Philosophy has three main branches, Logic, Aesthetics and Ethics. If you like it in a more coherent and simplified version then wisdom, from a Philosophical perspective is a Rational, Ethical and Joyful life. Though repetition makes writing boring but sometimes it adds to clarity so from Philosophical perspective, “Logic+ Aesthetics+ Ethics = Wisdom”. In common practice we include Logic and Ethics at core of Wisdom and usually do not give the same value to the aesthetics. Some like to link the aesthetics to elite class. Frankly, unlike the Logic and Ethics, Philosophers also look confused on aesthetics, may be under influence of society. Tonight (Monday), I had the role of Table Topic Master in our Toastmaster club. This role requires preparing some topics and randomly asking the club members to give a two minute talk on the topics. It is mostly Philosophers who talk about aesthetics but the truth is that everybody has its sense of beauty so I thought it is a wonderful opportunity for me to hear some “non-philosophical” perspectives about beauty… so instead of giving each person a topic, I asked everybody the same question, “what do you think, beauty is and what was the most beautiful thing that intrigued you? (Aesthetics is all about beauty)………….
My own concept of beauty is, “everything that makes life more lively and durable is beautiful” ….I have great tendency to link Philosophy to life and anything that is not linked to life, though it might still be called Philosophy but for me it is nothing more than just mere abstraction (This is one of my personal prejudices that I open heartedly accept)… and one of the main reasons that aesthetics is given very little attention is actually abstraction (abstraction means hollowing out something of life). Take for example the concept of aesthetics in Marxism (Marxism is thought to have a very practical and skeptical approach to arts), it links arts to economy and have a utilitarian approach to it while in our daily lives, we appreciate beauty as something priceless. Platonic Aesthetics on other hand is blurred, having two opposite approach to beauty and art. Beauty is good and poetry as main form of art is evil….. I am not saying that Marxist and Platonic approach to aesthetics is wrong but instead saying that, “beauty is shallow but its impact on life is deep…In fact it is so deeply rooted in our psyche that when we are in short of beauty we imagine and create it and it is why different forms of art and literature exist. Just rethink the fictions and movies, though we know that the stories in them are fake and imaginary but we like to believe them as true and react to them and it is why people cry, become sad, become happy, excited and sometime inspired enough to try them in their real life. When I first time saw well grown people wearing strange costumes in Halloween, I was shocked and then realized that it is just a way to beautify life”. Yes, beauty is skin deep, seasonal and not eternal but ignoring it is just to make life shallower. I know beauty is not enough; it is why we move to deeper things, things that are more perfect, deeper and eternal. Beauty is like life imperfect, shallow and perishable but still we seldom sacrifice life for something deeper. Life stands the same but in order not to get tired of it we treat it differently and take it as it comes. Same is true with beauty, every time we get fresh eyes, we see more beauty and of beauty and also we have to take it as comes or we lose it.…. If we insist for deeper understanding like logic and ethics then we will just destroy beauty…. Take for example the poetry, if you try to make it logical and ethical you will just make it lose its poetic sense, the same stands true for painting and other forms of arts. All natural beauties, though have generalized geometries but do not follow them. Two apples seldom appear same….
If there is something related to humans, the evolutionary biologists and anthropologists definitely have an evolutionary explanation :)….. Of course, everything has evolved so it would be unjust to not mention their opinion :)….. Like Marxists, they also have utilitarian approach for aesthetics. The sense of beauty evolved to help in selecting partners with healthy genes. Beauty is the expression of health and productivity so Physical beauty has an evolutionary advantage. On other hand, arts evolved for emotional communications and human evolved it to make communication more effective. Of course beauty increases the appeal and effectiveness of messages. From stone tools and cave paintings to smart phones and glamorous cars and buildings, human used aesthetics very effectively to communicate with right hemisphere of brain and hence influence the decision…. Of course, we can’t separate the beauty and art from our biology and psyche but they can’t answer satisfactorily the diversity of approaches to beauty and also the causes of our boredom with beauty (if we are exposed to same beauty we get bored, you won’t enjoy a music if it is repeated as you enjoyed it the first time and tends to change it)….
We can’t be content to a beauty for long and have to move. It is just how the nature of curiosity is so I wanted to find a pattern in different perspectives about beauty. Before going to club meeting to find the diversity of concepts, I googled for some intellectual quotes on beauty in order to increase the diversity of available concepts for myself to find a pattern in them. I chose the following ones which had a definitive approaches,
“There is a kind of beauty in imperfection”…………. Unknown?
“For me the greatest beauty always lies in the great clarity”…… Gottold Ephraim Lessing
“Goodness is beauty in the best estate”…….Christopher Marlow
“Beauty is whatever gives joy”……Douglas Horton
“A woman whose smile is open and whose expression is glad has a kind of beauty no matter what she wears”…… Anne Roiphe
Though all these quotes have somewhat definitive approaches to beauty but while reading them I had the feeling that, they are all describing additive aspects of beauty instead of saying what beauty is and it is what Confucius describes this way,
“Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it”….
Confucius’ saying sweeps out evolutionary approach as well utilitarian and ideal approaches of Philosophers by linking their approaches to beauty with their limitations of interests and knowledge. You may not wonder if a Physicist say, “Black hole is the most beautiful things ever existed” because he sees oneness in black hole and that is the greatest order in anything exists….
Back to club meeting, I was taking note while each member was expressing their perceptions of beauty, and following is what I noted,
What inspires us or make us like to do things without attaching price tag to what we do…….
What intrigued us intellectually……
In what relates to me…..
In completing tasks or overcoming the difficulties or in results of work…..
Beauty transcends from outside to inside……….
So what was the pattern in all these?.... I think, the pattern is the same as Confucius says, “Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it”…. So whenever we are intrigued with some beautiful thing it means that we were just open to see the beauty of it…. And again, when we run of beauty, we create it and that is what we have to be conscious of in order to live deeper by beautifying it and spreading the beauty…………