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Keith Russell
08-10-2003, 06:51 PM
Good afternoon.

The earlier 'beauty' thread was based on the notion that 'beauty' is an attribute of 'God', and a significant aspect of 'God's' 'Creation'.

Yet, while the thread and its participants celebrated and praised that attribute, and its source, 'beauty' itself was never defined.

So, what is beauty--to you?

What is it that allows an object, event, or idea to be correctly described as 'beautiful'? Is beauty something that can be pointed out, by one person, and to which another person can then agree?

Is an object itself beautiful, or must beauty 'reside' in the object as a mystical or spiritual 'force', for it to be beautiful? And, how does beauty relate to a work of art?

There are no right or wrong answers, I'm just curious.

K

paintfool
08-10-2003, 07:04 PM
I'm short on time Keith but would love to explore this topic a bit later! Interesting questions. BBL
Cheryl

SanDL
08-10-2003, 09:45 PM
If it's beautiful it resonates, flows, works smoothly, keeps me gazing, fills me with energy, with desire, with awe, has it's own light light, is without fear, but not without trembling, stops my breath and makes me inhale deeply.

A (very) few things that have struck me in this way.

The Pieta by Michelangelo
Danaide by Rodin
The Grand Canyon
my husband's face
my children's faces
Lucien Freud's work
Kelly's work
my friend Joel's hands
the Goldfinch by Carl Fabritius
the coast line of Nova Scotia
the acts of Mother Theresa
Andy Goldsworthy's work
bits of rusty hardware on the road
Wabi Sabi

Keith Russell
08-10-2003, 10:34 PM
SanDL said:
"If it's beautiful it resonates, flows, works smoothly, keeps me gazing, fills me with energy, with desire, with awe, has it's own light light, is without fear, but not without trembling, stops my breath and makes me inhale deeply."

OK, that's what it does, but what is it?

You listed several works/things that you feel are beautiful.

I'm assuming that you would agree that you recognize in them some essential characteristic that they have in common.

What is it?

Any guesses?

K

mpopinz
08-10-2003, 10:46 PM
Keith -

I would hazard to say that "beauty" is something that makes your eyes happy and your stomach turn just a bit.

A difficult question to answer. Thanks for asking, I look forward to seeing the views of others!

SanDL
08-10-2003, 10:49 PM
"IT" is an individual thing. "It" is not universal. "It" can be defined within the values and tastes of a culture, an individual or both.

Similar "Its" appeal to people of like mind. (as in birds of a feather flock together)(Precious Moments statuettes have their appeal to some...as does T.K., some people adore Joseph Beuys ...I think both are nuts...but hey...to each thir own...we've been here before...)

And there is mathematical beauty. scientific beauty...

Personally, I encounter "it", "it" is visceral", I know it when I see, feel, touch, taste, hear and understand "it"

"It" is a sensory experience that pulls me momentarily out of my limited consciousness and makes me pay closer attention.

Cathy Morgan
08-10-2003, 11:20 PM
This reminds me of a quote from The Timeless Way of Building, by Christopher Alexander. I'm quoting from memory, so please forgive any inaccuracies:

"To build in the timeless way, one must first know the Quality Without a Name."

He goes on to list a lot of words that POINT to this quality, are almost this quality, but aren't quite enough in themselves.

I was an earnest, half trained artist-blacksmith when I first read these words. They gave me a thrill. Someone knew what I was looking for - what I wanted my ironwork to be like.

I've met many people who had no interest in this idea at all, so it may not be relevant to this thread.

Now I tend to use the word "aliveness" as the quality I'd most like in my life and artwork, but really I think this is just another "pointer word." I've been reading and listening to Eckhart Tolle more recently (The Power of Now). He also makes clear that his words are just "pointers."

I don't think much about beauty as I work. I guess I'm afraid I'll end up just trying to make something "nice" or "pretty" if I aim for beauty. I figure truth will end up beautiful in the end, although for a while it may look ugly. Aliveness means more to me.

Keith Russell
08-11-2003, 12:35 AM
Cathy, I believe that all words are pointers, nothing more.

When words have 'meaning', they refer to valid concepts, the ideas to which the words point. And, valid concepts are those which correlate or correspond to something in 'reality'

But, certainly not all words point to beauty; there are numerous concepts, and often several words will point to the same concept.

K

sue ellen
08-11-2003, 12:55 AM
Maybe Beauty is the emotional connection to something that defies logic and explanation ...it just connects to the viewer. It connects with the mind and with the heart....and through all 5 senses . For each individual, beauty is something that is felt on a level that is completely understandable...with no way to explain it.

Perhaps it is a connection to something that is within you and it recognizes the same in what you think is beautiful.

timelady
08-11-2003, 07:05 AM
Is beauty something in the object? Is it a thing? I don't think so - otherwise it would be quantifiable, everyone would equally recognise an object as beautiful. Maybe the only way we have to define it is by the effect it has on us. Why not, there are many things in science that we only know exist because of the effects we can observe - we can't see the thing itself. (magnetic fields for example)

It's like asking 'what is love'? requiring definition without including what it makes us feel or do. :)

And the perception of beauty can change even in for same object. And over a short period of time. I've seen paintings I didn't like then over a period of a few weeks of seeing them every day changed my mind. I've been able to see the layering, the subtle colour work, and realised that they are beautiful. (and I'm not talking about my paintings either! ;)) And by beautiful I mean not just recognising the skill and complexity involved, but actually deciding I would quite like them on my living room wall.

To me personally multiple levels of meaning or significance are usually involved in things I find truly beautiful.

Tina.

Koert
08-11-2003, 11:49 AM
i think something is beautifull to me if it touches me in one way or another, if it makes me stop and think about it, even if it's only for a short time

Keith Russell
08-11-2003, 11:52 AM
Koert, yet we are often touched by horrific things, and tragedy can give us pause, and force us to reflect on our lives.

Most would not consider such things 'beautiful'...

K

amo
08-11-2003, 12:55 PM
Originally posted by SanDL
Lucien Freud's work


Interesting. I find Lucien Freud's work really ugly.

Which, I guess, begs the question: is ugliness the opposite of beauty? Sometimes you can define a term by its opposite. Could you have beauty without ugliness to define it against? Just wondering... (no, I haven't got an answer to those questions, I'm just asking).

To my thinking, beauty has something to do with harmony. With interactions between- well, stuff. Objects, humans, light/darkness, feelings, sounds, shapes, colours. Harmony (or balance) and beauty go hand in hand, I think.
I know that's not a definition, it's just a move towards one.

I don't know if you *can* define beauty- just like it's awfully hard to define "art". People try, but they usually just end up being dogmatic and making fools of themselves...

DanaT
08-11-2003, 12:56 PM
Hmm, I think I agree with Tina. Beauty is something that I want to look more at. It interests me, intrigues me.

Horrific things? I suppose, the old paintings of Hell on medieval churches are awful and beautiful at the same time. You get drawn into the story of the images and its quite captivating and horrible at the same time.

Perry
08-11-2003, 01:28 PM
I can't describe what it is. It is something that makes me look longer and longer until I have seen enough. But then after it is gone I want to see it again.

Dennis

Keith Russell
08-11-2003, 02:41 PM
I don't think we can identify beauty without having a concept of ugliness. But, we do not need to actually be in the presence of ugliness, just to recognize beauty when it is present.

K

Perry
08-11-2003, 02:58 PM
If we were constantly surrounded by beauty would it not become mundane? I think beauty sometimes is something unfamiliar.

Dennis

DanaT
08-11-2003, 02:59 PM
A more cynical view:

My lover, my loved ones, my possessions, all are things that by association define me to the rest of society. I think the ultimate test of beauty is whether I want to be seen with it.

Keith Russell
08-11-2003, 03:12 PM
Dana said:
My lover, my loved ones, my possessions, all are things that by association define me to the rest of society.

And yet, if 'society' really wanted to know me, all they would have to do is read what I have posted here at WC.

(For that matter, if my wife and loved ones wanted to get to know me better, they, too, have reading to do...or maybe it would be better if they don't...)

K

Nihil_Initio
08-11-2003, 03:17 PM
Beauty is unquantifiable,
therefore it is undefinable,
therefore this question--"What is Beauty"--
has no answer.


Thats my answer. LOL

Yes, I know thats a flippant answer, but I think its the only truly honest one I can give you, because I truly do not know what beauty is. I can say why what I see is "beautiful" but I cannot say why those characteristics are beautiful.

Keith Russell
08-11-2003, 03:44 PM
At first, it seems that you claim that one cannot know what beauty is. The second part of your post seems to be claiming only that you don't know what beauty is.

Now, I'm not saying that you don't know what beauty is, you may very well not know.

But, that is a different claim that to state that not only do you not know, but that it cannot be known, period.

I think it can be known, at least conceptually...

K

Koert
08-11-2003, 03:50 PM
Originally posted by Keith Russell
Koert, yet we are often touched by horrific things, and tragedy can give us pause, and force us to reflect on our lives.

Most would not consider such things 'beautiful'...

K

A natural disaster, horrible as they may be, are in a way extremely beautiful. The awesome power of nature and all.
And death... if you see a dead person, the eyes are "broken" as we say in dutch. You see that something is missing. That is beautiful to me, to see that there is more than just the physical body in a living person. (making any sense?)
What I mean is, even though somethings might look like there's nothing beautiful about them, bu t if you think about them, you can find something beautifull in almost everything that stirs emotion

Perry
08-11-2003, 04:04 PM
I disagree. I find nothing beautiful in rape, torture, execution, vomit, diarrhea and the list goes on.

Dennis

Nihil_Initio
08-11-2003, 04:29 PM
At first, it seems that you claim that one cannot know what beauty is. The second part of your post seems to be claiming only that you don't know what beauty is.

Now, I'm not saying that you don't know what beauty is, you may very well not know.

But, that is a different claim that to state that not only do you not know, but that it cannot be known, period.

I think it can be known, at least conceptually...

K


As usual, Keith, you force me to think beyond that which I am comfortable thinking. LOL....umm.....lemme think....

First off, though I understand your point, I do not see how my two points contradict each other. My point is that "beauty" is a subjective concept--one's standard of beauty will not be so for another, ie: two different people may have two OPPOSING standards of beauty. If this is true, there can be no defintion of beauty, for a true defintion cannot, by nature, contradict itself.

I could be wrong, though. But to prove that, we would first need to prove that "beauty" is not subjective, that there is one standard to which all people hold, and we must be able to define this standard. and as far as I know, NO ONE, not even you (or else you would not be posting this thread) know what that is.

You claim that beauty "can be known, at least conceptually", but you have failed to prove this. Since you posit that beauty has a conceptual existence (dare I say, OBJECTIVE?), what is your evidence?

Nihil

Maysun
08-11-2003, 05:00 PM
Isn't Beauty a relative concept ?

Relative to the eye of the beholder.

Relative to the mood of the beholder.

Relative to the time/place of the beholder.

Maysun:)

Nihil_Initio
08-11-2003, 05:08 PM
Thats what I'm saying Maysun.

If its relative, then it is undefinable.

Keith Russell
08-11-2003, 05:11 PM
If beauty results in 'strong attraction/fascination', then 'ugliness' is not the opposite of beauty, since 'ugliness', too, can result in strong attraction and fascination.

Apathy, or indifference to an object or image would be the opposite result of finding an image either 'beautiful', or 'ugly'...

K

DanaT
08-11-2003, 07:34 PM
You may be right Keith. Since the opposite of love is not - as so often claimed - hate, but apathy.

We're reading the Celestine Prophecy this summer and one of the chapters defines beauty as that which excites the condition of love in the beholder. IOW, full immersion in the experience of beholding.

moo67
08-12-2003, 05:00 AM
I havent read this whole thread as yet but i am saving it so that i can read through it offline.
My feeling and take on beauty is simply that beauty is defined to each individual by some connection to their soul and that souls experiences through time.
Moo:D

Greeble
08-12-2003, 07:50 AM
I can't define beauty or uglyness. All I know is:

Before I started drawing and painting, I didn't see much beauty. Now I am surrounded by it every day. Whenever I start looking at a scene with "I want do draw that" eyes. Even things I would have considered ugly now look beautiful when I picture it as a painting or drawing.

Very weird perception shift. An unexpected bonus to learning to draw and paint.

Jen

mswaine
08-12-2003, 01:56 PM
Sue Ellen has made the most pertinent point in her remark that beauty is an “emotional connection”, to which I would add a “positive emotional connection”, Ugliness would be a negative emotional connection”. An object of beauty has a positive emotional connection with the viewer. I further agree with Keith that apathy should be part of the definition and enters in when that object lacks the quality to make this emotional connection.

Given that apathy is the opposite of beauty and ugly we can create a trinity between them. If an object has the power to make an emotional connection (both positive and negative), we are left to define where, along the compendium of beauty and ugly, the object falls. Lucien Freud's work might lie in a middle ground between ugly & beauty, still maintaining and emotional connection with the viewer.

But here again, this is all so subjective. At this point I’m going to repeat a theme I maintained in another thread. It is though the consensus of knowledgeable observers that society can arrive at the definition of an object being beautiful. If enough knowledgeable people think an object has “it”, than it has “it”. I further maintain that the more a person studies, learns and knows, the better they are able to discern beauty. It is only through consensus that we are able to sort out one persons definition of beauty from another’s.

Might I quote Potter Stewart, Associate Justice, US Supreme Court, with his definition of pornography. "I don't know how to define it, but I know it when I see it." What I am saying is the accumulate informed opinion of those who "know it when they see it" add up to the definition. While this may seem arbitrary, it is dependent on the passage of time to accumulate a the body of evidence (recognition) needed to declare a work "beautiful" by the greater society.

Regards,
Mike Swaine

Keith Russell
08-13-2003, 12:11 PM
MSwaine, it still falls to the individual to determine whether or not these 'knowledgeable' people, who have declared what is, and is not, beautiful, truly are as knowledgeble as they claim to be.

As one person can err, so can many.

I prefer to trust my own judgment, and I do not place 'faith' in either the opinions of the hoi polloi, nor the self-proclaimed 'intelligentia'.

K

DanaT
08-13-2003, 01:00 PM
So then, what's the value of calling something or someone beautiful? Once we do, do we get anything out of it?

Keith Russell
08-13-2003, 03:21 PM
Dana, I learn far more about the person why says 'that object is beautiful', than I do about the object in question.

K

DanaT
08-13-2003, 06:11 PM
Keith,

That's what YOU get from ME calling something beautiful, but what do I get?

Dana the pragmatist :rolleyes:

Keith Russell
08-13-2003, 07:28 PM
What do you get?

Dana, that's your problem!

(lol)

K

SparrowHawk
08-13-2003, 08:54 PM
For me, beauty has a lot to do with the concept of proportion, as it applies to all qualities (not just size). This may be weird, but I think it literally has a biological basis. Or a basis in physics, if you want to take it a step deeper. Things "feel" right to us when they reflect proportions that nature carries inherently. They are vibrating at the same sort of scale, all the elements in the right relation to each other. I don't mean that to sound spacey, it just has to do with how physical things are related to each other. And patterns. We're wired for pattern perception.

The reason we have different responses to what we call beautiful is because our perception of these things is so individual. I still mean that biologically (and I refer to all the senses). We all work basically the same way, but not exactly the same way. So we often agree, but just as often diverge. And our environments, both natural and artificial, train our natal senses in particular directions.

These are undeveloped thoughts, ill-expressed, probably. If anybody has a clue what I'm talking about, let me in on it. ;) There are faint, amorphouse echoes of Fibonacci numbers, the Golden Mean and "The Old Way of Seeing" (http://www.fearfulsymmetry.com/issue_II/architecture.html) by Jonathan Hale in the back of my brain.

Keith Russell
08-13-2003, 09:53 PM
Sparrow...rational, objective beauty?

(...oh, yes...!)

K

SparrowHawk
08-13-2003, 10:04 PM
Objective, sort of, if you think anything can be. That is, I believe it's based on a real, physical experience.

But our perceptions, as I said, are always subjective, and not necessarily most deeply rooted in the rational parts of our brains. I would trust my intuitive sense of beauty over any "formula" for same every time.

Maysun
08-13-2003, 10:49 PM
Originally posted by SparrowHawk
I would trust my intuitive sense of beauty over any "formula" for same every time.

I think so....yes


Maysun

Keith Russell
08-13-2003, 11:55 PM
Sparrow, perhaps your intuitive sense of beauty is based on an innate grasp of qualities you don't consciously understand.

There might be a something at work, which could be expressed as a 'formula', of which you are completely unaware...

K

SparrowHawk
08-14-2003, 12:29 AM
I think that's possibly very true. As far as your first statement goes, I think that's pretty much in line with what I was getting at. We respond to things on a visceral level, then we try to haul them up to our frontal cortices to discuss what in heck we think we're experiencing.

As for the "something," I don't think being consciously aware of its expression as a formula would add anything of value for me. I don't think it would in any way make creating or appreciating beauty any easier, more precise, more fulfilling or meaningful to me. To someone whose sense of aesthetics and/or meaning is closely tied to that kind of expression, it might be an epiphany. It would probably just confuse me, as there would be waaay too many variables.

dodger
08-14-2003, 01:51 AM
I think I agree with you SparrowHawk... emotions that spontaneously rise up from our perceived senses seem to flow much faster than rational thought can.

It has to, when you look at it from a survival perspective. The emotion of fear, for example. No time to think when your life is in instantaneous danger... you react. I would suspect that it would work in much the same way with something like subjective beauty... a rush of emotion responding to whatever the object is.

Of course, you can rationalize it after the emotion is present.

It could work the other way when you think about something that can arouse emotions... reliving the experience through memory can evoke the same emotions as the actual experience.

(For me, it's the sight of a horse running across a pasture... nothing is so beautiful to me as to watch the grace & power of it.)

DanaT
08-14-2003, 09:51 AM
Very profound sparrowhawk and dodger.

For me the purpose of beauty is as a direction to go in. As an artist, I immerse myself in and exude beauty so the perception of beauty is the first step for determining my art's direction.

SparrowHawk
08-14-2003, 03:28 PM
dodger, you're right about emotion, but I wouldn't limit the reaction to beauty, the recognition of beauty, to emotion alone. I think it's part of it, not all, not even the beginning. Like all our experience of the physical world, beauty begins sensually, in the most fundamental sense of the word. We use our senses and see, feel, hear, move, touch some input that reads “beautiful” to us. It starts in our primitive brain stems, moves into our emotional limbic brains, then on into the neocortex where we become conscious enough to attach words and meanings to it. (Except for smell, which skips the brain stem and heads straight for the limbic system.) If the patterns that wake in us by this movement match up in some way with what we know of the world, it seems “right” to us, even if the knowing is unconscious. Because nature constructs things with certain scales and relationships and patterns, our bodies recognize these things. Sensations are, just like us, manifestations of the basic laws of physics, which form our chemistry, our mechanics, our thoughts, how we live and move and have our being.

I am thinking of driving around an S-curve in a road I took daily to work years ago. One day, I came around the curve and my senses were smacked by a cherry tree in full bloom. Of course I'd passed that tree every day, but that moment of its manifestation was unique. And what I felt wasn't an emotion, wasn't a thought, it was pure raw experience of beauty. I literally stopped and stared, soaking it up. I couldn't think of or do anything else. It's a good thing no one was driving behind me.

virtu
08-14-2003, 09:46 PM
I need beauty. To me, it is sustenance. Cherry tree experiences give me something necessary to life, without which I begin to wither.

Perry
08-15-2003, 07:56 AM
Sparrowhawk
Earlier in the thread I mentioned that I believe that sometimes beauty has something to do with the unfamiliar. You talk about the cherry tree in blossom being a unique manifestation. I think that if that tree was in full blossom everyday that you drove to work that it would cease to be as beautiful and would become almost mundane to you.
That is why I think young children are in awe of so many things. They are just unfamiliar with them. If everyday had what I consider to be a beautiful sunrise and sunset I think that after awhile the beauty of it may disappear to me. Am I correct in my thinking?

Dennis

mswaine
08-15-2003, 08:49 AM
I like the idea that beauty incorporates a sense of proportion. But not as formulaic as Fibonacci numbers. I have always thought the strictness of this proportion, a bit arbitrary. But, I concede to stray too far from these proportions takes a composition out of balance. As a graphic designer I know and sense (feel) when elements on a page work in harmony with each other in sort of a feng shui manner. The biological connection here is very interesting and I agree that we all work generally the same. However, I feel one can learn to perceive the more subtle points of beauty through educating themselves in how others and history try to define beauty.

On Jonathan Hale I would have to read more to speak intelligently, but his rejection of architecture since 1830 seems, on the surface, myopic,

These graphic design rules and there feng shui aspects are one-in-the-same in painting composition. There are, however, occasions when breaking these design & composition rules works also, particularly when they create a feeling of tension between the objects and the edge of the canvas. On the other side of the coin a painting can have all the qualities of good proportion and composition and may still fail the beauty test. All of the elements of design, composition, painting technique and color contribute to beauty, but all of these must be aligned perfectly to cause a thing to be beautiful.

Here’s another thought, given that things of beauty pleases us, why do we reject beauty in so many ways. Why do we buy a Pontiac Aztec or a Nissan Element or a “Ranch House” style home? Why is a well composed, idealic Kincade painting branded, a cliche? Why is piss in a jar lauded as great art? Why is graphiti praised as high art. Why do we cuss and swear in public with little rebuke? Why is the dark side of life thrust in front of us in the movie theater, to throngs of viewers. Why don’t we pursue beauty in all that we do, buy and say? Is it because if we might have so much of it we would no longer see it as beautiful? Is it because it’s more expensive? Is it because it’s harder to produce? Why?

SparrowHawk
08-15-2003, 01:42 PM
Perry (or Dennis, which do you prefer?), it's certainly not for me to say whether your thinking is "correct" or not. But I can relate to what you are saying and I think it's very often true. We have so many rainbows here in Hawaii we are a bit blasé about them unless they are really spectacular. But I also think unfamiliar all by itself won't do it. If the tree had been cut down or burned to a blackened stump I would have reacted in horror, not in awe of beauty.

OTOH, I think it works both ways. That is, we often don't see beauty in what's unfamiliar because our senses aren't attuned to that wavelength. When I first came here, the unfamiliarity of the light and the landscape and the colors were so different I found it disturbing. I could appreciate from a formal, intellectual standpoint that there was a lot of beauty here, but it didn't affect me in that way. I still find the light disturbing. It overpowers me a bit. An acquaintance who was born and raised here was talking about being by the ocean on the East Coast of the US (where I grew up) and saying it was ugly. I wanted to tell him it isn't ugly, he just didn't have the senses to see it. He was used to something else and he literally couldn't distinguish the subtleties of color and light I grew up appreciating. His nervous system and brain wouldn't register them.

Mike, when I said proportion, I didn't mean just size or composition. I meant proportions of everything, whatever your medium (visual or not): values, chroma, the balance of ambiguity and clarity, the interplay of varying applications of technique, loud and soft, high and low, fast and slow, sound and silence, movement and stillness and all the myriad steps between each extreme. A balance of relationships between all the elements. I gather you know what I mean by what you say in your third paragraph.

And far from being arbitrary, Fibonacci numbers are a fundamental building block of the world. I learned about them in biology class, after all. We didn't make them up, we discovered them. Nature's rife with those series, especially in plants. If you mean taking the derived math and applying it formulaically to a composition, I will certainly agree. As I said, I think an intuitive sense of balance works better for me. I also agree about education; that's part of what I meant when I said our environments mold our perceptions.

You know, I think the juxtaposition of the ideas of "unfamiliarity" and "formula" have a lot to do with the concept of beauty. I believe that graphic tension you speak of has its origin there. It's often the break in the expected that gives that lift, that pull, that sends you over the top and makes you catch your breath. You can't have one without the other. If it all fits the pattern, it's boring. If there is no pattern at all, it's just chaos.

As to your last point and your comment on Hale: It's been years since I read the book and I have but a nodding acquaintance with architechtural theory. I can't even remember if he allowed for exceptions to his 1830 line in the archealogical sand. But something he said that stuck with me is that much of what is done in the name of art these days is based on the idea that only what is exciting has value and only that which disturbs is exciting. Kind of going overboard with the "unfamiliar" side of the equation, as Kincade goes overboard with the formula (as though the only flavor of light were vanilla).

And yeah, beauty can be costly. We can't all afford it. As Oswald Bastable (loosely paraphrased) says, "Most people who have made a lot of money have done so by making beautiful things ugly. Making ugly things beautiful is very ill-paid work indeed."

mswaine
08-15-2003, 02:15 PM
SparrowHawk,
Sorry, I missed your extension of the meaning of proportion in my first reading. A very perceptive interpretation. I'll spend some time with Hale and maybe post a comment later.

Regards,
Mike Swaine

Keith Russell
08-15-2003, 05:27 PM
mswaine asked:
"why do we reject beauty in so many ways?"

Keith: I believe that we live in a culture that takes art for granted.

ms: Why do we buy a Pontiac Aztec or a Nissan Element or a “Ranch House” style home?

K: My wife and I plan to buy a commercial building in the industrial part of town, live on the top floor, and have a gallery on the ground floor, and our 'work spaces' in the middle. We plan to have loud parties, and neither neighbors (after 5 PM, anyway) or lawns to mow! It'll probably be an ugly house from the street, but beautiful inside--where it counts!

ms: Why is a well composed, idealic Kincade painting branded, a cliche?

Keith: Because with Kinkade, the marketing and selling seem to be where he places the most emphasis.

ms: Why is piss in a jar lauded as great art?

K: It was actually beer; urine was too clear in the photo, and 'read' like water. As for 'great art', I don't know anyone who thinks it was. I think it was considered a 'great' controversy...

ms: Why is graphiti praised as high art.

K: Because some of it is...

ms: Why do we cuss and swear in public with little rebuke?

K: I am trying to limit my swearing, and I rarely swear in public. The better I know you, the more likely you are to hear me swear...

ms: Why is the dark side of life thrust in front of us in the movie theater, to throngs of viewers.

K: Movies express both good and bad. Seabiscuit, Finding Nemo, Shrek? All good, recent movies, with little 'dark side'.

ms: Why don’t we pursue beauty in all that we do, buy and say?

K: Some of us try...

ms: Is it because if we might have so much of it we would no longer see it as beautiful?

K: Not in my case.

ms: Is it because it’s more expensive?

K: Partly.

ms: Is it because it’s harder to produce?

K: Probably.

ms: Why?

K: I rarely quote Star Trek, but McCoy explained it well, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:
"It's always been easier to destroy rather than create."

K

mswaine
08-16-2003, 12:49 AM
Keith,
Excellent retort.

Regards,
Mike Swaine

dodger
08-16-2003, 02:42 AM
Some good stuff in this thread. :)

A question, provoked by the conversation... is there any beauty that could possibly be termed "universal"? (This could relate to the idea of objective beauty, Keith)

Knowing that we are each subjective & unique individuals, yet all share a similar nature as a biological species, I'm curious if there's something out there that the majority of the population would agree on as being "beautiful".

Maysun
08-16-2003, 03:57 AM
Originally posted by dodger
I'm curious if there's something out there that the majority of the population would agree on as being "beautiful".

Not likely ! We can't even agree on what is beauty !!!:)


Maysun:)

mswaine
08-16-2003, 08:34 AM
A few years back I was at the Art Institute of Chicago visiting the galleries and as I walked into one particular room I was stuck by a familiar painting. As you enter this room the painting was hanging on the same wall as the entrance, so you do not see it immediately. I got practically to the middle of the room then turn to face it. All at once my emotions over took me and my eyes welded up and tear began to run down my cheeks. This painting was beautiful. The painting was “Sunday Afternoon in the Park of the Island Grand Jatte” by Seurat. A bit embarrassed, I looked around and found I was not the only one having this reaction. Likewise, I was one time at the Vatican and had a similar reaction when viewing the "Pieta".

Down through history there have been many things made by man that we collectively have found of quality. While individually we find it difficult to define beauty, the distillation of informed opinion allows us to declare an item beautiful. This may be an immediate reaction or it may take decades to distinguish it from the fashion of the day, but eventually our individual taste and choices add up to a definition.

Keith Russell
08-16-2003, 01:11 PM
mswaine, what would John Galt have thought of the notion that collective opinions of beaty 'add up to' a definition?

Could such a definition (a combination of numerous subjective opinions) really be called 'objective'?

I don't think so...

K

heh
08-16-2003, 04:04 PM
Originally posted by Keith Russell

K: I rarely quote Star Trek, but McCoy explained it well, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:
"It's always been easier to destroy rather than create."



that reminded me of a similar simone weil quote
"Art is the symbol of the two noblest human efforts:
to construct and to refrain from destruction."

heh
08-16-2003, 04:17 PM
i think beauty is a universal
that it has something to do with truths (is truth)
and paying attention to
i agree that it is (can be) sustenance

it’s perhaps not necessarily the unfamiliar, but the unusual and ordinary
(ie- i’m familiar with sunsets/rises, they are an ‘ordinary’ occurrence on this planet,
but i still find them beautiful and the unusual ones exceptionally so.
however, not all ordinary things are beautiful)

something ‘beautiful’ that is seen daily (the cherry tree)
only becomes ‘mundane’ to someone once they stop paying attention to it

regarding beauty/ugly- people usually associate (wrongly associate, i believe)
beauty with things ‘pretty’ or ‘pleasant’ or ‘appealing’
but beauty is something with more depth
not so…vain?
sadness can be beautiful
darkness can be beautiful
ugly can be beautiful
things can be so beautiful they pain the heart
etc etc

“what is beauty?” is one of those things that words will always fail to say
just like “what is art?”
i know what it is when i see it, but will probably never be able to explain it
language is so untrustworthy

Keats said it well:
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”



dena

Keith Russell
08-16-2003, 09:34 PM
Greetings.

I have heard many claim that, while its a good painting, the Mona Lisa is overrated.

I know many people who do not find classical music beautiful, who despise opera, and who do not enjoy 'fine art'.

And, for every gorgeous supermodel, there are lots of men and women who will say (and it may not all be sour grapes), 'she's not that hot'.

But, I have never heard anyone claim that the Taj Mahal, widely considered to be the most beautiful building in the world, was either overrated, or not beautiful.

Not one.

K

Maysun
08-16-2003, 10:24 PM
But, I have never heard anyone claim that the Taj Mahal, widely considered to be the most beautiful building in the world, was either overrated, or not beautiful.

Keith -

The first time I ever saw the Taj Mahal - perhaps because my aesthetic sense was not well-developed then or perhaps the sun was too hot - I couldn't care less.

Then later on I went to Agra to see my father who was living there - only a WALKING distance from the Taj Mahal - and THEN I was ABSOLUTELY, ABSOLUTELY zapped !!! - it really IS just so incredible - and you should just see it on a full moon night - you'll just never forget it !

And you know what ?

They were going to build a bloody MALL behind it ! :crying:

It's a big scandal here right now.

I don't know how people can be so IDIOTIC !

They can NEVER EVER build something so incredible, but they can sure have a go at destroying it !:mad:


Maysun

Keith Russell
08-17-2003, 02:34 AM
Maysun, I intend to see it one day...one of my dreams is to spend a night there...

K

Perry
08-18-2003, 11:40 AM
Sparrowhawk,
When you say that senses are not attuned to a wavelength I believe that this is what happens to me when I see some abstract art. I say to myself "How can other people find beauty in that piece of abstract? I just don't get it." It has patterns that I am just not used to, it is chaos to me. But what can I do to make it become beautiful in my mind? Is it something that I must learn or maybe experience? How does one become attuned to a wavelength?

Perry

Keith Russell
08-18-2003, 03:19 PM
Perry, Clement Greenberg recommended looking again and again, until you 'get it'.

I'm not convinced this works in all cases, but it's certainly worth a try.

K

Perry
08-18-2003, 03:29 PM
Thanks Keith, I'll have to try that.

Perry

mswaine
08-18-2003, 05:46 PM
Originally posted by Keith Russell
mswaine, what would John Galt have thought of the notion that collective opinions of beauty 'add up to' a definition?

Could such a definition (a combination of numerous subjective opinions) really be called 'objective'?

I don't think so...

K

Keith,
John Galt's circle of those he respects is indeed small, with his praise going to those who actually produce something, rather than those who live off the product of others. I would like to think that I could number myself among his admirers since my art & illustration actually makes me a living and I have never bought into the art grant thing. Given that much of the institutional part of the art world seems to mooch off the generosity/taxes of other, I doubt he would consult them on the finer point of art. But enlightened gallery owners and those in the commerce of fine art, I think, could be counted on to offer an informed opinion. This obviously this might lead to a distorted perspective, if not for his high ideals. My interpretation of Galt's art taste would include the ability distinguish between "Kincade art" that's strictly for commerce and art that strives for deeper, more meaningful message. But, given Ayn Rand's myopic view of art I could be wrong. My John Galt would know the difference, and I know one could make a case that I'm clutching to a myth, but it's my version of reality.

Regards,
Mike Swaine

DanaT
08-18-2003, 07:06 PM
Don't worry Mike. We all have our myths to believe in :) They help us function.

Keith Russell
08-18-2003, 09:34 PM
Mike, so you have no problem with one selectively choosing which persons comprise the 'collective', in order to form a group that agrees with one's own individual opinion?

I'm right, because my friends (who are my friends, because I recognize that they are all experts in their respective fields) say I am?

I mean, why not just cut out the middle man, and trust only your own individual judgment from the 'get-go'?

Keith
"A collective (culture) of one."

mswaine
08-19-2003, 01:03 AM
Keith,
I figured you'd nail me to the cross on this one, but a careful observation of ones coterie of those whos opinions one values reveals there is safety in numbers. My gangs bigger than your gang. To hold an opinion by yourself without seeking other like opinion is isolating and shall I say selfish. Why hold an opinion if you can't share it. Why share an opinion if you can't champion it. Why champion an opinion if you can't get all your buddies together declare "we are right".

Gee, this sounds a lot like politics and in the short term it is. But, since the drum I keep beating says beauty surpasses the fashion of the day, one must be patient enough to allow the day to pass. Thus, transcending the trendy. Beauty lasts and because this is so, time and long held informed opinion will filter out the politics.

We see this in the recent interest in pre-modern paintings of the last 1800's. Reexamining this art may someday give it renewed value since enough time has passed for the political aspects of modern/pop art to have less effect on opinion as it did in the early 1900's. It is interesting that the modern art movement felt it needed to denounce Victorian Art to succeed as the new art.

Regards,
Mike Swaine

baba
08-19-2003, 04:36 AM
First foray here, but I couldn't resist - the question has haunted me for a long time.
One thing I've found (and I'm quite surprised that it isn't in this thread yet) is fractals. I think that things like marble, clouds and trees are considered beautiful the world over and they all share a fractal structure. So, does this make fractal formulae a recipe for beauty?
I'm pretty much convinced that this isn't the whole truth and even if it really plays an important role, how can we use it short of running the formula to produce a picture?

DanaT
08-19-2003, 04:59 AM
Interesting baba. The 3-D software I use, uses fractals to create seamless textures. Beautiful things have been done with them but I haven't been able to. I love the texture of marble, when I worked more heavily in 3-D, that was my favorite texture along with wood, but I used a photo image of real marble texture rather than the digitally generated fractals.

Keith Russell
08-19-2003, 02:13 PM
mswaine, there is a difference between sharing an opinion (I do that all the time, right here in WC), defending your opinion (which requires that you understand the reason(s) why you hold a particular opinion, in the first place)--

--and finding others who share your opinions in order to reinforce your opinions. The fact that ten (or ten thousand) other people might agree with what I claim, in no way makes my claim any more, nor any less, true.

As one can err, so can many. (There was a time when every human being on earth believed that the earth was flat, and that the sun orbited the earth. Unanimous agreement--and utterly false.)

As for selfishness, I view it as a virtue; and the world desperately needs a great deal more of it. (Selfishness can be defined as 'mind your own business'!)

K

SparrowHawk
08-19-2003, 03:03 PM
Perry, I think Keith nailed the answer to your question. Keep on looking. Another way to get to a different wavelength, IMO, is to make something similar. This is one reason why I think copying other artists' work is not anathema. It's not to be confused with making your own art, but it's an exercise that strengthens different connections in your own mind/body. (It also strengthens my argument for a physical basis for these things, heh heh.) If an artist has something to say, looking is but one way to absorb it. Doing increases the communication. (It needn't be an abstract artist, either. I learned a lot from Cezanne this way.)

baba, yes, fractals were another one of the things kicking around in the back of my brain when I was talking about beauty having a physical basis in how the world is constructed.

Keith, I'm skimming the part of the discussion about one vs. many (too political for me!), and though I share your skepticism regarding ad populum arguments, I don't think that's exactly what Mike's arguing for. (Also, I find your definition of "selfishness" pretty idiosyncratic. I, too, think it's a bonus when people mind their own business. But I would think selfishness is more commonly understood as benefitting oneself at others' expense, which is why it's mostly condemned. But that's tangential to the discussion.)

mswaine
08-19-2003, 04:34 PM
"As for selfishness, I view it as a virtue; and the world desperately needs a great deal more of it. (Selfishness can be defined as 'mind your own business'!) "

Keith,
Spoken like a true objectivist.

"As one can err, so can many. (There was a time when every human being on earth believed that the earth was flat, and that the sun orbited the earth. Unanimous agreement--and utterly false.)

There is truth and then there's truth. To believe something is true when there is no (or little) countervailing opposite reality is in fact "truth." That a truth is actually false is of little concern to one who believes in the original truth. That reality might change over a period of time is why we have people dedicated to finding the truth. But, in order for us the change our sense of reality a consensus must develop. How do you know the earth is round? Yeah, the system we are taught today about earth science makes sense mechanically right now, but how do we really know? We individually don't have personal experience looking down on earth. We are relying on the consensus of opinion of astronauts who have. I've done enough Photoshop work to know that photographs can't offer proof. In everything we cannot experience for ourselves we rely on others to offer proof. Even universal truths are reliant on the collective experience of others or they would not be universal. This extend to the things we can experience, but have a vague definition of what is good, as in good art or beauty.

Regards,
Mike Swaine

Keith Russell
08-20-2003, 12:55 AM
sparrow, most people view dictators and criminals as selfish--but they are very concerned with others, at least as concerned with others as with themselves. One cannot rule without subjects; and one cannot profit by stealing only from one's self.

Hitler was so worried about other people that he had millions of them put to death; Stalin murdered even more. To plan the deaths of millions, means that you have given other people a great deal of thought.

These were not selfish men; they needed others (both as killers and as victims) to serve their ends. Is there a difference between 'selfish' and 'self-sufficient'?

Would a self-sufficient person need to view others as a threator fear them?

'Selfish' means, literally, concerned with one's own interests.

Again, I view selfishnss as a virtue that we, for the most part, sorely lack.

Be selfish--mind your own business.

K

Keith Russell
08-20-2003, 12:56 AM
mike, I am not an Objectivist, true or any other kind. Oh, I was once, but am no more...

Reality did not, does not, change. Whatver it is, it remains reality. The earth has been a spheroid for a long, long time; the fact that millions of people recently believed otherwise, changed nothing--not even while it was the prevailing belief.

(As for me, I know the earth is round (if not spherical) because I saw its shadow on the moon, a dark circle...)

K

mswaine
08-20-2003, 01:08 AM
(As for me, I know the earth is round (if not spherical) because I saw its shadow on the moon, a dark circle...)

Well, you say this now because it makes sense logically, according the prevailing logic of the day, but what if someday a better explanation comes along that changes the way we look at this "reality". Would we not go through a transition period and eventually adopt this more reasoned view?

SparrowHawk
08-20-2003, 03:23 AM
Keith, I can't believe you Godwinized this thread.

Did you miss the phrase "at the expense of others"? A dictator benefits himself (accruing power) at the expense of others (denying them their power, goods, autonomy and lives). It is the fact that an act is done purely for one's own benefit without regard for the harm it does another that makes it selfish, not the amount of thought given to others to achieve that purpose.

Self-sufficient appears to lack the callousness of selfishness and seems like it might be a more accurate word for the virtue you espouse.

Perry
08-20-2003, 08:32 AM
It may be possible for me to see beauty in something that was not beautiful before by studying it and by imitating the creative process of the artist but then again it may not.
It is possible that some people may not see beauty in anything.
One might say to me "Prove to me there is such a thing as beauty."
I may say to him "Look at the colors, the lines , the form, the texture, the arrangement of all these."
He says "I do see them for what they are but I don't see beauty."
I say "Does'nt this affect you in any way other than that?"
He says "No. Why should it? I don't understand your concept of beauty and how do you define it?"
I say "It's very hard to define because it is very personal."
He says "How can you believe in something that can't be proven or defined?"
I say "I believe it because it is there and because I see it. I can not lie to myself."

My question: Is it possible to prove that there is such a thing as beauty?

erik_satie_rolls
08-20-2003, 11:27 AM
I haven't time to read all the old posts. So at the risk of repeating, but in the spirit of helpfulness, here is an online dictionary definition of beauty. The url is here: http://www.yourdictionary.com/ahd/b/b0142200.html


beau·ty

(n. pl. beau·ties)

1. The quality that gives pleasure to the mind or senses and is associated with such properties as harmony of form or color, excellence of artistry, truthfulness, and originality.

2. One that is beautiful, especially a beautiful woman.

3. A quality or feature that is most effective, gratifying, or telling: The beauty of the venture is that we stand to lose nothing.

4. An outstanding or conspicuous example: "Hammett's gun went off. The shot was a beauty, just slightly behind the eyes" (Lillian Hellman).

Keith Russell
08-20-2003, 12:11 PM
Perry asked:
"My question: Is it possible to prove that there is such a thing as beauty?"

Beauty is a concept. I can prove that some people so have a concept of 'beauty'; I can prove that the concept 'beauty' exists.

But, I don't believe that beauty, as such, exists as part of something. I believe that a thing has various measurable, objective characteristics, which can be described as 'beautiful'.

But, I don't believe in beauty as the 'thing in and of itself'.

K

Keith Russell
08-20-2003, 12:14 PM
Sparrow said:
"Did you miss the phrase "at the expense of others"? A dictator benefits himself (accruing power) at the expense of others (denying them their power, goods, autonomy and lives). It is the fact that an act is done purely for one's own benefit without regard for the harm it does another that makes it selfish, not the amount of thought given to others to achieve that purpose."

Most dictators claim that their actions are 'for the benefit of the people'; they claim that it is necessary to sacrifice some, for the benefit of others. They often claim that their motives are not in the least selfish.

I don't believe that the phrase 'at the expense of others' really fits with a clear definition of 'selfishness', for the reasons I've stated.

One who is concerned with others as either 'means' or 'end' is not truly 'selfish' (when 'selfishness' is the opposite of 'concern for others', however that concern is manifested).

'Selfishness', once again, is 'concerned with one's own interests'.

K

Keith Russell
08-20-2003, 12:20 PM
mswaine said:
"Well, you say this now because it makes sense logically, according the prevailing logic of the day, but what if someday a better explanation comes along that changes the way we look at this "reality". Would we not go through a transition period and eventually adopt this more reasoned view?"

It not only makes sense logically, it makes sense scientifically, and perceptually, too. We were able to make the transition from 'flat' earth to 'spherical', because we were able to understand that the earth does (in fact) seem flat, from a 'ground-based' perspective.

Moving to the concept of a 'round earth' didn't contradict our perceptions, only our 'ground-based' interpretation of those perceptions--that what appears flat from the ground, will prove to be flat from distance from which the true shape can be seen.

Likewise, if we learn at some future point that the earth is actually extended into some strange dimension, and is actually a far different shape than it visually appears to be, that won't contradict the fact that--based solely on our visual percpetions--the earth does appear 'round'.

(The short answer to your question is 'yes'...)

K

O'Connor
08-20-2003, 12:41 PM
"Beauty" is a term that refers to established (i.e. trained/ingrained) norms and criteria.
These criteria are taught to the members of society, and are an inherent part of that society and as widely varied as the myriad microcosms of human cohabitation.
As a child (if fortunate and average), those that raise you will teach you good from bad, happy from sad, clean from dirty, and pretty from ugly. Many other polar concepts are taught to members of society, the examples of which go on ad infinitum. Strongest/weakest, expensive/cheap, quality/junk, skinny/fat, honest/dishonest, pious/heathenous, etc.
The essential characteristic of any form of beauty is dependant on what attributes have been identified and taught to you (as a child and older).
Here's an easy example: In some societies regarded as primitive and I believe residing on the continent of Africa, there is practiced a number of "body art" applications which are considered to add value to the beauty of the recipient. These body arts include lip rings which continually stretch the lower lip during years of wearing. Similarly, earlobes are stretched. There is the custom of adding rings to a girl's neck and subsequently adding more rings until their necks are (quite literally) ten, eleven or twelve inches long.
Some societies scar themselves or one another decoratively, similar to a tatoo.
In my society (Euro-American wetserners), some of this would be called mutilation, and, even if passively accepted, would not instill a feeling of the viewing of beauty.
It's largely programming, but also partly perspective.
I'm not aware of any society that routinely sees offal (fecal matter) as attractive.
What does a fly say when it sees feces?
So, things that bring good are easy to identify as beautiful, such as a baby bringing joy to its mother. How many homely kids have you seen where their parents grin from ear to ear that they're beautiful?
We're trained to see bright lights or color as beautiful, if they are in a rainbow, a sunset, a starry sky, a stained-glass window. However we are trained to see as garish the same colors worn to a funeral or painted on a house.
Beauty is value, as well. Similar to the feces example above, if you brought a bleeding dead goat up to my door, we would scream and call a cop, but in the right society it would be seen as a valuable commodity or dowery, and you might be revered or win my daughter's hand in marriage.

Can anyone think of an example of something that would generally or universally be described as beautiful and fail to see how the attribute of beauty was taught by caregivers?

Perry
08-20-2003, 01:17 PM
Keith said: But, I don't believe that beauty, as such, exists as part of something. I believe that a thing has various measurable, objective characteristics, which can be described as 'beautiful'

But how can someone say something has beautiful characteristics
when beauty cannot be defined? If I say that something is red and it really is red then I am making true statement that cannot be argued. But if I say something has beautiful characteristics is it necessarily a true statement?

Perry

O'Connor
08-20-2003, 02:02 PM
See above.
The characteristics and their relative values are defined by the society of perceivers.

Perry
08-20-2003, 02:28 PM
O'Conner said:
The essential characteristic of any form of beauty is dependant on what attributes have been identified and taught to you (as a child and older).

I see what you are saying here. But don't members of the same family or same society have different views of what beauty is. Ever since I was very young I hated spiders and thought they were ugly creatures. I still feel that way and I don't think it has anything to do with my upbringing or what I was taught.
As far as the natives go. I don't think one has to be a part of a particular society to see beauty in thier art.

I personally do believe in beauty. I believe beauty is a personal thing that is difficult to define. I am just trying to look at things from different perspectives here.

Perry

Keith Russell
08-20-2003, 04:23 PM
Perry asked:
"But how can someone say something has beautiful characteristics when beauty cannot be defined?"

Perry, I said that something the characteristics that can be described as 'beautiful'...not that they characteristics were (in fact) 'beautiful'.

K

Perry
08-20-2003, 04:45 PM
Keith,
I don't understand your wording here. I have to shut down now I'm at work and i have to catch my bus. Ill be back on-line tomorrow morning.
Perry

mswaine
08-20-2003, 05:02 PM
Keith,
I was also thinking this was unclear. ???

Keith Russell
08-20-2003, 05:58 PM
Gosh, it was unclear, sorry.

Saying that something is 'beautiful' is a judgment, an assessment, an evaluation. It is not an objective description of a thing 'in and of itself'.

There can be objective components to beauty; the symmetry and proportions of a face, or a body, or a structure (the Golden Mean, etc.), certain sequences of musical tones, or certain relationships between various colours are often described as 'ideal'--or 'beautiful'.

But, just saying something is 'beautiful' reveals very little. Two people might view the same work of art (or the same person) as 'beautiful', for two entirely different reasons.

The word 'beautiful' is a condensation of many factors, and the word alone does not allow us to understand the factors that made up the judgment of 'beauty'.

Even when an object has characteristics that follow the somewhat structured 'guidelines' for 'beauty, the object as a whole might--but just as easily might not--be 'beautiful'.

And, many things are beautiful whose parts violate what we consider to be 'standard conventions' for 'beauty'.

I hope this is clearer...

K

DanaT
08-20-2003, 06:16 PM
You're right, Keith. Hmmm, I'm thinking about the quote from Hamlet, "Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

The same can be said for beauty. And yet...

I think there are two things going on here: societal norms which are fairly arbitrary and serve no other function that to strenghthen the bonds within a group (in fact, the more arbitrary, the better - think of the initiation rituals of college fraternities) and certain physical characteristics that have been proven to endow a physical advantage to its owner.

Studies have shown that even apes prefer mates with even, proportional features. Regularity of features in a potential mate is a good indicator that the mate does not have aberrant genes that can pass off to the offspring. The untrained eye can mark an .001 mm difference in the space between the eyes even though the person doesn't know exactly 'what's wrong'.

So beauty...is it not a collective term denoting both of these concepts? One that is objectively defined by nature and one very subjective that is defined by man? Both useful but serving two different purposes.

Keith Russell
08-21-2003, 12:25 AM
No, Dana, I don't think it's two different things.

I agree that human beings (and yes, other animals) have evolved the ability to visually determine symmetry, which is--as you said--one indicator of health. (In fact, a while ago, I argued--in the 'Debates' forum--that this is an objective definition for 'beauty'.)

My opinion has changed, though.

Just because we find a symmetrical face attractive, or healthy, does not necessarily mean that it is objectively 'beautiful'. (After all, all of us humans might look just as alike to an ape, as all apes--symmetrical or otherwise--might look to us.)

Just because we are 'hardwired' to find certain proportions or symmetry 'attractive', in no way means that 'beauty' is 'objective'...

...it might be, but we'll need better evidence than that, to determine it...

K

dodger
08-21-2003, 01:54 AM
I am sooooo subjective here.... but have any of you seen the Northern Lights?

Or the Milky Way?

They are awe-inspiring... & definitely universal.

Beauty.

?

Don Berendsen
08-21-2003, 06:57 AM
Hi Keith...

I can't give you a simple answer to your question because we differ on a fundamental concept, i.e. that there exists that which is beyond the senses, beyond the comprehension of the mind.

For sake of argument assume there is a Reality beyond that which can be apprehended by differentiation. Differentiation is the universe of distinctions, light/dark, warm/cool, soft/hard, before/after etc. I'll label that Reality beyond differentiation The Divine. Assume also that by the Laws of Form (G. Spencer Brown) the universe we live in comes into existence by making differentiations.

The mapping from The Divine into the 'reality' of the senses and the mind is a projection (in the Mathematical sense) of a universe where differentiation doesn't apply onto one where differentiation is the rule.

In the context above, my definition of Beauty is that it is the most accessible attribute of The Divine. It is reflected in symmetry and proportion, but is not only those things. Simply put, when we experience Beauty we experience most clearly the most accessible aspect of The Divine.

The beauty of the human form rests in its more accurate reflection of The Divine than other forms.

So I don't see Beauty as being in merely the eye of the beholder, it isn't purely subjective, it isn't only culturally defined, it is a recognition of an aspect of The Divine in the universe of the senses and the mind. That which is seen as ugly is the converse.

Nothing to argue here, starting from different premises leads us to different conclusions. Without a referent beyond the universe of differentiation any definition of beauty is difficult.

FWIW,

Don

O'Connor
08-21-2003, 09:30 AM
Perry:

Your spider example is a perfect proof to my point: that beauty or ugliness (and sometimes fearfulness) are defined by your world.
Think: Unless you grew up in some kind of box, you were exposed from the time you could comprehend the world outside your body (and, frankly, before that) to a society that would define a spider as objectionable.
What's a major component of Halloween? "Scary" black spiders on webs, associated with evil witches, Frankenstein monsters, undead vampires and mummies.
How many movies portray the spider as evil, ugly or fearful? From Arachnaphobia to The Giant Spider Invasion to The Horror of Spider Island, spiders attack, bite, net, kill and transmorph humans accompanied by screams and blood (and your family on the couch leaping, shrieking and covering their eyes).
Commercials on TV and products in grocery stores claim to be able to rid your home of the scourge of insects (which, to a child, would include spiders). The people on the TV commercial are in fear or disgusted by the bugs, but the Orkin man comes in with his poison gun and kills the evil foe. People go about hanging flypapers and stomping ants, and running from wasps.

Now, suppose you were born, lived and were raised in a tropical-region tribe in Africa. Among these people, a great snack is roasted tarantula. They catch huge spiders (which I think are tarantulas), then they wrap them in a huge (banana?) leaf and roast them over an open fire. To these people (and you, if you lived there) these spiders are as roasted peanuts or chestnuts are to you and I.
Do you think most of their children are afraid of spiders? Are you afraid of peanuts? Or clams? I believe their children probably squeal with delight when they catch a spider, because they know the grownups will be pleased, someone will have a tasty snack, and hunger is thwarted.

DanaT:

You have made a good observation with the selectivity among apes for fine physical specimens. This, however, has little to do with the subjective definition of beauty and more with instinctual natural selection. It is the instinct of the ape (and a tremendous number of other species) to seek out the best of their breed with which to mate. This is all part of the Darwinian concept of natural selection, and also goes a long way towards proving my point. It is not any feeling of beauty, nor probably attraction beyond reproductive stimuli, that make species seek the top shelf. By chosing the best mate (which has an extremely wide definition) one improves the likelihood of maintaining the species and capitalizing on improvements thereto.
Many mammals, and probably a few other things, most commonly share simple physical battles. As a female (or females) stand(s) by, two males will fight one another. It is against a species instinct, generally, to kill members of the same species, that's why most battles end with a victor, and a loser that walks away. Do you think the females are impressed with this physical prowess in the same way we might be impressed with a toned body builder or a skilled pugilist? The lionesses or mountain goats that are left to mate with the winner are simply driven by their instinct that this guy is strongest, and therefore most likely to produce stronger offspring. Goats don't swoon, although they do faint.
The attainment of physical perfection in any species is instinct, it's Darwinian. Even when it appears that features humans describe as beautiful have prooved successful in garnering a mate, the features are probably approaching physical perfection among the species, or the features are examples of prowess or performance in other naturally advantageous ways, such as building a nest or gathering food. Male birds with the brightest colors and largest crests will win the favor of females, but is it because they think he's cute and hot or because he's the best example of the species at hand?
If it was true "physical" attraction, there would be many preferences. Just as humans often have unique preferences; some like tall, some short; some redheads, some blondes, some bald! If there were many preferences, the short, bald parrot with "lots of charm" would win some of the females because that's their preference. Clearly, this is not the case.
Your point also demonstrates where some of these societal definitions of beauty come from. Especially when it concerns the human body and mating, it's easy to see that what we define as "beautiful" often closely aligns with what other species hold in high regard. What do the "beautiful people" of our society look like? Even with the compounded complexity of the human brain and psyche, the ideals are:

Generally young (mating/ child-rearing ages)
Healthy looking (complexion, clear eyes)
Sturdy (men) Soft (women)
Demonstrates good hygiene
Maintains the norms for appearance (not shabby)
Highest degree of shape and symetry
Welcoming in facial expression (smiles)

I hope no one freaks out over stereotypes, these are basic examples. I know they're ingrained by society and are unjust to those that are not physically perfect. I don't agree with it all, but it is a fact. Look on the magazine covers. You won't find greasy guys with missing teeth, girls that have matted dreadlocks and armpit hair, guys that are out of shape, stooped and weak, or people with real physical deformities.
(Again: these are not MY standards, but those wrought by (or imposed on us by) our society.

Perry
08-21-2003, 09:41 AM
I am going to attempt to play devil's advocate here.

Keith, to use the word beautiful implies that the concept of beauty is a valid one. I believe that it is not. I don't believe it can be proven or defined. People can not even agree on what beauty is. From what I have heard beauty is good and ugly is bad, beauty has much value and ugly has very little, one should strive for beauty but ugly is not a worthwhile goal. Why can't people just accept things as they are. Why must they put a label on things and what purpose does it serve?
People have been brainwashed by thier familys and society into thinking that beauty exists. Things are what they are, nothing more and nothing less. Can someone show me proof of true beauty?

Perry
08-21-2003, 09:56 AM
O'conner

Just because people eat spiders does not necessarily mean that they believe they are beautiful.

PERRY

DanaT
08-21-2003, 09:58 AM
Originally posted by Keith Russell
[B]Just because we are 'hardwired' to find certain proportions or symmetry 'attractive', in no way means that 'beauty' is 'objective'...
[B]

Keith, beauty is generally considered a superlative of attractiveness or are you debating that too? ;)

Keith Russell
08-21-2003, 10:02 AM
Perry, I understand what you are saying, but even you seem to recognize that--right or wrong--people do seem to have a need to employ words like 'beauty' and 'ugliness'. Most people seem eager to label the differences between various types of things, as well as to attempt to identify the connection, when things have certain characteristics in common.

Our evaluation of these differences or similarities may not be objective, or accurate--

--but the differences themselves are often far easier to recogznize, however we consider our opinion of those differences.

(Whether we view spiders as ugly/horrible/awful, or as beautiful/interesting/tasty, I imagine that few people confuse spiders and flowers, or spiders and butterflies, for instance...)

K

O'Connor
08-21-2003, 10:50 AM
I disagree. When we see the browned turkey placed on the table at Thanksgiving, many of us might describe it as beautiful. Granted that this is not the context of beauty we are discussing in this thread.
It is, however an example of the underlying definition of the things we qualify as beautiful: pleasing, attractive, top-of-form, etc.

DanaT:

Is beauty synonymous with attractive?
Are the Northern lights, the Milky Way or a butterfly necessarily "attractive", or are they more "pleasing to behold?"

Tamana
08-21-2003, 10:57 AM
Originally posted by dodger
I am sooooo subjective here.... but have any of you seen the Northern Lights?

Or the Milky Way?

They are awe-inspiring... & definitely universal.

Beauty.

?

Nature ALWAYS does it for me, Judy.

O'Connor
08-21-2003, 11:14 AM
Perry:

I would also disagree that these "labels" are "brainwashing". They are simply the product of the human development of verbal language. They are symbols, and they're generally universal.
A scream is a symbol of fear or pain.
Crying and sobbing are symbols of heartache or injury.
We've assigned attributes to the spoken word, and I think that "everyone can't agree on a definition of beauty" is off the mark outside of this forum.
Note also how the definition of beauty has changed yet still has been followed and understood by society.
Paul Reubens didn't paint "Reubenesque" women simply because it was his preference. That was the definition of "beautiful body" at the time.
In the 18th century, the kings and queens were not blanched and pasty-looking by chance. It was the style of the time, and considered beauty.
I think you CAN prove the universality of the concept of beauty. Show 100 people a beautiful thing and they will likely describe it as beautiful.

Perry
08-21-2003, 12:30 PM
(I am still playing devil's advocate here. This is more difficult than I expected)

Well here goes,
Keith,
You said: Our evaluation of these differences or similarities may not be objective, or accurate--

Is it even possible to be totally objective or accurate? And if it is possible, what do we use as a model?

O'Conner: For there to be universal concept of beauty there must also be a universal concept for ugliness. For beauty to exist ugliness must also exist. Is there a universal concept for ugliness also?
I still say it's brainwashing.

I still find Reuben's women beautiful.

Perry

Perry
08-21-2003, 12:32 PM
oops
Ignore my last sentence

Keith Russell
08-21-2003, 02:48 PM
Perry, be definition, no.

To have a totally objective opinion, requires that the opinion arise from perceptions that are not one's own personal, subjective perceptions.

By definition, that is not possible.

K

DanaT
08-21-2003, 03:23 PM
Originally posted by O'Connor

DanaT:

Is beauty synonymous with attractive?


Not synonymous but related in the same way that better and best are related.

Beaty is synonymous with most attractive, however.

Perry
08-21-2003, 03:30 PM
Keith said: To have a totally objective opinion, requires that the opinion arise from perceptions that are not one's own personal, subjective perceptions

So are we just talking about opinions here?

You said: Our evaluation of these differences or similarities may not be objective, or accurate--

Accurate as in reference to what?

Perry

Perry
08-21-2003, 04:14 PM
Dana,

I guess it could be synonymous. But.

"Gee that sunset is most attractive" doesn't sound right.


Perry

Keith Russell
08-21-2003, 04:35 PM
Perry, this really depends on what one means by 'objective'. Most seem to think that 'objective' means 'indepedent of a particular, individual (subjective) point of view'.

If that's what 'objective' means, then an objective opinion isn't possible.

(And yes, I think we most assuredly are talking about opinions.)

Of course, if 'objective' means something else, then an objective opinion certainly might be possible, after all...

K

O'Connor
08-22-2003, 08:59 AM
I'm not sure I can give an objective answer on the definition of objective.

Perry
08-22-2003, 09:44 AM
(I'm still the devil's advocate)

Objectivity is also based on facts.
I still don't know what you meant by accurate Keith.

From what I can see the concept of beauty is based on subjective opinions arrived at by personal evaluations justified by
something biologically inherent that has the ability to assign value.

This to me is not a valid concept. There are no facts, the evidence is that since a person can see beauty then it must exist.
It can not be defined, explained or proved.

Red is different than blue.

Is red better than blue?

Is red of more value than blue?

Is red more appealing than blue?

Is red more beautiful than blue?

Or are red and blue just colors, nothing more nothing less?

Perry

mswaine
08-22-2003, 10:01 AM
I hate to rain on the objectivity parade here but I've had the temerity to consult Webster's online for their "objective" definition of "objective". It is as follows: a "condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers : having reality independent of the mind <objective reality>"

Since beauty is a construct of the mind and not experienced independent of thought nor agreed on by all observers then it cannot be objective.

So, I submit once more to define something as beautiful we need the informed opinions of a number of individuals, be it society, to determine what is beauty.

O'Connor
08-22-2003, 11:33 AM
Quoting Perry:
From what I can see the concept of beauty is based on subjective opinions arrived at by personal
evaluations justified by
something biologically inherent that has the ability to assign value.This to me is not a valid concept.

You apply this concept constantly.
Can't you look at a hot dog and know it's good?
You don't have to go sniff and examine it like a dog, you recognize it from training.
You see campfire, you know it's good.
You see house fire you know it's bad.
Ever notice how people (especially parents) instinctively smile and speak in falsetto in the presence of babies? The smile comes from an ability to recognize babies as beautiful.

mswaine
08-22-2003, 12:00 PM
Well now O'Connor, you've just stepped over the line a tinsy bit. To my way of thinking (and this is what makes the definition of beauty so dicy), a baby - and all they represent may be conceptually beautiful, but certainly not physically beautiful. Until they stop shi*ting green they are not beautiful and some are downright ugly even after that.

O'Connor
08-22-2003, 04:06 PM
Perhaps babies are not the best example.

Still it shows an autoresponse.

What I can't figure is why some kids laugh at clowns and others scream and run!

Cinderella
08-23-2003, 01:48 AM
I agree with Tina. I also think that beauty is relevant to the beholder and who knows what has made up a person to be as they are. Culture, beliefs, identity, experience, etc. So, beauty is undefineable. It is relevant only to the eyes which see it and every individual has a uniqueness unmatched. So, one cannot define beauty at all. Ever. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"

Perry
08-25-2003, 09:59 AM
mswaine said:
So, I submit once more to define something as beautiful we need the informed opinions of a number of individuals, be it society, to determine what is beauty.

(Speaking for myself here and not as devil's advocate)
So you are telling me that I am not capable of defining something beautiful without the input of society or a number of individuals.
Our brains process and store information for future use. The older we become the more information is stored. Young children have little information stored that can be recalled and used for evaluation. Are you telling me that a one year old that has never been told what beauty is does not have ability to see beauty?
I believe a one year old that does not understand what love is still has the ability to love his mother. The biological mind independent of any outside information does not have the ability to
assign value or to love. But our spirit does. These are my beliefs.

Perry

mswaine
08-25-2003, 11:18 AM
I understand now, how it feels for reporters to misquote ones words and meaning. Perry, I know communication is a fragile thing, with meaning even more delicate, but you've taken my point and completely misconstrued the subject and injected meaning that was not their to the point that I must rectify this characterization of my words.

If you read carefully, you will notice the discussion was on an - "objective" definition of beauty. Your retort refers to a personal awareness or non-objective feeling of beauty. Two very difference thing.

Now it is my contention that because beauty does not have a reality completely independent of the mind, i.e. each of us has a personal definition that resides in our mind and is constructed by our personal experience. Because this is so, a personal defintion of beauty is not objective. Let me be a bit more precise, our individual definitions of beauty are not completely aligned with one another and is highly dependent on personal experience. In order to arrive at a global definition of beauty we must consult with others. You are certainly capable of defining something beautiful and even declare it to others, but that declaration can only be personal. It is the accumulation of all our definitions that we as a society define beauty.

A one year old that has never been told what beauty is does indeed have ability to see beauty but only for themselves and to the degree that their observation aligns with others we perceive that ability as more acute.

Your last sentence seals the deal, and I quote "These are my beliefs." Yes, and your are completely entitled to them. To paraphrase Voltaire, "I would defend to my death your right to these beliefs" - but they are not objective, and that was precisely my point.

I can't help that your might have an aversion to consulting society to see that your definition of beauty aligns with the rest of the group, but if you are to be perceived as having education and taste this is the path.

Perry
08-25-2003, 12:12 PM
mswaine,
I apologize . It was not my intention to misconstrue the subject or inject meaning that was not there. My train of thought was on the last sentence and not the whole post. I may have not expressed my view properly. I believe their is something within us that is able to perceive beauty without having someone else telling us that it is beautiful. I do believe that we have to consult with society to see if our definition is accurate (I don't know if that is the correct word).
I am just wondering if a native of the amazon jungle who came to visit a society such as ours would be able to go to an art museum and see beauty as our society would define it. What are your thoughts? I think he might be able to.

Perry

mswaine
08-25-2003, 01:29 PM
An Amazonian native would have many reactions when visiting most any Western Society, the least of which would be an paintings in an art museum, but I believe their first reaction would be the strangeness of it all. If he could filter beauty out of the merely unfamiliar is a very good question. Certainly a sunset would evoke a common reaction. I believe he could ascertain beauty, but only at a base level. Could he distill beauty from a Pollock, Picasso, or Mondrian? I think not, as there are minions in our society who can't find beauty in much of modern art. Our amazonian art critic would tend toward to the traditional I would think, but that could be a bias on my part. It may be that he would see and understand thing we don't.

One of my favorite things to do, once a year, is go to our State Fair, not for the animal husbandry or mid-way rides but for the art. Typically the fair is an opportunity for elementary school art teachers to exhibit the fruits of their classes production. More often than not the art is - shall I say "crap" - but then there is maybe 1 or 2% that is inspired, great, beautiful, mature beyond their years and in many ways very sophisticated. Are they would be great artist in the making or just lucky? Who knows, but it is an inspiration to me whenever I see such a piece of art. Our Amazonian friend may come from this more innocent art experience and surprise us.

Perry
08-25-2003, 01:58 PM
I enjoy seeing children's artwork. They are able to express their view of the world in the simplest way possible. We struggle to comprehend their work and they look at us like we're some kind of idiot who can't see the obvious.

Perry

O'Connor
09-01-2003, 10:59 PM
No, a one-year-old cannot see "beauty".
Could the child see "value"? No. Value is a semantic, ethereal quality that is assigned at a depth of complexity in human reasoning that compels us to weigh all known information regarding this situation in our memory banks.
The depth and emotional attachment to words such as beauty and sorrow, despair and relief, ecstacy and tragedy go deep into our vast training experience in understanding the nuances employed in human language that allow us to communicate emotions, not just facts.

mswaine:

I take back the point given regarding babies.
Explanation: See above.

No. I doubt a native Amazonian that hadn't been raised in modern culture and society would see much value in an art musem.
Nudes, he would like if male. Preferably the ones that had whatever his native people considered beautiful; big nose maybe? Big t..tantalizing lips? Jumbo caboose? Rings 'round her neck?
But he wouldn't be interested in squares of color, especially those that resemble little of the real world. Even landscapes, particularly if the terrain was foreign to him, would likely be little more than brightly colored bits of fabric to him.
What good could they do him?
Sculptures, he or she might see as religious icons, if their native religion had such things. Otherwise, our visitor would probably be repelled or appalled at the "hard people", especially that woman with no arms.
If you go back in this thread aways, youll see an earlier posting by me relating to a native's taste in snacks that further illustrates this point.

If you need more, stay after class.

Perry
09-02-2003, 08:51 AM
O'Conner said: But he wouldn't be interested in squares of color, especially those that resemble little of the real world. Even landscapes, particularly if the terrain was foreign to him, would likely be little more than brightly colored bits of fabric to him.
What good could they do him?

Years ago Native Americans traded things that they considered of great value for cheap jewelry and trinkets. These things did not resemble anything of their real world and had no real practical value. They were totally unfamiliar to them but evidently
they saw great value and beauty in them.

As far as the one year old goes you may be correct. I don't have any proof other than my own observations. I don't think seeing beauty results totally from reasoning though. I don't think a child must understand what beauty is to be to be able to see it.

O'Connor
09-02-2003, 09:26 AM
Of course natives traded for jewelry. Was body adornment foreign to their culture?

You didn't see anyone trading the Mona Lisa or paintings by the masters for Manhatten Island.

Kids:
Someday, God willing, you may have your own. A child as old as four can still not comprehend the subtle differences in words with emotional baggage. He may know "bad" and "wrong", but can't comprehend "merciless" or "tragedy". The child can know "good" and "pretty", but could hardly be expected to understand the concept of "divine" or "revelation".
Half of the problem we have with teaching & training kids is our tendency to forget they don't understand many of the words we have come to include in our daily diction.

Of course, I still use all these words with my dogs. (They are, in fact tri-lingual. They know commands in English and Spanish, and speak fluent dog.)

Perry
09-02-2003, 10:38 AM
O'Conner said: But he wouldn't be interested in squares of color, especially those that resemble little of the real world.

How can you be so sure? You said " What good would they do him?" Maybe he could use them for body adornment.

My point is that the Native Americans must have seen beauty in those trinkets if they wanted to adorn their body with them. The white men didn't have to tell them that they were beautiful.

You must be assuming that I don't have any children because my views don't agree with yours and my observations must be wrong because they don't they don't agree with yours. I have three children and one grandson. I wasn't talking about "tragedy" or "divine" or "revelation". I'm talking about the ability to see beauty without someone else defining beauty for us.

Keith Russell
09-02-2003, 11:16 AM
There may be a universal standard for certain types of beauty, but it is human standard, not a standard intrinsic to the object.

And, there are, of course, subjective standards for beauty, as well.

I think 'beauty' is far too complex a concept to be reduced to something that is solely 'intrinsic' or 'subjective'.

It's both...

K

Perry
09-02-2003, 11:21 AM
Keith said: I think 'beauty' is far too complex a concept to be reduced to something that is solely 'intrinsic' or 'subjective'.

It's both...


I agree

Tamana
09-02-2003, 04:20 PM
There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion. Sir Francis Bacon

O'Connor
09-02-2003, 05:05 PM
I apologize for making the presumption that you had no children.

You stated that you were "not talking about 'tragedy', 'devine' or 'revelation', but 'beauty'."

Can you not see the analogous relationship?
These are words that clearly require background training in the emotional contexts of their meaning.

The natives saw no more "beauty" in costume jewels than you see in a handful of change, I'll bet. I guess if you see silver coins or gold bars as "beautiful", then if one of the natives thought like you, that would be the case.
Otherwise, I suggest that they looked very similar to the beads and wampum that these natives were already using as a form of currency.

I believe you are describing things like "entrancing" or "eye-catching" when you refer to children and natives. "Beauty" is a word that is supposed to be somewhat difinitive (if not superlative) as a certain high level of attractiveness as recognized by our societal norms.

I do not assume you have no children, nor disagree with what you are saying, because your views differ from mine.
I am trying to argue my side because I disagree with what you are saying (the essence of debate).

I make no judgements about you, and hope I have not done so or implied as much.

I only judge your argument.

Perry
09-03-2003, 07:56 AM
(O'Conner, apology accepted)

O'Conner said: These are words that clearly require background training in the emotional contexts of their meaning.

Children can experience jealousy, anxiety, embarrassment, pride and loneliness. They may not understand what these words mean but they do experience these things.
I also believe that a child can perceive beauty even though he may not understand what the word beauty means. I think that a child can differentiate between something that is "eye catching" and something that is beautiful. He may not be able to explain the difference to you but I believe he sees it.

mswaine
09-03-2003, 08:36 AM
Originally posted by Perry
(O'Conner, apology accepted)
I think that a child can differentiate between something that is "eye catching" and something that is beautiful. He may not be able to explain the difference to you but I believe he sees it.

If they can explain, how do you know, besides just wishful guessing or hope?

Perry
09-03-2003, 08:48 AM
mswaine,

Could you please rephrase that? I want to make sure I understand what you are asking me.

mswaine
09-03-2003, 09:37 AM
You posed that a child could differentiate between something that is "eye catching" and something that is beautiful, while not being able to explain the difference to you.

How does one go about finding out that a child can distinguish between the two with no means of interrogation without interjecting your own bias? The differentiations is subtle even for an adult. As we have seen in this thread the definition of beauty is elusive. Buy what means would you know definitively that a child indeed knows or even suspects the difference?

Keith Russell
09-03-2003, 11:14 AM
mswaine, well said--

--and I agree.

K

Perry
09-03-2003, 11:31 AM
mswaine,
Do you believe a child is capable of determining in his mind, without any outside influence, that one thing is more appealing or more attractive than something else.

mswaine
09-03-2003, 12:00 PM
Perry,
Well of course a child is capable of determining that one thing is more appealing or more attractive than something else. But I suspect that has to do more with bright colors, noise and appealing shapes than beauty.

I'm not a toy designer but I believe there is a whole science devoted to ways to make those little critters salivate, but again the designs they come up with are not all that appealing to adults from a beauty standpoint. Function, yes - beauty, no.

As one ages and learns from their environment, interaction of other and possibly genetics, their taste becomes more sophisticated. Children transition through various stages, discarding toys they have outgrown. Are they no longer beautiful? They never had beauty, so no. Beauty does not go out of fashion, it is quintessential to a society.

Perry
09-03-2003, 12:56 PM
mswaine,
You said that certain things like toys that appealed to children never had beauty. I understand what you are saying but couldn't it have been beautiful to the child at that time. I agree that it is not as sophisticated as what an adult might define beauty but couldn't it be beautiful in the child's eye?

mswaine
09-03-2003, 01:45 PM
Within the narrow scope of your argument, I can concede to your point. But this cannot be expanded to the larger discussion and does not add to our understanding of beauty, so it becomes a side issue.

O'Connor
09-04-2003, 09:14 PM
We are talking about language here, when it concerns children.
It is language, words, labels.

If we talked about children we would have to talk not about "eye-catching", but "pretty", a word that would be used correctly by a child of 4.

How can we determine if a child understands the word (label) "pretty" and the word "beautiful", and the connotations that go with them?

The child's correct use of these words in appropriate context in valid conversation is proof (or disproof) of the child's comprehension of the word's meaning.

Most 4-year-olds say pretty.
Rarely would a 4-year-old use the word "beautiful", showing that, not only is there a difference between the roots and meaning of the words, but also that a child has not yet assimilated "beautiful" and its superfluous connotation.

SparrowHawk
09-05-2003, 02:24 PM
It is a matter of record, if a mere datapoint of one, that the first word I ever said was "pretty," at the age of one. Of course, I pronounced it "preee," but apparently it was understandable and contextually appropriate. It was years before I learned to say "booful," too. So there's some concept at work in the childish psyche, there. Make of it what you will, in accordance with your established philosophical positions.

Keith Russell
09-06-2003, 10:30 AM
There is a great difference between being able to speak a word, and actually understanding what the word means...

K

sgtaylor
09-06-2003, 11:12 AM
Understanding subtle shades of meaning is all but certainly beyond the mental abilities of a child just learning to speak.

But the same might be said of the adult learning a second language. Hmmm.... contradiction.... The adult is mentally capable of understanding the subtleties... he just hasn't learned them yet.

Don't know.

But "pretty" is indeed not as complex a concept as "beautiful." Perhaps the child really does understand "pretty." Come to think of it... most adults that I know don't use that word much. Is that because the concept is too simplistic?

Why do I post before I've had my coffee?

I know! I'm doing my morning pages here! :angel:

arourapope
09-07-2003, 01:52 AM
pretty is easier to say.

SparrowHawk
09-07-2003, 04:20 AM
Originally posted by Keith Russell
There is a great difference between being able to speak a word, and actually understanding what the word means...
That's for sure, as is obvious to anyone who's heard their child identify a cat as "doggie," because that's the child's word for any mammalian quadruped. But there's obviously some kind of concept at work there and it doesn't take long before "cat" is sorted out from "dog" and "rabbit" and lions and tigers and bears. There's also the ability to have the concept before one has the words, as evidenced by "mammalian quadruped," which will be some years later in coming.

Another thing that I find interesting, is that it's been established that a child's earliest words are those that carry emotional significance for the child. That a concrete thinker like a toddler has any context at all for an abstract concept like "pretty" alongside the doggies and teddies and mommies and cookies seems meaningful. Of course, they've a pretty firm grasp of the abstract concept of "mine!" too. Like their elders, kids are complicated critters.

O'Connor
09-08-2003, 09:04 AM
My point is that you cannot sit a 4-year-old down and explain rationally about the difference between "pretty", being routine in its attractiveness, and "beautiful" with its more superlative connotation.
The concept of "mine" for a toddler is not quite as foreign as the conceptual superlatives, as a child does not likely conceive that there is any world outside of themselves until the ages of nine months to a year and a half.
This is drifting off-topic a bit for this thread, so I'll drop the child's learning/comprehension example.
As far as learning a foreign language, anyone over the age of ten would be able to understand the definitions of foreign language words including the difference between "pretty" and "beautiful".

Perry
09-08-2003, 12:27 PM
O'Conner said: "My point is that you cannot sit a 4-year-old down and explain rationally about the difference between "pretty", being routine in its attractiveness, and "beautiful" with its more superlative connotation."

Could you explain to me, without being vague, the difference between a woman that is pretty and woman that is beautiful?

SparrowHawk
09-09-2003, 12:30 AM
Originally posted by O'Connor
My point is that you cannot sit a 4-year-old down and explain rationally about the difference between "pretty", being routine in its attractiveness, and "beautiful" with its more superlative connotation.
I'm not so sure about that. But supposing it to be true, it might be because the difference is not rationally apprehended, not necessarily because a child lacks the societal training and reinforcement you posit the experience requires.

My point is that people, of whatever age, are capable of experiencing a concept without necessarily having the vocabulary to articulate it. Though as we probably don't have the ability to ascertain whether a child's inarticulateness is due to mere lack of vocabulary or lack of experience, the debate does become moot at this point.

Keith Russell
09-10-2003, 12:55 PM
While there are subjective components to any assessment of visual appeal, I do believe that 'pretty' is a more objective concept than 'beautiful'...

K

O'Connor
09-15-2003, 12:03 PM
Barbara Walters is pretty.

Audrey Meadows (in The Honeymooners) is beautiful.

Perry
09-15-2003, 12:23 PM
O'Conner,
I agree that Audrey Meadows is beautiful but Barbara Walters is almost pretty. :)
How about Audrey Hepburn as beautiful and Barbara Billingsly (Leave it to Beaver) as pretty? :D

O'Connor
09-15-2003, 03:39 PM
Would it be tangential to mention the word "gorgeous"?

Keith Russell
09-15-2003, 04:19 PM
...stunning...

K

Perry
09-16-2003, 07:46 AM
I believe beauty can be subtle and have a mysterious quality about it whereas gorgeous dosen't hide anything and says "here I am! look at me!".
Examples:

Gorgeous - Marilyn Monroe

Beautiful - Grace Kelly

(of course these are only my opinions)

Gar
09-16-2003, 01:54 PM
"Beauty" is the subtle decay of creation. "Beauty" is perpetual motion.

Tamana
09-16-2003, 02:00 PM
"Beauty" is the subtle decay of creation."

Or, the subtle development of it. :)

Gar
09-16-2003, 02:01 PM
Tamana, aren't they really one in the same?

Perry
09-16-2003, 03:06 PM
Change is good.

Beauty is change.

Beauty is good.

:)

raindreemer
09-19-2003, 11:37 AM
I'm going to jump in here. I've been getting aquainted with the whole forum process. So forgive me if I'm out of bounds anywhere.

After reading much of this topic, I was caught with your discussion of children, language, and the ability to understand beauty as opposed to more simplistic pretty.

I have a daughter who is disabled, mentally retarded and non-speaking. She HAS no language.

She is simplistic, very much so. But she knows beauty and ugliness and all the other responses, a person can watch the responses she has to various things.

When she is laying on the ground watching the clouds, she sees, and more importantly, FEELS beauty. But HAS no words for it but you can see it in her face, in her body. She sees more in that sky that most adults I know.

Sometimes I think adults get a bit too arrogant and caught up with concepts and ideas and words. The beauty in the world around us, whether natural or something man made or inanimate or living, gets lost behind our thinking process, our need to define and analyze and put into words.

Some of the most beautiful things can also be some of the most simple. And sometimes what makes it beautiful is way beyond our ability to define it. It just IS.

AJ

Smileawhyl
09-19-2003, 06:54 PM
Could it be like a famous Judge once described pornography?
"I can't tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it." Seem that could apply to the concept of beauty as well in that it is more visceral than conceptual.

Keith Russell
09-23-2003, 11:20 AM
Gar, if 'beauty' is 'perpetual motion', then I believe a strong case could be made that beauty does not exist.

All things (including the motions of all things) are finite...

K

dodger
09-23-2003, 01:15 PM
Ah, & once again, I'm back here, trying to describe what "it" is. Great art has it. It's beyond words. It's more into the emotional range of expression & understanding, yet it has the possibilities of being universal, or almost so.

Beauty is not superficial, although it can be easily seen.

It has something to do with the profound. Pachabel's canon does it for me with music. I can look out & see sparrows at the feeder, but with the canon playing, it all takes on so much more meaning. (Yes, I realize that Pachabel's canon is hugely popular, but it still moves me. ;))

True beauty makes me weep.

Keith Russell
09-23-2003, 05:15 PM
And yet, smileawhyle, I've seen imagery that struck me as being heartrendingly beautiful--

--yet which some might very well (perhaps even accurately) describe as 'pornographic'.

K

Smileawhyl
09-23-2003, 06:06 PM
Precisely, Keith. Which means that beauty is contextual, not conceptual. Don't you think it is a dangerous notion to presume that there could be one definitive statement which quantifies "beauty" except to say that beauty is a positive (or pleasurable) visceral response to an overt sensory stimulus?

In a community of free thinkers such as this, the "butt icon" is accepted as the contextual signpost to anyone who might be offended by nudity, no matter how relevant or 'beautiful' any percentage of participants in this forum might think it to be. I'm relatively new to WetCanvas but I don't believe I've seen any sort of icon for 'violence' though there is every opportunity to notify a moderator of anything one might find offensive. Personally, I run to the butt icon . . . it lets me know what I want to check out first, but I've always been a rebel. :cat:

Keith Russell
09-25-2003, 12:44 PM
I'm not sure I agree. I think that, even if beauty has a contextual component, I still believe that beauty is a concept, an intellectual evaluation of sensory data, rather than intrinsic to the object being observed, or the idea being contemplated.

K

Tamana
09-25-2003, 01:49 PM
Originally posted by Gar
Tamana, aren't they really one in the same?

Ahhhh Veddy veddy vise von.

Eugene Veszely
09-28-2003, 05:55 AM
Originally posted by Keith Russell
SanDL said:
"If it's beautiful it resonates, flows, works smoothly, keeps me gazing, fills me with energy, with desire, with awe, has it's own light light, is without fear, but not without trembling, stops my breath and makes me inhale deeply."

OK, that's what it does, but what is it?

You listed several works/things that you feel are beautiful.

I'm assuming that you would agree that you recognize in them some essential characteristic that they have in common.

What is it?

Any guesses?

K

Not having read this whole thread as I am still new here.....

Beauty is/means different things to different people but I would say that it is made up of what is "positiveness(as in, not negative and degrading)

Smileawhyl
10-02-2003, 08:46 PM
We are close to agreement here as it pertains to the "intellectual evaluation of sensory data". But without a context: a glass of water to a man dying of thirst, the crinkled withering lips of an old woman bending to kiss her adoring grandchild, the bell on the handlebars of a shiny new bike . . . there is no basis upon which to describe beauty except the actual physical/emotional response one has experienced within the context of a person/place or thing.

I like dodger's example of Pachabel. I used this instead of the traditional "Wedding March" for my wedding because I felt the same response as described by dodger, just from hearing it and thinking about hearing it. No matter what it might mean to others, their experience of it has no effect upon my 'intellectual evaluation' of the visceral response it evokes from me. But if I was in a "Fear Factor" competition and staring into a plate of writhing leeches I was being asked to eat, I might not have the same reaction to Pachabel at that time, although it could mitigate the discomfort.

It has been a nice thread to think about. Everyday we are being asked (or should be asked) to put aside our unpleasant gut reactions to things on the basis of their appearance, heritage, social significance, etc. in order to be more sensitive and open to the differences in things which are, in and of themselves "beautiful" to someone somewhere, to promote a broader global harmony and understanding. So would the concept of global harmony be beautiful?

. . . Only if you felt good about it.

best regard, Patty

erik_satie_rolls
10-03-2003, 01:42 PM
Arent words amazing? We take a word, like 'beauty' with its dictionary definition, and throughout our lives attach meaning and connotation to it until it becomes a concept that is so personal to us we want to defend it. I think this personal meaning is what Keith was asking for when he opened this thread.

Conversely, we use 'beauty' in public speech as well. It can either be meant to convey our personal concept, which means our inner values or feelings, or we can try to use it as an objective standard.

I think we should be aware of the two uses of this and other words (like 'love' and 'good') so that we can avoid useless argument. Where personal feeling are primary, there is no point in argument, but when we are trying to communicate perhaps a social standard, or want to make a logical or legal point, agreement on a definition is important.

Casual conversation, of course, fluctuates between the two extremes. Watch for people who consciously force you to use a dictionary definition when you are really speaking of your 'personal' definition. On the other hand, you may be trying to define a standard (for example for a dog show judging) which has to be agreed upon for the event to take place.

Isn't life beautiful?

What a beautiful passage in that painting by deKooning.

You have a beautiful baby.

She won a beauty pageant.

That fish is a beauty.

Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes all the way to the bone.

:clap:

Smileawhyl
10-05-2003, 11:21 AM
Originally posted by erik_satie_rolls
Where personal feeling are primary, there is no point in argument, but when we are trying to communicate perhaps a social standard, or want to make a logical or legal point, agreement on a definition is important.

True and wise :) An aside about those "legal" definitions. When Bill Clinton said he 'did not have sexual relations with that woman', he was, by legal definition, telling the truth, at least by the written laws of MD at the time. Which has some implications about trying to define the concept of infidelity and the memorialization of concepts in general.

Patty

Keith Russell
10-07-2003, 07:46 PM
Patty, I think it said far more about the disparity between the world inhabited by the average politician, vs. the 'real' world in which the average voter lives...

K

Smileawhyl
10-07-2003, 10:26 PM
Originally posted by Keith Russell
Patty, I think it said far more about the disparity between the world inhabited by the average politician, vs. the 'real' world in which the average voter lives...

K

Keith, when the average voter wants a divorce in the real world, the legal definition of adultery must be met to get a divorce on those grounds. Those definitions are made by politicians elected by the people who want the divorces. There is no more a disparity between the two than would there be if there was a beauty pageant whereby the contestants would be competing based upon a set of standards set by the pageant judges . . . defining 'beauty'. Each group consists of one party who wants something based upon the standards they have agreed to let someone else set. It is symbiotic, and an unfortunate necessity as that relates to living together within the same boundaries.

This could also be because I am still at work waiting for some printouts, it's late and I work in . . . well, the rest should be apparent, though not beautiful.

Evening,

Patty

Keith Russell
10-12-2003, 10:45 PM
Originally posted by Smileawhyl


Keith, when the average voter wants a divorce in the real world, the legal definition of adultery must be met to get a divorce on those grounds. Those definitions are made by politicians elected by the people who want the divorces.

Not necessarily. After the last Presidential election, politicians don't even have to be elected by a majority, anymore. But, there was never any reason to assume that the laws--or specific politicans--that govern one section of the population (in this case, those petitioning for divorce) were chosen by that same group.

There is no more a disparity between the two than would there be if there was a beauty pageant whereby the contestants would be competing based upon a set of standards set by the pageant judges . . . defining 'beauty'. Each group consists of one party who wants something based upon the standards they have agreed to let someone else set. It is symbiotic, and an unfortunate necessity as that relates to living together within the same boundaries.

I disagree. The standards in the US were supposed to be those which were chosen by the founders of this country. Unfortunately, we were promised a Republic, and have been sold-instead--a 'democracy'. Increasingly, 'democracy' (especially in this, the age of opinion polls) has come to mean exactly that--the majority rules--and to hell with principles and standards, and the rights of the minority.

K

Smileawhyl
10-13-2003, 10:25 PM
Originally posted by Keith Russell

Not necessarily. After the last Presidential election, politicians don't even have to be elected by a majority, anymore. But, there was never any reason to assume that the laws--or specific politicans--that govern one section of the population (in this case, those petitioning for divorce) were chosen by that same group.
Bill of Rights: Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

I originally said that under MD (Maryland) state law, Clinton was telling the truth. The citizens, by the majority and according to District, elect state representatives (delegates) and senators from their jurisdictions. Divorce standards are set by the state legislature, not the federal government. The Federal government is called in only when State law is perceived to subvert constitutional law.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.amendmentxii.html Amendment 12, the President is elected by the electorate, not by direct vote of the people.

In every Presidential election, the presidential candidate only needs the majority of electoral votes. That is all you ever vote for in a presidential election . . . electoral votes. In fact, I believe Clinton didn't have a majority either, the first time around. Remember Ross Perot?

Originally posted by Keith Russell


I disagree. The standards in the US were supposed to be those which were chosen by the founders of this country. Unfortunately, we were promised a Republic, and have been sold-instead--a 'democracy'. Increasingly, 'democracy' (especially in this, the age of opinion polls) has come to mean exactly that--the majority rules--and to hell with principles and standards, and the rights of the minority.

K


The standards of a beauty pageant are chosen by the founders of the beauty pageant. The local judges choose the winner according to those standards. But sometimes it is not the contestant meeting the most number of standards with the highest ranking in each who wins . . . it's the one who sleeps with the judges.

And as far as the government goes, sure, it stinks. It stinks that in order to pursue a case which may blatantly be unconstituional (a violation to every US citizen's rights under the Constitution) to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, it takes money. In fact, at most levels of goverment, even State, the one with the biggest pile of money prevails. This is where jury nullification comes into play. If nothing else, a jury can refuse to obey a judge's direct mandate and nullify any verdict it perceives it is being unjustly driven to make.

The more people involved, the more redtape created. But when you boil the power down to one or two or a regime . . . what do you get?

If you truly believe constitutional rights and our standing as a republic have been compromised, then fulfill your obligation as a juror or cut a decent check to the ACLU or participate in the political process.

That's how the republican party did it, participation in the political process. They took in every hate mongering right-wing fringe group, patted them on the back and then turned their back when abortion clinics were bombed and doctors killed. They embraced the "Jesus loves you, but God says I get to tell you how to live" smirky religious know-it-alls and gave them the slice of the pie that says all good christians live this way, everyone else go to jail, while the REAL constitutional puppetmasters orchestrate $25,000 tax credits to anyone who can afford to buy an SUV weighing over 6,000 pounds. How many of those do you see on the road? Do you know who owns them? Lawyers, doctors, almost everyone with an income higher than $200,000 a year. They aren't the same people actually bombing the abortion clinics, bashing gays or stockpiling weapons . . . they just vote like them. They are not the President, or Senate or Supreme Court. They control the President, Senate and Supreme Court. They inspire the fear it takes to make people hold onto their guns and suspect those different from themselves, they promote war under the banner of justice but in the name of themselves.

Nobody says they are evil, they are just dominant right now. But if you don't pick another side and start pushing back, then you are right. They and their majority rule, and the republic flies out the window.

And now, to get back on topic . . . my idea of beautiful is a clean, softly lit home on Friday night, with my happy dog waiting for me at the door and great music on the stereo. It evokes in me a positive visceral response upon contemplation and realization.

:)

dodger
10-14-2003, 01:03 AM
Good rant, Patty.

Feel better? ;)

Smileawhyl
10-14-2003, 01:10 AM
I just found out last night that the republicans slipped in their little $25,000 tax exemption for those nice SUV's under the banner of 'everybody gets a tax rebate'. And Keith gets 5 sardonic 'one liners' for every 'one' of my rants:)

JohnEmmett
11-07-2003, 03:56 AM
I have a theory.

It may sound bad but I think the soul of an individual creates their exterior appearance. At least one aspect of their soul. Perhaps all of it but I will stop there.

Just to make sure you know my full take on this, let's say you look in the mirror and say your soul is prettier than you think you are.

Well... I'm not saying a perfect 10 has a perfect 10 soul. This is hard to explain but to sum it up... I'd say perfection is subjective.

Edit:
Oh and... when I say perfection it isn't literal. Perfection is both everywhere and nowhere. Like God if you will.

Keith Russell
11-14-2003, 12:20 AM
jemmett, have you ever heard this:

He would see faces in moves, on TV, in magazines and in books...He thought that some of these faces might be right for him...And through the years, by keeping an ideal facial structure fixed in his mind, or somewhere in the back of his mind...That he might, through force of will, cause his face to approach those of his ideal.
The change would be very subtle...it might take ten years or so...Gradually his face would change its shape...a more hooked nose...wider, thinner lips...beady eyes...a larger forehead.

He imagined that this was an ability he shared with most other people...They had also molded their faces according to some ideal...Maybe they imagined that their new face better suited their personality...Or maybe they imagined that their personality would be forced to change, to fit the new appearance...This is why first impressions are often correct...

Although some people might have made mistakes...they might have arrived at an appearance that bears no relationship to them...They may have picked an ideal appearance based on some childish whim, or momentary impulse...Some may have gotten half-way their, and changed their minds...

He wonders if he, too, might have made a similar mistake.

--David Byrne, "Seen and Unseen", from the Talking Heads album Remain in Light.

K