Sunday, April 3, 2011

The nature of the Beast (the Beast being Beauty, of course).

No, I'm not writing for Disney now.

Today A said to me (paraphrased), "I'm creating beauty."  Something to that effect.  And I (being me) thought, what is beauty?  Because I can never let these things go... sorry, A...

I immediately thought of some possibilties (which have the added bonus of framing my question): Is beauty sort of like energy, something that is imbued upon an object? Keeping in mind "the eye of the beholder," is it something that only exists in the beholder's mind[/perception/reality]?  Is beauty intrinsic in the object (ie a quality belonging to the object)?  And in all of these situations, is finite or infinite or something else (eg spanning space and time and able to exist in multiplicity)?

When I voiced these questions, A (quite understandably) was a bit confused.  I have to admit that I didn't present these questions quite so eloquently then, not that they necessarily make sense now.  But here goes...

I think beauty intrinsic in the object.  But that sort of absolute makes me squirm, so I will quickly clarify that I think beauty is not a quality or a characteristic set in stone (measurable) but a potential.  Of course I'm tempted to go with "beauty is an adjective only, belonging to the viewer," because at first glance that seems to fit best with the whole perception-is-reality-and-truth-does-not-exist theory, but I'm feeling slightly rebellious today.  What's the point of thinking if we don't sometimes challenge our own ideas?

Really, beauty as a potential and inherent in the object makes the most sense, after all.  This is a pared-down version of my idea of beauty: think of beauty as a scale.  Several scales, actually.  Every object, every thing has its own scale; that scale measures its beauty as percieved and assigned by a viewer (a percieved-beauty scale, PBS).  Also, every object with the ability to assign beauty (namely humans) has another scale that ranks all percieved objects by beauty (a ranking scale, RS).  Okay, so I'm back to the perception-reality model; so sue me.  Let's think of three objects: a flower, a tree, and a stone.  Each has a PBS from 1 to 100; however, their 100's may not be the same on an individual's RS (ie the flower has more ability to be beautiful, and therefore a higher max than the stone).  A human (called Bob) percieves the three objects. Bob has a RS in his head.  Let's say that Bob thinks the flower is really pretty, and he gives it a 74 [on the flower's PBS].  He thinks the tree is pretty, too, so he gives it an 80 [on the tree's PBS].  The stone is ugly to Bob (it's green and slimy with pond muck) so he gives it 26 [on the stone's PBS].  Now for Bob's RS; the flower's PBS is lower than the tree's, but on Bob's RS the flower is higher than the tree, say 63 vs 48.  This means that he thinks the flower is fairly pretty for a flower and the tree is pretty for a tree, but as far as beautiful goes they're not as beautiful as other things (for instance he ranks his wife as a 92).  Does that make sense?  A PBS is comparing one object to other like objects, and an individual RS is comparing one object percieved by a person to all the other objects the person has ever percieved.

I'm using "object" fairly loosely, because by "object" I mean "pretty much anything" including humans, other animals, plants, inanimate objects, ideas, paintings, relationships, love, situations, anything you might ever refer to as beautiful.

Ask me questions!  I know I've probably confused a lot of you (truthfully I haven't chewed out all the details yet), but if you are willing to read to this very sentence at the end of the post, you probably would like to understand (I hope).  So ask away!  Ciao!

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