26 Feb Extended Definition Essay Beauty 1999 IT IS not only Prince Charles who bemoans the loss of beauty in our culture, but The Saturday Essay: Our modern age requires a new definition of beauty The problem is that, in the 20th century, we have extended the
The Greeks during pre-historic times wrote about the subject of beauty, tackling it from various aspects. The ideas were very captivating. Basically, they were founded on the quality of being youthful. Even though this view on the subject of beauty in relation to the idea of being youthful had some truth, it received a lot of confrontation since it was thought to be over-simplified.
At latest by the eighteenth century, however, and particularly in theBritish Isles, beauty was associated with pleasure in a somewhatdifferent way: pleasure was held to be not the effect but the originof beauty. This was influenced, for example, by Locke's distinctionbetween primary and secondary qualities. Locke and the otherempiricists treated color (which is certainly one source or locus ofbeauty), for example, as a ‘phantasm’ of the mind, as aset of qualities dependent on subjective response, located in theperceiving mind rather than of the world outside the mind. Withoutperceivers of a certain sort, there would be no colors. One argumentfor this was the variation in color experiences between people. Forexample, some people are color-blind, and to a person with jaundicemuch of the world takes on a yellow cast. In addition, the same objectis perceived as having different colors by the same the person underdifferent conditions: at noon and midnight, for example. Suchvariations are conspicuous in experiences of beauty as well.
By a principle of taste I mean a principle under the condition ofwhich we could subsume the concept of the object, and thus infer, bymeans of a syllogism, that the object is beautiful. But that isabsolutely impossible. For I must immediately feel the pleasure in therepresentation of the object, and of that I can be persuaded by nogrounds of proof whatever. Although, as Hume says, all critics canreason more plausibly than cooks, yet the same fate awaits them. Theycannot expect the determining ground of their judgment [to be derived]from the force of the proofs, but only from the reflection of thesubject upon its own proper state of pleasure or pain. (Kant 1790,section 34)
In this account, beauty is at least as objective as any other concept,or indeed takes on a certain ontological priority as more real thanparticular Forms: it is a sort of Form of Forms.
In recent, rueful economics discussions, an all-purpose punch line has become “nobody could have predicted. . . .” It’s what you say with regard to disasters that could have been predicted, should have been predicted and actually were predicted by a few economists who were scoffed at for their pains.
Reasons for their stay are that they feel comfortable with the environment that surrounds the beach front, people who are at the beach are joyous and numerous activities to enjoy, and the fresh scent of the sparkly waters, make the visitors feel calm and pleasurable.
Aesthetic judgment, I believe, never commands universal agreement, andneither a beautiful object nor a work of art ever engages a catholiccommunity. Beauty creates smaller societies, no less important orserious because they are partial, and, from the point of view of itsmembers, each one is orthodox—orthodox, however, withoutthinking of all others as heresies. … What is involved is lessa matter of understanding and more a matter of hope, ofestablishing a community that centers around it—acommunity, to be sure, whose boundaries are constantly shifting andwhose edges are never stable. (Nehamas 2007, 80–81)
Alexander Nehamas, in Only a Promise of Happiness (2007),characterizes beauty as an invitation to further experiences, a waythat things invite us in, while also possibly fending us off. Thebeautiful object invites us to explore and interpret, but it alsorequires us to explore and interpret: beauty is not to be regarded asan instantaneously apprehensible feature of surface. And Nehamas, likeHume and Kant, though in another register, considers beauty to have anirreducibly social dimension. Beauty is something we share, orsomething we want to share, and shared experiences of beauty areparticularly intense forms of communication. Thus, the experience ofbeauty is not primarily within the skull of the experiencer, butconnects observers and objects such as works of art and literature incommunities of appreciation.
A very compelling series of refutations of and counter-examples to theidea that beauty can be a matter of any specific proportions betweenparts, and hence to the classical conception, is given by Edmund Burkein A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of theBeautiful and the Sublime:
However, there has been a revival of interest in beauty in both artand philosophy in recent years, and several theorists have made newattempts to address the antinomy of taste. To some extent, suchapproaches echo G.E. Moore's: “To say that a thing is beautifulis to say, not indeed that it is itself good, but that it is anecessary element in something which is: to prove that a thing istruly beautiful is to prove that a whole, to which it bears aparticular relation as a part, is truly good” (Moore 1903, 201).One interpretation of this would be that what is fundamentallyvaluable is the situation in which the object and the personexperiencing are both embedded; the value of beauty might include bothfeatures of the beautiful object and the pleasures of theexperiencer.
It is worth saying that Santayana's treatment of the topic in TheSense of Beauty (1896) was the last major account offered inEnglish for some time, possibly because, once beauty has been admittedto be entirely subjective, much less when it is held to rest on a sortof mistake, there seems little more to be said. What stuck from Hume'sand Kant's treatments was the subjectivity, not the heroic attempts totemper it. If beauty is a subjective pleasure, it would seem to haveno higher status than anything that entertains, amuses, or distracts;it seems odd or ridiculous to regard it as being comparable inimportance to truth or justice, for example. And the twentieth centuryalso abandoned beauty as the dominant goal of the arts, again possiblyin part because its trivialization in theory led artists to believethat they ought to pursue more real and more serious projects. Thisdecline is explored eloquently in Arthur Danto's book The Abuse ofBeauty (2003).