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Is it true that all people are beautiful? Or is that just a white lie we tell to

Is it true that all people are beautiful? Or is that just a white lie we tell to make non-beautiful people feel better?

My colleagues raise a number of points, some rather puzzling, which deserve more that there is space for here. But some quick reflections:

1. Love of the good, to take Charles's example, may be a fine and noble thing. But something surely can be fine and noble without being beautiful. In fact, by my reckoning, both Charles and Richard seem to be prepared to stretch "beauty" and "beautiful" in ways I don't find at all natural or helpful (I'm wickedly reminded of the old hippie all-purpose "beautiful, man!" when Richard talks of Ghandi). They both seem to think being "worthy of our deep aesthetic delight" is ipso facto sufficient for being beautiful.

Well, in so far as I understand the phrase, I would have thought that the Grosse Fuge, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Titian's The Flaying of Marsyas, and King Lear are, if anything is, worthy of our deepest aesthetic delight. But it would seem a quite inept response to describe any of those as beautiful. The list could be greatly extended. Much that is worthy of great aesthetic delight is not particularly beautiful. Beauty is one (albeit it major) aesthetic virtue among many.

So even if there are indeed qualities of people other than perceptible ones (like looks, gracefulness, voice) that can be "worthy of aesthetic delight" it doesn't follow that they are qualities that make for beauty properly so called.

I suppose Charles and Richard could say that e.g. a great performance of King Lear which drains the audience doesn't engender 'delight', and want to anchor the notion of delight in ideas of aesthetic enjoyment. And making that link might indeed help them in tying the notion of the beautiful back to what is worthy of aesthetic 'delight'. But at the same time, this wouldn't seem to chime at all with their talk of e.g. finding moral character beautiful -- as contemplating someone's morals doesn't seem to give rise to aesthetic delighted enjoyment. At least, not in me.

2. Richard is right that "beautiful" is context-sensitive. But that is consistent with there being a default context in play when (like the original questioner) we ask, straight out, without special indications, whether someone is beautiful. There is a difference between asking, in a default context, whether everyone is beautiful, and asking whether for everyone there is some respect/some context in which they count as beautiful. I don't believe the latter is true either, but even if it were, it wouldn't affect one's response to the former.

3. I'm a bit baffled by Richard's "one might think that every person carries a spark of the divine … and it is hard to imagine what might be more beautiful than that". For I find it difficult to understand what it could mean to say that having such a spark makes a person beautiful. For in so far as I can understand "carries a spark of the divine" it is a claim about potentialities, about what (given the fortune of circumstance, at any rate) we are capable of becoming. But can a potentiality be beautiful? What is beautiful, or otherwise, is surely what is actual. Having a potentiality to be beautiful in God's image is not itself a way of being beautiful, any more than having a potentiality to be wise is itself a way of being wise. (Even if you want to say -- not that I would -- that the fact that a person has a divine spark is beautiful, man, that wouldn't make the person beautiful.)

Just to be contrarian, let me perhaps disagree with what my colleagues have said. It seems likely that the term "beautiful" is what philosophers call "context-sensitive". That is, what it means varies from case to case. The simplest examples of such words are "I", "you", "here", and the like, but most of us have come to the conclusion in recent years that most expressions of natural language exhibit some degree of context-sensitivity. For example, quantifier words, like "all", seem to do so. The sentence "Everyone is on the bus" certainly need not mean that absolutely everyone is on the one and only bus in the universe. What it means clearly varies from case to case. The same seems to go with "beautiful", and in two respects. One is that "beautiful" is a scalar adjective, like "tall", in that it accepts modifiers like "very". And, like "tall", how beautiful something has to be to count as beautiful tout court will vary from case to case. That might make it possible truly to say "Everyone is...

Are there any interesting arguments for the existence of God from the existence

Are there any interesting arguments for the existence of God from the existence of beauty? i.e., because there is beauty, we know there is God?

My understanding is that Kant argued in something like this fashion. Or, at least, that Kant thought that it was through the contemplation of beauty that we could experience the divine. I don't myself see that any sort of real argument will be forthcoming along these lines, but I do understand the sentiment. Certainly there is music that makes me particularly conscious of God: Plenty of Coltrane, for example. But for myself, I think my deepest sense of the divine emerges from contemplation of the men and women who have made great contributions towards the emergence of justice in the world. To me, that is, the best argument for the existence of God is the existence of people like Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. I don't expect that to be convincing to anyone else, though.

My understanding is that Kant argued in something like this fashion. Or, at least, that Kant thought that it was through the contemplation of beauty that we could experience the divine. I don't myself see that any sort of real argument will be forthcoming along these lines, but I do understand the sentiment. Certainly there is music that makes me particularly conscious of God: Plenty of Coltrane, for example. But for myself, I think my deepest sense of the divine emerges from contemplation of the men and women who have made great contributions towards the emergence of justice in the world. To me, that is, the best argument for the existence of God is the existence of people like Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. I don't expect that to be convincing to anyone else, though.

If I hypothetically make something that is widely accepted as beautiful, then I

If I hypothetically make something that is widely accepted as beautiful, then I reproduce it and put it everywhere so that everyone in the United States will see it at least once a day, but probably more than that, will it be considered less beautiful? If so, why do objects become less beautiful if they become more accessible? How much do wonder, curiosity, and imagination contribute as factors in defining something's aesthetical value? A friend of mine studying architecture said this: "In the context of architecture, the original modernist designs were considered stunning in their simplicity... but once they were reproduced over and over, and classical/victorian/old buildings were knocked down and destroyed, the situation reversed: those old buildings were considered beautiful again and the now over-abundant modernist buildings were now just noise in the background." How much of aesthetics is determined by the attribution of favorable nonaesthetic traits? If I look at a logo for a company whose...

I don't know that the beauty of a thing is diminished by its prevalence. Roses, blue jays, and the newfallen snow, for example, continue to strike me as stunningly beautiful no matter how often I am privileged to see them. Perhaps there is something different about human creations. Or perhaps, with art and architecture, we respond to something other than beauty, such as originality.

I don't know that the beauty of a thing is diminished by its prevalence. Roses, blue jays, and the newfallen snow, for example, continue to strike me as stunningly beautiful no matter how often I am privileged to see them. Perhaps there is something different about human creations. Or perhaps, with art and architecture, we respond to something other than beauty, such as originality.

Why do some words like "gorge" sound ugly, and some words like "exquisite" sound

Why do some words like "gorge" sound ugly, and some words like "exquisite" sound pretty?

However, following up on Richard's point about meaning, consider two similar sounding words:

a) gorgeous (for gorge)

b) excrement (for exquisite)

Does 'gorgeous' sound as ugly to you as does 'gorge'?

Does 'excrement' sound as pretty to you as does 'exquisite'?

I think that while there might well be words that sound pretty no matter what they mean, there is often an attaching of meaning (or content) of a word to its experienced aesthetic quality (ugly, pretty).

I have no idea. Perhaps a phonologist could answer this question. But let me ask a different one. Do you also find that it is the case that some "nonsense words" sound pretty and some sound ugly? Or is it also important what the word means?