Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Explanations for Beauty

For the most part we don’t even try to define beauty but simply explain it away as something altogether subjective. When people express differing aesthetic preferences, the usual response is that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I like the mountains; you prefer the seashore. I enjoy classical music; you’re into country. Because of such broadly differing preferences, most of us feel that standards for beauty are not objective but determined solely by personal taste. Even believers tend to think that beauty is a matter of individual preference.

However, our variations in preferences are minor compared to the vast sea of common agreement we share about what is beautiful and what is not. For example, almost everyone considers swans and butterflies beautiful but bats and spiders ugly. Most of us see beauty in an Alpine vista of snow-capped mountains, but few see it in an ash-coated landscape devastated by a volcanic eruption. While men differ over whether they favor blondes, brunettes, or redheads, all agree that some women are beautiful regardless of their hair color. While the eyes of individual beholders may have preferences, these preferences are only variations within great, common themes of beauty that virtually all people recognize.

1 comment:

clintavo said...

You are correct here. Taking the argument further, beauty can't possibly be in the "eye of the beholder." That would be faulty logic. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then painting a square in the middle of a blank canvas would be just as "beautiful" as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel....and I don't think anyone would try to argue that.