Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Spend the Day in Beauty

What is beauty? Is being beautiful like tasting good to Bob (subjective) or being 150 lbs. (objective)? The saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” suggests subjective. But other sayings—“beauty is truth” or “beauty is eternal”—suggest there is some objective quality to beauty. Advocates of the subjective view emphasize how difficult it is to get people to agree on aesthetic judgments. Advocates of the objective view make arguments like: “The Grand Canyon would be beautiful regardless of whether anyone was there to see it, so beauty is in the object.”

Aristotle believed that there was no absolute beauty, but that it was based on perception. As a general term, the Greeks perceived beauty as interchangeable with excellence, perfection, and satisfaction. Plotinus believed that beauty did not include symmetry. However, "beauty is that which irradiates symmetry, rather than symmetry itself."

Plato introduced to the ideal of "Platonic love:" Plato saw love as motivated by a longing for the highest form of beauty—The Beautiful Itself, and love as the motivational power through which the highest of achievements are possible.

Kant argues that such aesthetic judgments are 'judgments of taste', and insists that universality and necessity are in fact a product of features of the human mind (Kant calls these features 'common sense'), and that there is no objective property of a thing that makes it beautiful.

The Taoist sage also thinks it is human judgment that what happens is beautiful or ugly, right or wrong, fortunate or not. The sage knows all things are one (equal) and does not judge. Our lives are snarled and jumbled so long as we make conventional discriminations, but when we set them aside, we appear to others as extraordinary and enchanted.

Benedetto Croce, originator of the modern “expressionist theory” of aesthetic, maintains that the difference between the beautiful and the ugly is that: “expression in the naturalistic sense simply lacks expression in the spiritual sense, that is to say, the very character of activity of the spirituality, and therefore the bipartition into the poles of beauty and of ugliness.” He sees beauty as part of the process of aesthetic expression that has four stages: impressions, expression or spiritual aesthetic synthesis (intuition), pleasure of the beautiful, translation of the aesthetic fact into physical phenomena. The expressive process is exhausted when these four phases have been passed through.

What do YOU think?


George said...

For me, Beauty is what makes me feel good. If I look at a sunset and it makes me feel good, it meets my definition of Beauty. If I look at a flower and it makes me feel good, it meets my definition of Beauty. If I meet an individual and he or she makes me feel good, it meets my definition of Beauty. If I look at a structure made by a human, and it makes me feel good, it meets my definition of Beauty.

Nas said...

Beauty is so abstract. You might say yes while i might say no!

Yeah, spend our live in beauty and we'll be happy. I hope

Alija said...

I am not a competent person to write about this subject, however by reading your provocative contemplation I was caught as you can see.
In spite of being aware of the truth in the Taoist or oriental point of view, I still believe there is an individual sense for beauty, individual taste based on the uniqueness of each of us.
We are, each of us, assembly of so specific, always different vibration receptors, vibration analyzers. All what we are judging we are perceiving by our 5 senses and processing by our, again very specific and different brains.
The richness of this world is in the variety of our perceptions, limitless number of possible combinations of information perceived by each of our senses.
What to say about colors? Is there any colour more beautiful than the other one? Who can give an objective answer here?
However, we can feel some colors in some moments produce very different emotions. The same we can say for some combinations of colors. Paintings? Art? What to say about Rembrandt or Picasso? But, better not to touch this field because, I think, in the field of art business is much more present than the sense for beauty or need for the education of masses. (Education of masses!! Interesting subject)
The same is with sound, with music. In the limitless number of combinations of sound vibrations who is that one to say Beethoven's music is beauty and not so called Serbian turbo folk, compilation of oriental folk music.
In all these area of life conditioning and business are very present and in most cases counter productive.
Being spread in different memes of sociological development this subject "Beauty" has different meaning in each different meme.

Ronald said...

The nature of beauty is a very complex in structure. It is composed of many elements, each of which is easily mistaken for the whole. Therefore, we have a variety of theories of beauty, each theory calling attention to one of its component parts, and disregarding, more or less, the other constituents. The aesthetic theories are supplementary, and it is only when we put all of them together that we obtain an idea of the nature of beauty in its totality.

Mirjana said...

There is an object and the observer.
As long as it is like that people are going to discuss this actually defending personal judgments. My personal is closest to Plato´s, as I think that love helps us to come to that final realization of oneness where the object and the subject become one .The sage does not judge because of the level of consciousness that he reached. This level of consciousness make possible the realization of object and subject becoming one and no judgment is there any more.

Pineal said...

As you said the superlative of beauty can be perceived only when the dualities gone. There is no observer and observed. The observer, observed and the act of observing becomes one, in the state of meditation. In this state of unification everything is beautiful.

Gilles said...

Beauty is one of the most important aspects of my life. It is most definitely that what keeps me alive, what drives me through the ocean of life. It's the fuel that keeps my spirit up.

If I see my room is a mess, I clean it up, because I think a mess is ugly. But while I'm cleaning up the mess, I do think it's beautiful. Because I think the process of cleaning is beautiful, and it couldn't happen without the mess. And a little bit of mess will always remain, no matter how good you clean things.

Sometimes every single detail of my life is beautiful. That, indeed, coincides with the feeling of being connected to the whole. Every detail makes sense, I appreciate the mess, and the cleanness, everything.

Music, food, people, some are beautiful, some are not. I think it has a lot to do with the extend to which they are healing you. A Taoist may argue that a sage thinks everything is beautiful, but if he eats a poisonous plant, he's as dead as I am if I do. Even if it tastes nice. So part of that sageness is also naive.

I doubt that any human likes the taste of shit. I think that is because shit is not a healthy thing to eat for people. So is that subjective? Well, if being born as a human is subjective, it is. But I doubt that. The fact that I was born is as objective as it can be, because subjectivity can not come into existence in subjective way, that would mean the subject already existed. So what is beautiful and what not is definitely also partly inherent to how you encounter yourself in existence.

I don't agree with the statement that the fact that all things are one means that they are equal. That is only true in a particular part of reality. Only focusing on that part might also be called judging. As long as there is an outside factor able to get the sage out of his balance (which a poisonous plant would in my opinion), all is not undeniably one.

I think beauty is a match between two types of perception. As I believe we are swimming around in a huge consciousness, I also believe we can meet this consciousness. Connect with it. I believe this is what happens when we see a beautiful sunset, when we taste a fine wine, or when we kiss a person we love. I also know we can experience total connection with this consciousness, which makes everything beautiful, but this feeling can also be shared with another person, and then it is even more beautiful. So even then there are degrees. For me.

Summarized, I agree with every vision on beauty, and I think that it is the place where subject and object meet. I can talk about it forever, but that doesn't make beauty more beautiful at all. I have never met a sage who could honestly tell me in the eyes that everything is beautiful at all times, so as far as I'm concerned, that doesn't exist. But if I ever stumble upon one I'd congratulate him with his vision. Yet I guess he would not care about my congratulations at all. Still I think it would be fun to meet.

Abhaa said...

satya( (truth), shiva (spiritual self), sunder (beauty), as the indian philosophy says are all one. Truth is one..subjective/relative as the ocean waves..waves appear different--but aren't different from the ocean, hence one and is eternal, is absolute, is beautiful. Beauty is a tool that attracts the seer (to the eternal self/spirit), subjective/ relative is only perception ( through limited senses)
..the quest/ longing is real is eternal and absolute.

Lee said...

Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. For example I say that all newborn humans are beautiful, my wife says the opposite.

I'm going Kant one on this one, although perhaps there may be some objectivity involved. When we think of landscapes for example. However having said that, perhaps the only objective thing about this is the way in which those landscapes that are not familiar to us seem to be beautiful, whilst those that are familiar loose some of their shine.

Perhaps then on the very first viewing of something you have never seen beauty shines out, perhaps then it is a case of familiarity?

Vamadevananda said...

The term " beauty " is being understood, known. One dimension of the quest rests in etymology. Which is why you've thrown up alternates, when it could actually be both, some or all, but not limited to being just any one or another. If I must choose an expression, it would be : Beauty is Truth.

The other dimensions, including the subjective and objective debate, can be investigated along these lines :
- What does " beauty " do to our senses ... eye, taste, smell, sound and touch. Does it leave them / us satiated, full, free of any objective anchor ? Before, during and after our experience in our life force.

- What does " beauty " do to our life force. Does it leave it / us engaged and immersed, ecstatic, full, free of any objective anchor ? Before, during and after our experience in our senses.

- What does " beauty " do to our mind... feeling, emotion, thought. Does it leave it / us satiated, full, free of any objective or activity anchor, mental or material ? Before, during and after our experience in our senses and life force.

- What does " beauty " do to our intellect... awareness, knowledge. Does it leave it / us satiated, full, free of any mental anchor ? Before, during and after our experience in our mind.

- What does " beauty " do to us... the awareness of our self. Does it leave us satiated, full, free of any ego - self anchor ? Before, during and after our experience in our intellect.

Lorraine said...

Molly, your messages are always an inspiration. Part rational, part spiritual and part personal insights, what a combination for seeing the world the way it "might" be, is or could be. thanks I always and I underline that, read your contributions. They are always part of the positive way of seeing the world. As a psychologist I call that reframing and try to practice it when I read, see or hear or even think (not just even, because that is where most of us spend our personal life). That is, reframing the evil or what is not functional and hurts ourselves or our neighbors which is my reframing definition of evil, into a positive spin so that we can grow from it, contribute positively to the lives of others, our loved ones, and most of all ourselves. If we don't become beautiful in our own eyes as you suggest, we will not be seen or thought to be "beautiful" whatever that means to others. Beauty to me is a positive no matter how you define it. Beauty just is. Our perceptions play a major role, as does our childhood experiences, genetic predispositions and our training. It is not necessary to have beauty, however, goodness will suffice, goodness and love which to me are the same things em bode the ultimate way of transcending the evil, ugly or impractical dysfunctional aspects of our lives.

You presented an impressive review of the major viewpoints on beauty, but my real intention in writing, since I do not write very much is not to have a discourse so much, but is to thank you for allowing your mind to be a resource, a source of beauty and goodness. A source of encouragement and hope. thank you, Maria

Molly Brogan said...

Thank you, Lorraine. You make an excellent point. Including beauty in our self image not only creates beauty within us, but in our world through our perceptions.

Francis said...

While, as an agnostic in general terms, I don't often use the word "create", there is, I believe, no other term that is so appropriate for beauty. It is out of the beauty within ourselves that we create the beauty which we perceive all around us.

But there is more. Artists are gods who truly create out of nothing - a beauty which speaks to many, something which is not diminished by being shared. That, despite personal problems, tortures and contradictions. Behind all the weirdness (perhaps even perversion) and the disgusting commercial hype surrounding his death, that was what Michael Jackson was at his best. There have been other similar artistic wonders throughout history - Caravaggio comes to mind.

But this beauty, this power to create ex nihilo, is within all of us. Some are better at it than others.

Molly Brogan said...

Perhaps another case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. Music of a particular artist may require relativity of taste. Music as an art form, absolutely beautiful. There are a hell of alot of people who found Jackson's work beautiful, as evidenced in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people all over the world dancing and singing his music after he died. How many people in your lifetime could evoke such a global response, opinion aside.

Neil said...

Einstein and others drew relativity from obscure experiments to glean the size of molecules and the movement of pollen grains in solution. Beauty tends to fit with experiment and eventual communication beyond the almost non-verbal beholder's eye. It may well bore most people and end up being taught in school chemistry.

Ornamentalmind said...

"Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged." -

dipu said...

any type of love

Lee said...

Surly any type of love is a beautiful thing? Umm unless it is pedophilia love, or love of violence. Okay okay scratch that one, bad Idea.

Yeah Dipu what do you mean?

Molly Brogan said...

Is it really love in those cases, Lee, or something more along the lines of deviant compulsion? Both examples would certainly fall outside of the "love is patient, love is kind..." definition.

I think that love and beauty have much in common, as they move us in spirit, or to higher consciousness.

Neil said...

What entertains many can be ruthlessly boring, and the beauty industry certainly conforms with ruthlessness. Scientists are rather prone to bemoan those waiting for the blow job from god so routinely expected to underlie their work in elegance, beauty and perfect form. The beautiful moment is not boring.

Molly Brogan said...

I can agree that what we call the beauty industry is merely merchandising to enhance appearance, and has little to do with real beauty. How do we recognize true beauty when we see it?

Vamadevananda said...

I've indicated that beauty is what it does to me, in the several domains within me. Let me list a couple of instances :

I see beauty when I see a child leading his parent on the road, finger in palm, joy and cheer in his eyes. Or, in the early morning, when the husband is pulling at his bicycle with wife seated on the carrier seat behind him, both off to work, to deal with the demands of the day, for themselves and their children. Or, in the attitude : I want nothing from you, what can I do for you ? Or, when a person walks away with light, hope and self - belief in his heart, after a conversing with a ' wise ' one. Or, when I ' see ' an Einstein arrive at an integrating discovery, which includes and explains the details ...

The ' sight ' unclouded by ego - want - emotions is beautiful !

Neil said...

Like Vam I think we have to be able to see beauty in the ordinary. There was once something rather beautiful to me on resting on a spade after some hard work, sharing a tab with a mate, perhaps rather ironically pleased with our efforts and the desultory pay that went off home to Mum with enough left over for a few pints in the pub. England's "magnificent" draw yesterday with our hapless last wicket batters lasting half-an-hour against the might of Australia after a day of probably the most stupid shots ever played by better players had a certain beauty. Others might wonder what the five days of boredom were about, until the always winning Aussies saw there efforts rendered futile, dashed on the rocks of Burnley and Indian (Monty Panesar Vam) pride as the clock ticked down in the depths of Wales. Neither of our guys knew one end of the bat from the other and a Welsh poet was suggesting the stumps be burned so that the finest dust of England would remain forever in Wales. And then the clock ticked past a heady triumph to sour Australian tears and the victory of an English draw.

I suspect beauty is too often restricted to our triumphs over adversity and the real stuff might well lie in straightening our society out.

Vamadevananda said...

" ... the real stuff might well lie in straightening our society out."

Know what, Neil, let me share with you my most personal of all beliefs : If I can restore dignity, joy and fearlessness in my thoughts, words and actions, and retain the goodwill and warmth for people around me in my heart, and live my life in good faith ... and, even if I were to succeed at doing so partially ... I would have offered some " real stuff " to this society, for it to remember what and how easy it is to lead a straight life, and for it to recall the great simplicity and happiness we all may once again experience in living this wondrous existence !

That 's perhaps the only romance left in me. And, I 'm glad it 's there in my wakeful awareness. It keeps me sane, directed and happy.

Molly Brogan said...

I agree with Vam, we have to first live it. It transforms the world around us because by living it, others around us are captivated. I have seen corporate cultures drastically change under a new leader (for better and worse.) If we can live like Vam, the influence spreads like the ripples of water created by the entrance of a stone. On and on. Over time, collectively we improve. Expressions like Neil's can be read and followed, like the stone in water also. Sometimes, we keep the thick of it around us, the chaos and clashing of duality by only seeing society as in need of a good straightening, and not living the possibility of more...

Ulysses said...

There is always the harsh truth that some people hate those who live the life, set the example and present the change to beauty. Hate groups thrive on it. Unfortunately there are those who are not capable of love and beauty. It's easy to see it all as a wonderful conception from one's personal view but in reality and on a global scale the reality is contrary. In some sense beauty is still being fed to the lions.

Living in one's own little word of beauty can be a beautiful fiction.

Molly Brogan said...

Living in one's own little word of beauty can be a beautiful fiction.

Only if we lose our functional relationship with the world. If we can make that beauty a part of the very fabric of our relatedness in our lives to our world, it is reality, not fiction. If we can relate to the world in ways that express beauty while we relate to our families, do our jobs, develop our relationships, it is not fiction.

If we see the world as entirely beautiful, what some would see as not beautiful is simply a matter of their taste and value. Like our discussion of evil, if what is not beautiful is seen in the wider context of our entire beautiful life, it becomes part of the whole beauty. Would you rather spend your day picking out all of the things in the world that are ugly and you don't like, or paying attention to what you know to be beautiful. It doesn't mean that you deny or repute what in separation is less than beautiful, it means that you choose your own internal environment as one that is more beautiful and harmonious and less stressful, and pay more attention to the bigger picture. You don't need to lose touch with reality to accomplish this state, you just need to be willing to change focus.

Of course, some of us humans get something out of being stressed and injured and condemning our experience. Individually, we examine ourselves to find what that might be.

Ulysses said...

Well that is exactly what I do as you know from previous posts that I don't really integrate with the external world and focus on the beauty within my personal world. I'm happy because I make the people around me happy and life becomes more beautiful. I did simply bring up the fact that, as you say, what is in separation, the external environment, does harbor that which is less than beautiful. Recognition on my part is not any indication of my personal view or lifestyle. I'm happy to be loved by a great many people and really don't know anyone that hates me, so I guess I must be doing something right. We can effect change by exuding beauty that others can witness, understand and hopefully adopt.

Neil said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Vam with the rider that it's all too easy to fake both to oneself and others. The universal condition of humankind is not beautiful, but it can and could be vastly better. My wholeheartedness lies in that we have to try and there is a certain beauty in that, even if we fail. What I'm seeing a lot of these days is that people won't try because they are cowed by a false leadership and cannot find integrity and recognise bureaucracy is failing us. I have no vote in Britain because I can't vote for anyone who won't just become just another clone taking us into unjustified wars or juke the stats. Even Obama is petering out into just great rhetoric - here we don't even have that. Doing the right thing is now just a feature of idiot movies.

Molly Brogan said...

humankind is but one aspect of life. because we are human, it is easy to mistake it for the whole.

Paul said...

I have pondered what role neurobiology plays in this process of perceiving beauty and how it fits into the constellation of useful attributes for our specie to survive.

Croce, in your explanation, builds a process of explanation for something he observes. What I find more interesting is why does this sense of beauty happen? Is it unique to humans, (bower birds create artful nest each different from the others). Finally, and most significant to me is how to use this phenomena of beauty, build from it, grow it, and why it is not coveted and cherished by enough human beings.