Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Nonexistence of Beauty

A desert sunrise. A Royal Ponciana in full bloom smothered in fiery flowers. A grey afternoon on the verge of rain. Stray bright rays of sun shining through the storm clouds. The fluffy white and blue heaven outside the window of an airplane. A cream-coloured puppy tugging earnestly at your shoelace. A cute girl strolling by who looked as if she's about to give you a smile, but didn't because she was shy.

We can call so many things "beautiful" and encapsulate them within that word which means so broadly yet speaks so concisely - and we cherish them for it. We love beauty and perfection and abhor the ugly and deformed. We love them because they are designed, made or born that way.

But in truth, we love them as if they are designed, made or born that way.

There is no such thing as physical or inherent beauty. Beauty is an abstract concept in our minds. We are not programmed to recognise beauty - only to consider that some things are nice to look at while some things are not. Does a dog find the sunset beautiful? Can a tom cat be enamoured by a comely young lady? What about advanced space aliens from some civilisation on the other side of the galaxy which dropped by to visit in the conceivable future? Would they deem anything we think to be beautiful to be attractive as well?

I told a friend I was walking with the other day about this - about how beauty does not exist and that it's all a matter of our human conceptions. Nothing is beautiful and all the things we've ever thought to be are just delusions of our minds.

"Stop telling me this," she said, covering her ears. "Don't spoil everything for me."

How fragile it is, our reality. A simple nudge at its perception is all it takes to shatter it completely.

11 comments:

bevE said...

no quote

one side agrees, the other believes differently

senorita.. said...

ppl like to believe in things nice and not otherwise... maybe we are programmed that way, that's y.. except for u that is...

which processor's in ur brain again? =P

phoebe said...

i think there's always something beautiful in everything. some people just don't know how to look for it or appreciate it. just that different individuals have different perceptions of beauty, bt it exists anyway.

zzzameliazzz said...

It is fragile to people who do not think about or comprehend the meaning of beauty deeply. It maybe delusions to some people, but to other people, beauty is real. Because it takes life experiences to actually prove the existence of beauty. It is not just about how it looks. It is far beyond that. It is how you look at an entity on the whole and not perceive, but claim it as beautiful. Aesthetic realism or aestheticism is ain't fragile, it has to be taught.

k0k s3n w4i said...

beve: it's just a new category of blog posts I'm starting that is short and to the point of anything I happen to be thinking at any moment that requires immediate documentation.

senorita: I find stuff that other people find beautiful to be beautiful as well - with a few notable exceptions (but let's leave that). It's just that this is how I perceive beauty.

phoebe: looking and appreciating - as I said, these are all conceptions. What I'm trying to say that beauty does not exist in things, but in the mind in the form of an abstract, incomprehensible emotion. Things are neither ugly nor pretty. Opinions of how something look is manufactured by the mind - we have no reliable evidence that a mind that is less than human is complex enough to understand it.

zzzameliazzz: I meant the fragility part to be a whole different part of the post - in response to the sort of people I've been in contact with for the past month in my psychiatric posting at the hospital. THE definitive reality is a majority opinion. Reality is just the way most people see the world. While insane people just happen to be the minority to see certain things or everything differently - depending on how his or her brain is wired. If everyone can hear voices or see things that aren't there, that insane state of mind and reality would be considered sane and normal. Forgive me for being thick but I can't see how aesthetic realism or aestheticism have any relevance here. Maybe I wasn't being clear - my bad, i guess.

zzzameliazzz said...

Omg... haha ok ,my bad too. I apologize for my ignorance

specialhuman said...

well i think beauty exist in reality. the numbers say it all.

the golden ratio = 1.61803399

Ask any of the art students(especially those who do sketching), they'll tell u there's calculated proportionality of the face and if ur face fit to that ratio, it'll look 'beautiful'.

There're hidden maths in everything that we think it's beautiful:
the curvature of the rainbow, the perfect moon, the first ray of the morning sunrise......

and yeah, the human mind is programmed to perceive beauty - of all the living things on earth.

k0k s3n w4i said...

zzzameliazzz: no, u weren't ignorant xD opinions aren't subject to knowledge

specialhuman: ah, the divine or golden ratio. I was wondering when someone wud bring it up. anyhow, that is a common fallacy because... look at it this way. cancer cells follow that ratio as well. are they beautiful? is a tumour beautiful? to say that beauty exist physically because all beautiful things follows the golden ratio is like saying a all red things are beautiful because red roses, rubies and red pandas are beautiful. And beauty is also subjective. Can the whole world agree that one woman is more beautiful than all the rest? No. Do everyone consider Dali surrealism or Picasso's cubism paintings to be beautiful? The existence of subjectivity itself proves that beauty is in the mind, not external. Or at least, that seems logical to me :)

specialhuman said...

Well, just to make myself clear, and i don't intend to talk u into my opinions. (which i think u'll not lol)

After seeing ur reply, i had some moments thinking on this beauty thingy (I bumped my head in the swimming pool when i was thinking lol)

First, by all means I'm not saying EVERYTHING that follows the golden ratio is beautiful, it's just a means to show that somehow beauty can be 'proven' by maths.

Second, there're a lot of things that are RELATIVE and that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

For example, time is relative and a lot of lower life form (eg insects) cannot perceive the concept of time (the fourth dimension). Some even can't perceive height (the third dimension)! Which means they know go forward, backward, left and right only.

ok cut the lengthy details. The point is, eventhough some organisms cannot and do not perceive time, time still exists. and so does beauty!

Second, time is relative. I guess u know the famous relativity theory by Eistein. Beauty is in the eye of beholder but that, doesn't mean beauty doesn't exist.

In summary, my ideology is that, beauty exists and it can only be perceived by human (at least on earth). It's like a key and a lock. If a lock exists solely, it means nothing and vice versa. But a key and a lock existing together unveil the secret behind them. Beauty exists and human are meant to perceive it (although the way everyone perceive might be very different).

Phew. Long time never write such a long comment already. lol

k0k s3n w4i said...

specialhuman: whoa, I like the way you think :)

anyhow, to be "proven by maths" something needs to follow a consistent and logical pattern, by which the same result can be derived at all times. the golden rule does not denote beauty in this sense. So, I think it's safe to say that it is no longer relevant in this discussion.

Your postulation is that beauty not only needs to be inherent in the objects in question, but also in the conception of the mind which perceives it?

That's one way to look at it. I remember something talked about in that book 1984 by George Orwell where it questions the existence of the past. Does the past exist? Does it exist in some place or plane we can visit, stored up in the great database of the universe?

A brain-damaged guy might end up thinking that shit is beautiful. Since beauty exists for him, and thus, according to your lock and key model, beauty exists in shit right?

According to that line of thinking, everything is beautiful. and when everything is, then nothing is. it's just like that old one liner that goes "everyone is special" which implies that no one is.

Another thing is, the only thing constant in the perception of beauty is the mind which sees it, and not the objects which are perceived. Logically, I draw from that fact that beauty depends only on the mind. It's the only constant when it comes to the concept of beauty.

specialhuman said...

I think u're somehow confirming my opinions :D

U see, a man seeing shit as something beautiful, because his mind is twisted. In his mind, the lock's hole (concept of beauty) is twisted to be the shape of a shit and shit (the key) exists, therefore they matched and he thinks that shit is beautiful.

While normal people like us (let's just hope that it will last lol), will simply be amazed by the view of a majestic building, a little town in a valley surrounded by great mountains (ahem...;p), blablabla, because there's a shape of those things in our mind, and when we see them, click, and we have the sense of beauty. Of coz talking about manmade building, they exist because man built them because they exist in every human's mind and the very existence of manmade beauty, somehow means that human has a common taste for beauty!

Let's put it this way

There's a guy, growing up in the desert and he has never heard nor read nor seen anything about the ocean. On the 40th birthday, he is awarded a ticket to Hawaii and when he got there, he'll be so amazed by the view of the sea. Why? because the ocean exists and there's a sea-shaped keyhole in human's mind. If the ocean doesn't exist, the sea-shaped keyhole will never be fulfilled and man can never experience the beauty of the sea.
The concept of beauty of the sea, is never taught or implemented to that desert guy and yet he could comprehend it so well. Does sea exist as beautiful in his mind first? This is not possible because he has never seen the ocean before. Or simply because the sea is beautiful? (Unless u r a believer of Darwin thinking that we all originated from sea and therefore we are genetically programmed to be fond about the sea. Alright, bring him to the moon to look at the planet earth then.)

I have to admit that, it's very subjective to think something as beautiful. A native tribe might think that having long neck is beautiful and ancient chinese thought that bound feet is being graceful and pretty. But the subjectivity doesn't defy the existence of beauty, just like it cannot defy the existence of time: A might think one hour is long when he's in history class but B might find one hour to be very fast simply because he's interested in it. But still one hour is one hour, no matter how a person feels about one hour, it's still 60 minutes long!

Anyway my point is, there're something that will always awe every single person that has ever lived. That something, is the existence of beauty. It's beautiful not because man think that it is beautiful. It's beautiful because it's truly beautiful.

Hmm I know I'm long-winded but I have to make some other analogies.

First, we all know that in mathematics, there's the existence of infinity. We could never tell what exactly the number is infinity but we have to admit the existence of it, because it simply exists.

Second, the existence of imaginary number, i. i is equal to the square root of -1, which is not logical at all. But when it comes to application of calculating electromagnetic waves and 3-phase current, without i, we could never get it right. and this, simply means that, not everything that exists is logical.

Last, without the existence of beauty, man will never have the concept of beauty.

I guess that's all I'll have to say. Have a nice day! Looking forward to more of ur half thoughts and quarter posts! :D