Tuesday, 6 November 2007

what is beauty?

Questions to Joe on Beauty after Ely, Nov 29, 2006

What is beauty?
Presently I think it is that which points to something beyond ourselves, that stimulates some deep desire to transcend the absurd situation we find ourselves in as intelligent conscious beings, beauty makes us complete or in some way gives us hope that our insecurity in our identity is only temporary.
I have so many questions, on the bus back from Ely I wrote down as many as I could in the back of my notebook, don't feel obliged to read any of this rambling stream of thought, but I'd love to thrash out anyof them with someone. Like Bernard Tschumi's essay 'Questions' these are slightly leading questions and in my case they are based on many assumptions derived from a Christian world view.

Is beauty only a chemical reaction, like the redness of an apple provoking a desire to eat that apple to strengthen the body?

Is good art the same as beauty?

Will nature always be beautiful?

Is beauty that which strongly resonates with your human condition?
What is the human condition?

Does beauty have a beginning and an ending?

Is beauty life and ugliness death?

Is nature beautiful simply because it gives life?
Is nature beautiful because its irreducible complexity is so far beyond our comprehension?
Is nature beautiful because it cycles day night day, winter spring summer, and this points towards eternity, it hints at significance beyond itself, beyond the plainly natural?

Is discerning beauty simply wonderment at the complexity or is it an excitement at the reflection of ourselves that we see in nature, or is it because the order of nature suggests that life is not absurd, random and meaningless and is this hope beauty?

Why should I not commit suicide? (Camus)

Does the longing for infinity and transcendence explain why we have created a god or does it point towards one who created us?

Our thirst for water points to the existence of a liquid that can satisfy that desire. Does the desire to find transcendent identity point to something or someone who can tell us who we are?

Metaphorically or literally where does one end and another begin out of: beauty, truth, meaning, love, light, hope, god?

I think we long to escape our feeble bodies and to deny the absurd end that death puts on our short lives. This is the nature of fantasy, that painful longing for some non-existent nostalgic past or some wild utopian dream of the future.
Does this account for sexual and chemical escapism, for kitsch even?

Is beauty that which reaffirms our suspicion that all is not as it should be, and that these utopias are inadequate?

Is kitsch kitsch precisely because it cannot resonate with our being, our world view, our human nature because it is in denial that something is wrong with the world?

Is finding a woman beautiful a desire to own, a desire to procreate, a desire find identity and completeness through relationship or is it something other?

Do all things go out of fashion because they make promises they cannot keep, they promise to enable us to leave behind our meaningless lives, our lives without the fastest latest shiniest advertised product?

Are they all mere temporary, illusory distractions and in fact none of them allow us to transcend death and so become symbolic of the itemsfailure to fulfil the promise?

Your question – what about a notion beauty that grows?
That as you get to know a girl that you might otherwise have found little beauty in, what does it mean for our definition of beauty that after coming to a better and more intimate knowledge of this person, that you find them more beautiful?

Why do people have different opinions of what is beautiful?

Is their common desire for something which enables them simply to further propagate the species of mankind?

Presumably beauty is subjective, but can we argue that the motive for this search for beauty is universal, and that the existential gap it fills is universal?

Does a relationship reveal further facets of another's personality, making possible more levels at which to appreciate beauty?

Is beauty that which answers questions, do we find beauty in that which we hope will answer our questions about life?

Is beauty that in which we can identify ourselves?
Or at least see something of our projected self image?

Do we see god in that which we find beautiful, or is our own god complex such that beauty is a narcissistic gazing at ourselves, and in that way reaffirming our identity or even our very existence?

Is beauty that which gives us a richer experience of life?

A certain contemporary western view of 'beauty' is tanning-salon tanned skin, compared to south east asia where beauty is found inartificially whitened skin.
Why do we go to such lengths to deny ourselves?
Is this simply biological?
Is this fish complaining of the water for its wetness?
If we are spiritual beings what are the implications of a denial of the physical self?

If we are able to give thanks for beauty, to express our appreciationof beauty, does the object or our perception of it change in any way?
In the case of a meal, the food is beautiful but we do not thank the food, we thank the chef. Would a world view where nature is created rather than accident-ed into existence change the value of nature? Indeed would it be more beautiful?

Are we failing to look after nature because we do not believe it has intrinsic value, only the extrinsic value we give to it, such that we need only give it the respect that is necessary to prevent it impacting our wellbeing in a negative way.
Would a view of nature with intrinsic value have more beauty than nature with only extrinsic value?

If beauty points to something beyond ourselves does this explain the golden ration etc in terms of something a priori?

If we found a fully working watch in a field, or a perfect trianglecut into stones on the moon, if we assume it is the product of a random universe, does that lessen its beauty? Equally for nature?

Why can we find redundant things beautiful?
Why can we find ornament beautiful?
Why can we find beauty in machine?

Is beauty any of these: redundance, altruism, sacrifice, genuineness,absence of power motives?

Is beauty the expression of the now and the not yet?

Is beauty the tension between freedom and safety?

Radiohead express in songs like, Nothing Touches Me, How to DisappearCompletely, Fake Plastic Trees, Fitter Happier, something of the emptiness or even fallen-ness of man, particularly in his contemporary, postmodern state. Why is there beauty in the nihilistic and empty?

Can atheism give sufficient grounds for optimism in life?

Is calling something beautiful the same as calling it true?

Can the beauty in nature really be said to be only subjective, is there any way we could argue that it is objectively beautiful, by consensus, through philosophy or otherwise?

Nature a priori to us and so has defined us along with our notions of beauty, is that all beauty is?

Is asserting the truth of your opinion that something it beautiful aNietzschein power agenda?

Can a relativist call anything beautiful?

Is any theism sufficiently grounded, sufficiently tangible to give weight to its optimism in spiritual redemption?

What level of proof do I need to believe in a God?
Is revelation in nature sufficient?
Is beauty God?
Should we first ask if beauty is knowable?

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