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why is it that we see sunsets, mountains, life forms, geological formations, etc

why is it that we see sunsets, mountains, life forms, geological formations, etc. and consider them to be beautiful.

A helpful answer might be that we see sunsets and mountains and so on as beautiful because they are beautiful. The reason I say that this answer is helpful is twofold. It moves the question away from the bias of a model in which (a) there is no beauty in nature, but (b) we project it onto nature, which together raise the question © 'Why these projections and not others?' That is all built into the question. The second helpful thing, as I see it, about the answer that I have suggested is that it puts the issue squarely on top of the traditional question what beauty is.

Hi, I don't know if you can help me, by here goes anyway.

Hi, I don't know if you can help me, by here goes anyway. What does it mean to be Disturbed by Beauty. Can a philosopher answer this, or would I be better off asking a shrink, priest or mystic? Kind regards Pasquale

An interesting question! The phrase "Disturbed by Beauty" is not a common one in philosophy or aesthetics (that branch of philosophy that addresses beauty and ugliness as well as philosophy of art) and philosophy in the modern era has been somewhat skeptical about beauty. BUT there have been some important positive contributions about beauty in the past 50 years. Iris Murdoch's The Sovereignty of the Good makes a strong case for the role of beauty in challenging our tendencies to egotism and self-interest. In a sense, she argued that the experience of beauty (one of her examples is noticing the beauty of a kestral, a stunning bird) can disturb our self-absorbed daily routines. Elaine Scarry's book On Beauty is a more recent argument for the important role of beauty in our values and the way we live. There is a strong romantic tradition that contends that our experience of beauty in the world can be an important step in our becoming mature lovers of wisdom... This is present in the philosophically minded Coleridge and in Worsdsworth's Preludes --which he understood as a philosophical poem. In the Preludes, the poets experience of beauty (in seeing Mount Blanc) may not be disturbing but it is definitely surprising and perhaps shocking as it calls him (the poet) into an unexpected experience of what might be called the eternal. OK, I now think you, Pasquale, will probably think me no better than a shrink, priest or mystic. But I do have a great deal of respect for psychologists / persons of faith and those who may be thought of as mystics. One of my professors declared that "mysticism" begins with a mist and ends with an "ism." But I think that is monstrously unfair. Many of the so-called mystics, west and east, have insights we non-mystics should take seriously (in my view).

If you are disturbed by beauty, I hope you might be disturbed and perhaps attracted to beauty as one of the three attributes celebrated in Platonic tradition which upholds: Beauty, Truth, and Goodness. For further work on this, you might check out the Cambridge Platonists, some great 17th century British philosophers who prized beauty, truth and goodness amid a very violent civil war....

All good wishes, Charles

If we assert that aesthetic experience has no definable cognitive component what

If we assert that aesthetic experience has no definable cognitive component what makes it an important subject of philosophical interest?

Presumably it's only the philosophical interest which leads to the conclusion that it has no cognitive component in the first place ... Or rather, it's a matter of philosophical debate whether it does ... But if you are suggesting (as you seem to) that once a philosopher decides that aesthetic experience is non-cognitive there are no further philosophical issues, then I'll leave it to those specializing in aesthetics to provide an answer ... (At the least a non-specialist such as myself would wonder: if aesthetic experience is non-cognitive then how does it relate to other (sensory) experiences? what marks off an experience as aesthetic then? what is the nature/relationship of the different sensory modalities? the relationship between sensory experience and pleasure etc...?)

hope that's a useful start.

ap

In his response to an earlier question about physical beauty, Nicholas D. Smith

In his response to an earlier question about physical beauty, Nicholas D. Smith responded: "Unfortunately, a lot of good-looking people are not very beautiful in any way other than the way they look." Though there might be some rare exceptions in the world, for the most part I agree with his statement. And I'm wondering about the relationship between physical beauty and virtue... If, hypothetically speaking, Mr. Smith's claim were a natural law (Good-looking people are not very beautiful in any way other than the way they look) what then would be the most likely cause for its validity? In other words, do external factors such as our society/culture make it difficult for good-looking people to develop in more internal ways, such as through character, morality, kindness etc. Or does physical beauty itself inherently impede the good-looking ones from ever becoming beautiful in more virtuous ways?

There's difficulty that stand in the way of answering your question. In the actual world, it's not a law that physically beautiful people aren't virtuous. Some are, and some aren't. So your question is about a world with different laws than this one and you're asking what would be the explanation for a regularity in that world that doesn't hold up in this one.

Now such questions aren't necessarily meaningless. One way to understand them: think about a world that's otherwise as much like this one as possible, except that beautiful people aren't virtuous. Do we have any hope of getting a grip on that question?

Possibly. Though there certainly are people in the actual world who are both beautiful and virtuous, perhaps there's some statistical correlation between beauty and lack of virtue. (I'm skeptical, but let that pass.) If so, then the way to answer your question would be to investigate whatever it might be in this world that underlies the statistical pattern, and extrapolate from that to a situation where the correlation becomes a full-blown law. That wouldn't be easy, but it might be possible.

Now, however, we have a different problem. Let's suppose that in this world, being beautiful raises the probability of not being virtuous. The question of why this is so (if it is) isn't one that philosophers have any special competence to answer. It's an empirical question and answering it would call the right sort of social science and/or biological investigation.

It may sound like I'm ducking your question, and in one sense I am. But the real point is to make clear why the question isn't likely to yield to speculation.

Can Darwinian science explain the uncanny fact that a crow both looks and sounds

Can Darwinian science explain the uncanny fact that a crow both looks and sounds ugly whereas as a prettier bird makes a prettier song? What possible purpose could such an aesthetic unity serve and why would humans be able to recognize it?

The first question is whether there's a fact to be explained. Do "pretty" birds typically have "pretty" songs? And do "ugly" birds typically have "ugly" songs? I'm no expert, but I'm betting not. Peacocks are usually considered attractive; their songs not so much. Swans are (conventionally, at least) beautiful; their honking (at least to my ears) isn't. Many people like the cooing of pigeons. But pigeons aren't usually seen as "pretty." I'm sure a real bird aficianado could multiply examples.

Of course, there are also questions about whether "pretty" and "ugly" are objective notions. That's a big question, but you can no doubt see that it's relevant. But leave that aside. If your speculation were correct, it would be an interesting fact. What might explain it is something that it's very hard to say in the abstract. We'd need a lot more detail, but in any case there wouldn't be much reason to expect philosophers to come up with the best answer.

Can aesthetic claims be falsified?

Can aesthetic claims be falsified?

Suppose I say that Rembrandt's "Night Watch" is insipid, because it is too big (about 350 × 450 cms.) and its particular blocklike use of chiaroscuro makes it naive and primitive. I have made three interlocking aesthetic claims, together with an explanation of each. Now you go to have a look at the painting. You are bowled over by it, and you decide, rightly, that my aesthetic pronouncements are false, and that my explanations of them are absurd. Haven't my claims been falsified just as much as my nonaesthetic claim would have been had I said that painting is very small, about 3 × 3 cms., and you, having had a look at the painting, reported that in fact it is very large? Size can be an aesthetic property, by the way, but for the most part it is entirely non-aestheticl. Little wildflowers can be charming because of their size, e.g. wild lupins. Some houses are attractive partly because of their size.

It is hard to believe that aesthetical value is objective. Whatever you choose

It is hard to believe that aesthetical value is objective. Whatever you choose as the most beautiful person, sunset or painting, it seems easy to imagine an appropriate alien who would find it ugly or uninteresting. My question is whether non objectivity of aesthetical value should count as an argument against the objectivity of moral value. After all, there seem to be some important common points to ethics and aesthetics. Isn't ethics concerned with what we should do as aesthetics is concerned with what we should enjoy to perceive?

There used to be a popular argument in philosophy just like this, and clearly as you say there are similarities between ethics and aesthetics. I don't think that aesthetics is about what we should enjoy to perceive, though, since there are many things we think we ought to see but certainly do not enjoy seeing.

As you say, people may disagree about value judgements, and often do, but that does not show they are not true and objective. People disagree about all sorts of things, after all. There are certainly some works of art which I could understand people not appreciating, but others which I could not. Similarly, if someone said that he thought it was alright to kill someone because the latter had annoyed him, I would not know what to say. A lot of urban murders do take place for precisely this reason nonetheless. It is difficult to think there is not something objective lurking in these value judgements, but precisely how to identify it is very difficult to understand.

Hello Philosophers. My question regards to the philosophy of art. Were there any

Hello Philosophers. My question regards to the philosophy of art. Were there any other philosophers that outlined essential criteria relating to beauty or other ways of critiquing an artwork like Kant had the 4 criteria for beauty. Thanks Callum, 16.

Hello, Callum; thanks for your question. Before Kant, there was a tradition in Enlightenment thinking about the nature of beauty and how we are able to perceive it. This tradition often referred to what was called the "faculty of taste" to distinguish this form of perception from other so-called faculties. The history runs roughly from Lord Shaftesbury, through Hutcheson, Burke, Hume, and then through Kant to Schopenhauer. A useful overview of this trajectory is in a book by George Dickie called _Evaluating Art_.

Yours,

Mitch Green

I am very interested in the idea of aesthetics as a spiritual phenomenom.

I am very interested in the idea of aesthetics as a spiritual phenomenom. Spirituality for me is not something limited to one religion. I recently bought the Routledge companion to Aesthetics and I also have a collection of academic essays in aesthetics that is supposed to be comprehensive. But I am very disappointed, the only essays or chapters that relate aesthetics with spirituality are those of 19th century German thinkers but no thinkers that are modern. I would really like to study this subject (probably entirely outside the university) and contribute an article in a journal but I don't know the names of those journals or if any exist. So what journals are there on that subject? (the intersection of spirituality and aesthetics)

There is quite a good literature on aesthetics that gets at spirituality. I co-authored a recent book (out last year) with the American artist Jil Evans: The image in mind (Continuum) that gets at the aesthetic dimension of different ways of viewing the world (principally theism and naturalism) and we have a co-edited book Turning Images with Oxford that deals with aesthetics and religion / spirituality. An older book which has an excellent collection of different thinkers is: Art, Creativity, and the Sacred edited by Diane Apostolos-Cappadona. Gordon Graham has a good book: The Re-enchantment of the Word (OUP 2007), and Oxford has published an amazing series of five books on aesthetics and theology or the sacred by David Brown. It is disappointing that the Routledge volume did not include more on spirituality, as many of those who contributed to aesthetics historically and quite recently have had spiritual concerns. Plato's dialogue on beauty, the Symposium, is partly about the ascent of the soul to the higher beauties, and it deeply impacted subsequent religious thinkers and artists. Three quite diverse thinkers from the 20th century who thought of aesthetics in spiritual terms include Kandinsky, Dewey, and Tolstoy. Good wishes!

The phrase "inner beauty" is often used in popular writing. Is there a

The phrase "inner beauty" is often used in popular writing. Is there a philosophical line of thought about what inner beauty is. In other words, do some philosophers maintain that there is a sort of beauty inside a thing that is distinct from whatever beauty that might exist in the exterior structure and symmetry and proportions of the thing?

I don't think they do, although colleagues may know of someone who does.

In fact, one might go further in challenging this popular notion of inner beauty and suggest that there is something very impressive about a beautiful person who is in fact rather evil. One is compelled to admire the outward appearance of the individual while at the same time deploring his or her character, involving appreciation of the formal qualities of beauty while understanding the vileness of the character. In some ways the gossip columns play on that, the fact that many of our most admired personalities are deeply flawed and yet breathtaking to look at.

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