems to me that there ought to be intersubjective agreement that the pop music of the sixties is better than that of the benighted eighties, for example, and anyone who doesn’t agree has probably had their ears damaged by walkmans that were turned up to high or excessive use of drugs.  However, upon sober reflection, it seems likely that this is just my bias, due to having come of age in the fifties and sixties.

So that leaves beauty in the third category, the doubly subjective, not only dependant on minds for its existence, but not even something on which minds can be expected to agree, even in favorable circumstances.  The Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s David, the Chrysler Building---- like the taste of lima beans, or the BeeGees, some people like ‘em, some people don’t.

Can we really accept that there is no more to beauty than that?  What will happen to Art Appreciation classes?  To appreciating great literature?  And, Egad, to the difference, surely objective, between quality philosophy and dreck?  Perhaps we need some more categories, some more analogies, and some more models to think about this.  Let’s see what happens when we discuss beauty on Philosophy Talk.

Comments (38)


Guest's picture

Guest

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 -- 4:00 PM

This is a bit tangent to the subject, but I was st

This is a bit tangent to the subject, but I was struck by the statement, "If your vision is normal and my vision is normal and we are both in favorable lighting conditions we should agree on which objects are red, which green, and so forth."
Aren't we forever seperated from actually knowing wether we are percieving those colors in the same way? For example, what if I see what you call red when I look at something you call the color green? As a child each time my parents pointed at an object and said, "green" it taught me that the color I was percieving at that moment was called green. But it no way lets me know wether or not my parents were percieving that color in the same way I did. All I have really learned is that when that wavelegth of light excites the rods and cones of my retina, I should describe the experience as "green" if I wish to communicate it to someone else.
It is a problematic issue throughout our discourses. If I talk about a table, you understand basically what I am saying, but I have no control or understanding of what image and ideas occur to you when you hear the word. I may think of a modern danish table, while your brain interprets the word as an 18th century French piece.
Sorry it's a bit afield of the discussion, but it is a pervasive and interesting problem.

John Perry's picture

John Perry

Friday, March 11, 2005 -- 4:00 PM

Good point. It's relevant to the discussion of li

Good point. It's relevant to the discussion of lima beans. Maybe we all like the same tastes, but lima beans give rise to a different taste sensation in them than they did in my grandmother, who liked them.
The idea that it is possible, for all we really know, that other people have different color sensations that we do is usually discussed in philosophy with reference to the possibility of an "inverted spectrum". Since the colors, at least if we ignore certain complications, form a nice "wheel", couldn't the wheel be turned for you compared to what it is for me? Then not only our color judgements, but our comparative color judgements (red is more like orange than it is like blue) would be preserved, even if our sensations were systematically different.
So, there would still be intersubjective agreement about the colors things were, in the sense that we would apply the same names, but at some level we wouldn't be saying quite the same things about them.

Guest's picture

Guest

Sunday, April 24, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

While one may not be able to provide sufficient co

While one may not be able to provide sufficient conditions for intersubjective agreements, I stil think we can try to provide those that are necesary. Now, if we could find those, wouldn't it be enough to use those to argue that the disagreement arises out of these necesary conditions not being satisfied.
For instance, like you pointed out, one must first have the necessary capabilities, like having organs that can percieve the object. A color blind person will not be able to appreciate the harmony in a certain mixture of colors. In the same manner, a tone deaf person may cannot fully appreciate music. If we extrapolate these arguments to include the fineness with which we can discriminate between things, would we not have explained sufficiently the reason for disagreement about matters of taste?
One of my arguments is as follows. There are several things that interfere with our appreciation of an object, or more speciafically, its "beauty". One may not be in the right mood. One's concentration may be insufficient. I can think of a lot of reasons. Essentially, what I'm trying to say is that the "apparent" subjectivity or relativity that we empirically observe in these matters arises out of not having certain necessary conditions satisfied.
I can also think of other weaker arguments like the problem of ego. The fact that one is unable to appreciate a certain beautiful object immediately causes ones ego to spring into action and say, "I don't understand this and I certainly don't like this. Since I know that beauty is subjective, there is no reason why I should like or dislike this. I can very well pronounce a fully justified, yet opposite judgement" This seems to me the most common reason that people get away making erroneous judgements about matters of taste. Somehow, in today's modern and democratic world, objective moral and aesthetic values have become notions entwined with authoritarianism and intolerance. These seem to be even more forceful in leading people to some extreme forms of subjectivism and relativism leading to the trivialization, and ultimately, the destruction of the very notion of beauty.

Guest's picture

Guest

Thursday, April 28, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

I think that the beauty is subjective and has seve

I think that the beauty is subjective and has several dimesions depending upon the knowledge of the observer. For example, the perception of things of a particle physicist would be entirely different than the person who is unfamliar with the atomic structure of materials. Also beauty depends upon the mental state, for example I remember from my student days that nothing appeared beautiul to me just before the tedious test. Here are my suggestions or postulates to experience things at the highest level of beauty:
1. Everything and experience is infinitely beautiful unless it proves otherwise.
2, Perceive things to be infinitely beautiful as long as they do not have ill effects on our well being e.g carbon dioxide is not infintely beuatiful becuase breathing it can cause helath problems. On the other hand roses ar infinitely beautiful becuase their smell does not cause any ill effects (unless poerson has allergy to smells).
3. The person perceiving beauty should have good concept of infinity otherwise he/she would not be able to perceive beauty at the peak levels.
4. Beauty is language dependent therefore to perceive beauty at higher levels one should learn new languages or try to improve the existing language.
Thank you.

Guest's picture

Guest

Friday, April 29, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

1. Humans give the truth of beauty to nature throu

1. Humans give the truth of beauty to nature through the use of thought.
2. One thing will be beautiful one person, and not to another due to differences in education.
3. The highest determination of beauty will be through the application of a priori concepts and Categories.
4. There is some beauty which cannot be rationalized such as the sublime.
5. Feeling has been described as amongst the lowest form of thought, but how is it applied to beauty.
6. The application of the Concepts of Space and Time is the most direct link to beauty e.g. Locke's primary's qualities.
7. Then there is Eros.

Guest's picture

Guest

Thursday, May 19, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

In the eyes of the beholder there are millions of

In the eyes of the beholder there are millions of you, but in the moment of truth there is only one of us.
In the eyes of the beholder there are innumerable new moments which are dictating the dynamics of necessity and the manifestation of beauty. However, there is only one quality that survives the meaning of time, space and perception, and that is, a need to understand the very same manifestation of beauty that is the truth of its cause. The ultimate cause of beauty is a need for general creation to exist in the harmonious exchange of perplexed symmetry, which is the pure essence of our reality.
The source of beauty is creation itself. The necessity to exist and perfect oneself is the ultimate goal of the soul. Perception about beauty changes according to one?s given circumstance and one?s ability to deal with its dynamics. In the light of existence everything tends to perfect itself, because everything wants to exist within the circle of the inseparable unity of ONE. In the circle of one, beauty has its meaning and purpose. Any motion in space, existence of time in the moment of living, and all of life?s characteristics that make this world appear as such, are the ultimate manifestation of beauty, which finds its home in our brilliant ability to perceive and acknowledge its existence, keeping us constantly in love with life itself, and that is the highest sentiment of beauty.

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, May 23, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

According to Plato the goal of Man and Eros is no

According to Plato the goal of Man and Eros is not Beauty, but reproduction in birth in beauty. I will not continue to repeat the old philosophy of Plato concerning Beauty, but try to bring a new explanation concerning Beauty. In my first interpretation Beauty is synonymous with Power. The second interpretation is that Beauty has to do with Symmetry.
Nietzsche was concerned with the Will to Power. I think that Nietzsche would have titled his theory the Will to Beauty. There are beautiful physical appearances, strength is seen as beautiful, math is beautiful to some, art is beautiful, music is beautiful, arts and sciences are beautiful, etc. Anything that gives you power or has power within itself can be seen as beautiful. In fact I think that these two words mean actually the same thing, except that the two words are interpreted differently, beauty is feminine and power is masculine. Even though these two words are seen differently they are the same idea.
The second interpretation is that Beauty is has to do with Symmetry. There have been numerous television programs showing how human faces with symmetrical features are more attractive than faces without symmetry. These television reporters see a correlation between these two concepts, but don?t know how they connect exactly.
Although reporters do not know why the correlation exists, John Locke knew of the correlation when he examined primary, secondary, and tertiary qualities. Upon completing an essay concerning Locke?s work, especially his qualities I noticed that his primary qualities could be judged through symmetry. Then I remembered the television programs that discussed the relationship between symmetry and beauty.
The following is an Locke?s explanation of his qualities. Locke stated that, ?whatsoever the mind perceives in itself, or is the immediate object of perception, though or understanding,? is called an idea. He calls the power to produce an idea in our mind a quality. There are three types of qualities: primary, secondary, and tertiary.
According to Locke primary qualities are inseparable from the body no matter what force is placed upon it. The primary qualities are found in every particle which is able to be perceived. If you take the example of a grain of wheat and divide it into parts, it still has the primary qualities of ?solidity, extension, figure, and mobility.? The grains of wheat retain the primary qualities no matter how many times they are divided, until the division becomes insensible. The primary qualities produce in us, ?solidity, extension, figure, motion or rest, and number.?
According to Locke secondary qualities are not in the object itself but have the power to produce in us sensations through the primary qualities; the secondary qualities are also known as sensible qualities. The primary qualities, ?bulk, figure, texture, and motion? produce in us the secondary qualities ?colours, sounds, tastes, etc..? The tertiary qualities are barely qualities, and are defined by Locke, ?For the power in fire to produce a new colour or consistence in wax or clay by its primary qualities, is as much a quality in fire as the power it has to produce in me a new idea or sensation of warmth or burning, which I felt not before, by the same primary qualities, viz., the bulk, texture, and motion of its insensible parts.? The tertiary qualities are also known as powers and depend on the primary qualities.
The primary qualities of ?extension, figure, number, and motion of bodies,? come through the perceivers eyes and produces ideas in us. The secondary qualities are not in the objects themselves, but have powers to produce sensations in us, and depend on the primary qualities. The primary qualities that we perceive are actual resemblances to the primary qualities in the object, but the secondary qualities that we perceive are thought to be resemblances but are not resemblances in the object. The tertiary qualities are not thought to be resemblances in the object and are not resemblances in the object. The primary qualities alone exist and are real. The secondary qualities do not exist because they need the perceiver in order to be experienced, if we take away our senses from our body then the secondary qualities do not exist
These primary qualities are important in perceiving Beauty. The primary qualities ?solidity, extension, figure, and mobility? are similar to Kant?s a priori qualities as Space and Time. In my view symmetrical objects are perceived as Beautiful because they are more easily to perceive by the human consciousness than a symmetrical objects. The human mind seeks order in the world. It is through making order of the world that we survive.

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, July 18, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

beautiful and uly are two extreme concepts and thu

beautiful and uly are two extreme concepts and thus become absolute questions that are difficult to define or explain. beauty is a concept to explain what exists and what will always exist.

Guest's picture

Guest

Thursday, July 21, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

There's a difference between integrated and non-in

There's a difference between integrated and non-integrated knowledge, relative to the concept of beauty. Integrated knowledge will come from the genius of the philosophy of aesthetics, and non-integrated knowledge will come from everyone else. Know the genius and know the truth about beauty.

Guest's picture

Guest

Thursday, July 21, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

How do you know that the appreciation of beauty by

How do you know that the appreciation of beauty by genius is not a lie? I would rather go with what nature considers beauty than what philosophical scholars describe as beauty. I would rather go with what the masses consider to be beauty than what a few scholars would describe as beauty. There is more of a chance that this is closer to the real beauty in nature. Beauty is linked to survival and for the masses not to know this beauty would mean that they would not survive. There is more of a chance that scholars could be deceiving themselves into believing that beauty is something different or higher than what is ingrained in the masses. They might have even deluded themselves to the point in which they are not even speaking the language of beauty, when they think they are. The appreciation of beauty by scholars may even be deluded due to what they have been taught, not knowing that what they have been taught has been created to support another purpose than the truth, some social structure.

Guest's picture

Guest

Friday, July 22, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

Homer, Let me clue you in. The genius of the phi

Homer,
Let me clue you in. The genius of the philosophy of aesthetics is understood in relation to the christ of christianity or the buddha of buddhism. They are of a class above the philosopher or the scholar. It sounds like you suffer from sheep mentality, who are led to an open shame. In a dark non-integrated age, such as this one, people can think and do what they want. But, when the genius turns on the integrated light, his subjects who come to recognize their subjection to him, will be separated from the sheep who remain lost. The subjection to the genius is based on the fact that the genius is the one who is enlightened, and that enlightenment is based on the transcendence of the "object" of art. From the perspective of the genius, when an individual creates an object, they are understood as the individual who created that object. The genius' enlightenment makes it so there is nothing hidden from them. ( the seer ) The genius can separate the good trees, who bare good fruit, from the bad tree, who bares bad fruit.
Homer, a question for you. In your lifetime, have you bared a good fruit, and if you could, give me an example. Let's see if it passes the genius test. The key is to do a service that integrates the community. I'm sorry to say that selling insurance or a lawyer doesn't qualify, if that helps you at all.
The title of this topic should of been "Beauty and the subjection to the genius".

Guest's picture

Guest

Friday, July 22, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

I do not agree that a person needs their individua

I do not agree that a person needs their individual ?Jesus or Buddha? to see true beauty. I know of the idea that there is a level higher than that of a scholar and a philosopher, a priestly religious or theological class, but I do not believe that this class needs existence. The truth is not only given by nature to the few, but to those who are willing and able to listen to nature. The goal is not for groups of human beings to be led by priests, this would include aesthetic educators, but for each human being to be able to lead themselves to the truth, for each individual to inherit the truth.
The genius deludes himself into believing that only he can see beauty. He may be able to see beauty with a very fine point appreciation. Their appreciation and language of beauty can be so fine that they are no longer speaking the common language of beauty, and may go outside the bounds of beauty.
This age is not dark and non-integrated, it just is. The idea that an individual should subject himself to another human, because that person has deemed himself a genius is absurd. A true genius is not looking for followers; he is looking for people to free themselves and to become independent thinkers. The people who do not follow the genius are not lost. Those you consider to be lost know true beauty, though they cannot describe it.
Scholars are deluding themselves if they think that they are the only ones who know true beauty. Geniuses would be deluding themselves if they think they have to lead others into beauty. The appreciation of beauty exists in the mind of every human being/common man, not only in scholars, seers, and priests.
At the very core of every human mind there is a mechanism of the appreciation of beauty. I am seeking to understand this mechanism. It is not complicated though people are very forgetful of it, unless they have a mental affinity for it.
So far I am convinced that the Egyptians were correct with their idea of Ma?at or balance. This idea is carried into the present with the idea of homeostasis and symmetry. Then there is Aristotle?s golden mean. As for the idea that for an act to be beautiful it must integrate the community, I think it is absurd. Beauty is simple; it is in the human mind.

Guest's picture

Guest

Saturday, July 23, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

Homer, We are in complete disagreement. I'm goin

Homer,
We are in complete disagreement. I'm going to leave at that. You've heard of the saying "don't cast your pearls before swine". I'm sorry to say it applies here.

Guest's picture

Guest

Friday, July 29, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

The solution to the problem lies in a constructi

The solution to the problem lies in a constructivist, rather than an essentialist approach to beauty. Beauty is not something which is "out there" as an essence waiting to be uncovered, rather, it is the result of gradual processes of association, i.e. the maturation of the discerning mind. When I learn to appreciate something - for instance, good wine - I do so by learning to associate the color, smell, and taste of the wine with sensations I find pleasing in myself and in dialogue with others. This is how the great human crafts, such as wine-making, evolve and mature. It's a mistake to think in terms of an abstract, essentialist, definition of beauty. Rather, beauty is more like a practice, a learned habit.

Guest's picture

Guest

Wednesday, August 3, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

If you were enlightened, you would know that there

If you were enlightened, you would know that there is one truth, one way, one life, and one beauty. Can you explain beauty, in relation to art and its history, in relation to the evolution of human consciousness. I'm a teacher, in relation to that understanding. Colby, if you are or were an artist, who was given the talent to become and be the genius of the philosophy of aesthetics, you would be me. By your comment, I can see that you are far from reaching anything that looks like meaning and integrity in your life. If I'm wrong, please inform otherwise. Make sure your integrity has something to do with an integration, like between the arts, sciences, philosophy, religion, mind, body, spirit, soul, ... . If not, please understand that your comments are worth dog shit.

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

Pythagoras: Beauty is Harmony Sophists and Pre-So

Pythagoras: Beauty is Harmony
Sophists and Pre-Socratics: Beauty is Pleasure
Socrates: Beauty is the measure of how good something performs its function. Beauty cannot be separated from function.

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, August 15, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

Homer, Those guys were philosophers. A prophet o

Homer,
Those guys were philosophers. A prophet of beauty knows what beauty is, based on their own doing, and that the artist's or philosopher's attempt to capture it is futile. Know this truth, and you will know the truth about beauty. If you claim to know anything about beauty, tell me about it in relation to your own knowing and doing. Jesus said that you can teach of what you have seen. Homer, what have you seen?

Guest's picture

Guest

Thursday, August 18, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

This age is not dark and non-integrated, it just i

This age is not dark and non-integrated, it just is. The idea that an individual should subject himself to another human, because that person has deemed himself a genius is absurd. A true genius is not looking for followers; he is looking for people to free themselves and to become independent thinkers. The people who do not follow the genius are not lost. Those you consider to be lost know true beauty, though they cannot describe it.

Guest's picture

Guest

Thursday, August 18, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

Does anyone know of any text that either Freud of

Does anyone know of any text that either Freud of Jung wrote concerning the "mania" described by Plato.
I found the following interesting paragraph in a book, "Philosophies of Art and Beauty" by Hugh Bredin:
"This theory of a divinely inspired mania, granted as a gift, was the foundation of all subsequent mystical and ecstatic theories of art. It also laid the foundations for subsequent theories of non-intentional and non-conscious elements in the mental processes required for artistic production. Mediated through Neoplatonist such as Plotinus and the Pseudo-Dionysius, it strongly influenced the early Middle Ages-the Victorines for instance-and reappeared in the Renaissance and again in the Romantic period. Its latest manifestation is in the theories of unconscious inspiration of influence espoused by Freud and Jung."
I am especially interested in any texts by Jung. The book does not give any exact texts by either Freud or Jung.

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, August 22, 2005 -- 5:00 PM

starbox, The integration, which I'm claiming to

starbox,
The integration, which I'm claiming to have completed and became enlightened to is based on the arts, sciences, philosophy, science, and mind/body/spirit/soul. Currently, these conponents are non-integrated, and because of that this age is dark, it just is. ( Homer is a perfect example. ) Starbox, who do you subject yourself to? Have you ever had an integrated teacher, who could increase your integrity, and at the same time increase your intelligence? I'm going to figure you haven't, by your comment.
you said,
"A true genius is not looking for followers; he is looking for people to free themselves and to become independent thinkers. The people who do not follow the genius are not lost. Those you consider to be lost know true beauty, though they cannot describe it."
With a comment like that, I don't know why I'm bothering to respond. Though don't feel bad, your normal is this society. I should just let you and Homer work this out for yourselves. On that note, I think I will.

Guest's picture

Guest

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 -- 4:00 PM

If you're a genius, Ken, then why can you not unde

If you're a genius, Ken, then why can you not understand the use of simple grammar?

Guest's picture

Guest

Thursday, December 1, 2005 -- 4:00 PM

What is more important the Form or the expression

What is more important the Form or the expression of the form. When a person sees a form something in their mind processes it. The person cannot even control how their mind processes the form, but the form will have an effect. An effect so powerful it can almost enslave the mind. The mind itself is betrayed because it cannot change the processes in it that interact with the form. But the form is so powerful. Enslaved by forms. Now their are gods among us who themselves are the forms that enslave us.

MIke's picture

MIke

Monday, August 7, 2006 -- 5:00 PM

I am a child caregiver at a daycare center. I work

I am a child caregiver at a daycare center. I work with one-year-olds. One reason I work with children of this age is that I find them to be beautiful. If you do not find children beautiful, so be it. Beauty can only be appreciated by humans, and then only by some humans. And some humans, like Hitler, express a belief in beauty, such as Eva Braun, the blonde goddess of national socialism. That an evil person can sense beauty might even reinforce the existence of beauty as something that is important to everyone.

Guest's picture

Guest

Wednesday, August 9, 2006 -- 5:00 PM

if you hold it the case that there is a menta

if you hold it the case that there is a mental world and a physical world that are separate (a la Descartes) how do you tell whether the object of your attention is mental or physical? How do you cleanly separate mental and physical given the ambiguity of those ideas and other ideas such as concept? It will come down to one person saying they see directly or appeerceive or some such, that there is a world separate from a mental realm and another saying they don't see it at all. One says they see there is a world independent of the mind and another says they don't see it.
That such categories as mental and physical can be useful or convenient seems clear but that they are necessary or useful or even relevant in all contexts of life seems eminently dubitable. What seems more accurate to say of the world is that there are different points of view in different contexts of life. It is fine to spin out arguments pro and con concerning a presumed distinction between mental and physical or some other such category but I think it will get you no closer to universal consensus about any aspect of the issue. The party in the majority will dominate but there will always be a minority dissent. I think it is time to face it-- if universal assent to some set of propositions is unachievable then why make it the goal of philosophy-- ---to aim for the unachievable seems delusional.
Of course, the great thing about philosophy is that then we may then argue about just what is delusional and achievable and what isn't.
But what would philosophy be aimed at then if not universal assent? It would be aimed at truth separated from the chimeric goal of universal assent; it would be truth as it arises in the individual who then links with others of like mind and argues against others with a different truth. Philosophy would continue as before
but without the obsession with the idea of finding the one indubitable set of statements.
Individual truth is my label for a conception of truth wherein truth is not relative truth to the one in whom in arises---it is the truth (in both a subjective an objective sense) it is indubitable, it is conviction--but it can be replaced by another truth that arises subsequently. This is a conception of truth that acknowledges time--- truth as dynamic rather than truth as timeless uniform and static.
In my conception os dynamic truth truth arises and operates and is indubitable in one context and when the context changes, another truth arises and is just as indubitable and replaces the other. The one fades and the next arises as indubitale as any one unchanging truth because when it arises it arises as indubitable--- it is just not irreplacable as universal truth would be. Whatever truth is in a particular context or point in time or situation, is truth, but that truth can be and is replaced. In other words truth is a serial thing not a fixed thing; the idea of a permanently fixed and static truth is inaccurate. Truth in context is fixed and static and indubitable (indubitability is what defines truth, yes?) until the context changes and it is replaced by the truth arising in that next context.
The physicist leaves his collider and goes to buy bananas-- the physics truth is replaced by the produce store truth and then the get in the car truth and then the go home truth and so on. I leave my position here in front of the computer and the ideas I espouse here, the truths arising in this context, are replaced by the
commute home truth and the eat dinner truth and so on.
suppose I think of a philosophical problem all day. Is it the same context or different if I think in my car or the gym or my bathtub?
But the question arises is my definition of changing context ambiguous? how to tell when a context is changed? rather than a different truth arising in the same context? And this points out the ambiguity of words
and resulting ambiguity in definitions of truth or any other term. Is there such a thing as a concept apart from the concept of concept? Some will say yes some no.
Assumptions and definitions will vary. It all remains
an open question.
Ultimately perhaps, the simplest and broadest truth seems to be least problematic: "something happens"-- is about all we can say about the world, though our ornate and convoluted and verbose expression of "something happens" make it seem that we are saying something more.
When I leave this room I will think of other things and
other truths, other states of affairs and ideas of states of affairs will arise.

Guest's picture

Guest

Thursday, August 17, 2006 -- 5:00 PM

The notion of beauty is in for a bigger upset than

The notion of beauty is in for a bigger upset than at any time in history since the proliferation of the mirror. Move over Rubens!

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Guest

Tuesday, October 9, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

Surely though we would all agree that though many

Surely though we would all agree that though many may see beauty as subjective, there is an objectionist 'formula' for beauty. Looking at Aquinas' proportio, intergritas and claritas it seems to make perfect sense. If beauty is only in the eye of the beholder then this, to me suggests that there is a rather poignant cloud over our moral definitions of what is beautiful or not, of what is evil or not, what is good or not.

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Guest

Thursday, October 25, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

Yes Nathan, i thoroughly agree and i believe that

Yes Nathan, i thoroughly agree and i believe that you have raised a very poignant point. Everyone must be lost for words as they haven't commented. Very insightful.

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Guest

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 -- 4:00 PM

This really helped with my philosophy homework on

This really helped with my philosophy homework on "What is beautiful to modern society." Thanks alot!

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Guest

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 -- 5:00 PM

Logically speaking, when somebody is going to the

Logically speaking, when somebody is going to the gym, in order to achieve the maximum aesthetic result he tries to workout muscles of both sides(left and right) equally, in order to achieve the maximum symmetry possible!!That is very difficult because people are either left handed or right handed, and normally one side is more trained than the other.this leads to small body asymmetries , because the more trained side is slightly more massive than the other side!!
The same thing happens with the face.What makes a face is bones, skin and muscles.And we know that the more the one side is identical to the other side, the more attractive is the face considered.That is symmetry.What does that mean?How can an individual intervene and enhanse its beauty?Of course science till now cannot change bones, and create perfectly symmetrical skulls.And that is very crucial, because the shape of the bone determines symmetry and beauty in a big proportion.Noone can just make an ugly woman beautiful just by transplanting Claudia Schiffers skin, because the underlying bone will help the ugliness to stay there.
One other parameter of a faces attractiveness are the underlying muscles.No one has absolutely symmetrical muscles, because muscles from the dominant side are more used, and that leads to small asymmetries in left side and right side muscle fibers.I really wonder if someone can intervene in that with some techniques,and which are these, and create equal sided muscles.I also wonder if the creation of identical sized muscles on both sizes can enhance, even slightly, the beauty of a face.I think that studies must be made in that direction

anthony's picture

anthony

Thursday, April 29, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

Imagine a world where we can hear sounds, but have

Imagine a world where we can hear sounds, but have no ability to appreciate music. We look at the evening sky and see shapes and colors but we cannot appreciate its beauty. We eat look at our spouses and see no beauty in them, only at times an object to satisfy a biological hunger. Not only would life have no meaning, we would not be able to have a concept of meaning if we have no experience of beauty.
But a life with little beauty can make us depressed, even suicidal. It seems to be an extremely important hunger in man. It can overpower our very survival instinct. Also, if one is in the act of making love, aroused an all, and their partner does something to make that person fee ugly in character or physically, chances are that person's sex drive may instantly come to zero.
A common error is the assumption that beauty always attracts. Beauty sometimes repels. It often shows up our ugliness. It challenges us sometimes beyond our willingness to respond. Sometimes if we see beauty in someone else we may prefer to destroy it for envy.
It commands responses of reverence and respect. It never generates lust. If anyone lusts after anything or any person, that someone has missed the beauty and is reacting as a dog would to a bitch in heat. That would be a hormone driven attraction. Beauty is not an attraction, it is a judgment of a goodness of something for what it is in itself, and not for what we could gain from it. It is a judgment by the deepest part of us. I believe that the appreciation of beauty is unique to humans, if not in essence, in capacity.
Finally, and it will take too long to expand the argument here, I believe that the ability to be motivated by beauty gives us an option other creatures do not have. If indeed we have a free will, it is probably linked to our ability to choose to act in defense of beauty (moral, physical or other)instead of being only able to choose one basic instinct over another.

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Guest

Saturday, June 12, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

Vincent van Gogh painted several night scenes and

Vincent van Gogh painted several night scenes and became fascinated with depicting the stars (most famously with his Starry Night paintings) and the light effects of the night. Van Gogh has achieved an effect of luminosity with the use of contrasting colors and tones. The darks compliment the lights, the blues intensify the oranges, and the purples bring out the yellows.
Van Gogh wrote about the Cafe Terrace at Night painting in a letter to his sister, saying "Here you have a night painting without black, with nothing but beautiful blue and violet and green and in this surrounding the illuminated area colors itself sulfur pale yellow and citron green. It amuses me enormously to paint the night right on the spot. Normally, one draws and paints the painting during the daytime after the sketch. But I like to paint the thing immediately.
It is true that in the darkness I can take a blue for a green, a blue lilac for a pink lilac, since it is hard to distinguish the quality of the tone. But it is the only way to get away from our conventional night with poor pale whitish light, while even a simple candle already provides us with the richest of yellows and oranges."
The cafe still exists today and is a popular destination for those following the footsteps of Vincent van Gogh.

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Guest

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

the doubly subjective, not only dependant on minds

the doubly subjective, not only dependant on minds for its existence

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Guest

Saturday, September 18, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

I think I get the point, just don?t agree 100 pe

I think I get the point, just don?t agree 100 percent. Some movies are not for everybody and some movies are just plain bad. If someone wants to say Catwoman, Wild Wild West, Batman and Robin, Battlefield Earth, Babylon A.D. etc, are OK films or enjoyable, that is one thing but it is another to say those movies are the greatest of all time. I don?t even know how anyone could argue a movie is great when the people involved in making it even say its bad.

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Guest

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

I find that beauty is such a personal thing. I lov

I find that beauty is such a personal thing. I love beauty of silence. Total complete silence...and stillness. the scent of a flower completely in bloom. the simplicity and perfection of a breeze at the top of a mountain. the intricacies of snowflake. the shadow of a bonnet across a mother's face at 4:00. the sensation i get from the scent of a ripe meyer lemon. an old flag that no longer bears meaning. an uncut line of love from a complete stranger gazing out of the window of a passing train. these are moments of sheen and beauty to me that most try to capture in a painting or a sculpture or a film... these are the personal moments of beauty that I have experienced as such and that remind me I am alive.

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Guest

Sunday, October 3, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

I disagree, I think Beauty is more than skin deep.

I disagree, I think Beauty is more than skin deep. A woman becomes more beautiful once you get to know them. The skin deep thing applies if you're looking through a magazine I guess but in real life a woman that is attractive at first glance instantly looses her beauty in my eyes when she turns out to be a jerk.

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Guest

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

If you?re using Firefox with pop-ups disabled, a

If you?re using Firefox with pop-ups disabled, and Jim?s on a Blogspot, your browser settings may interfere with the word-verification thing that?s enabled on some comment forms. I can?t comment at ICFW using Firefox, and I?ve had trouble with other Blogger locations as well, even after enabling pop-ups ? sometimes, oddly, just had to click ?submit? twice.
Start by checking your browser settings.

Guest's picture

Guest

Sunday, October 10, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

?Nice convo, you two. You may have the last word

?Nice convo, you two. You may have the last word, as I?m out for now. cya!?
Better yet, in the spirit of fair play, let?s pick it up from here another time. I?m with you on the time crunch?in the same situation on this end. Best wishes on the book Jim, and on the promotion.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Monday, October 11, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

I was astounded by the number of comments generate

I was astounded by the number of comments generated by this posting. Comments and comments on comments. All in the name of something as seemingly innocuous as the subjectivity of beauty. It just shows that people differ in what they consider important and will passionately argue, debate or discuss such topics until the cows return to the barn.
Aside from the instructive aside concerning the difference between objectivity and subjectivity (those words are bandied about relentlessly these days), I found the post interesting but not earth-shaking. It certainly did not arouse any passion on my part to argue, debate or discuss beauty or its subjectivity.
I found the section on jokes superfluous at best. Well, different people see things differently, I guess. And just so it is with beauty.

 
 
 

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