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Eiuol

Understanding Human Beauty

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There are observed commonalities in what people find attractive. In terms of human face, it has been observed that even newborns have positive reactions to more symmetrical/harmonious faces. Infants 2 months of age and older will spend more time looking at attractive faces when these are shown paired with faces judged by adults to be unattractive. Some studies reveal that symmetrical faces are an indication of a person who has evolved from a large gene pool (a good thing).

I thought I addressed this already. Are you saying that beauty is essentially based on genetics and healthy gene pools? I don't think that really addresses my points since humans are essentially creatures of reason; what I said about beauty in general is that it has a lot to do with the nature of some object. I totally understand what your point, but I don't understand why this is a good standard to use for judging human beauty.

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I thought I addressed this already. Are you saying that beauty is essentially based on genetics and healthy gene pools? I don't think that really addresses my points since humans are essentially creatures of reason; what I said about beauty in general is that it has a lot to do with the nature of some object. I totally understand what your point, but I don't understand why this is a good standard to use for judging human beauty.

I am saying that what humans find physically attractive is linked to indicators of health. This is how we developed those preferences or at least a significant component of them - it was beneficial for our species.

In terms of evaluating the standard itself on an individual level. What is healthy for a human being (and this would exclude things like looking anorexic or drastically obese) is a reasonable standard of judging human physicality, in my opinion. Health is a rational value.

In terms of being creatures of reason.. sure... but we do have a certain nature as well dictated by the reality of our existence.

Edited by ~Sophia~

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What is healthy for a human being (and this would exclude things like looking anorexic or drastically obese) is a reasonable standard of judging human physicality, in my opinion.

Why not just use the concept "healthiness" instead of "beauty" then?

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Jonathan13 had linked a site to the artist Micheal Newberry. On the front page is a beautiful painting because it is representational and the standards according to the identity of the subject matter are set, can be achieved, and were achieved by Monet. Since the painting is objectively beautiful, the life affirming value an individual can gain from it, and emotions that follow can be felt.

Did you also notice that Newberry's online essay contains examples of non-mimetic shapes achieving the same effect as the mimetic images? Despite not being shaped like human beings, or any other idenfiable objects, they can nevertheless convey human actions, attributes or personalities.

Jonathan13, the emotions you had listed are perhaps felt because the artist had created a representational painting, and in doing so some standards of the identity of the landscape had to be followed in the painting of the twilight sky.

Then abstract paintings can be representational, since they can convey identifiable human attributes. Maybe you can't see it, but I and many other people can quite easily see, say, the serenity of a low-key blue abstract painting which looks almost identical to a low-key blue realistic painting of a twilight sky.

Each color that can be appreciated doesn't exist independent of an entity, but can be represented by an attribute of reality, in the painting.

Did you read and understand the Kandinksy quotes that I posted? He makes it quite clear, on a very elementary level, how colors can and do represent human attributes "independent of an entity." The associations and inferences we make when looking at a color are no less valid than the associations and inferences we make when looking at a shape.

For example, orange doesn't need to be shown in the shape of a flame or any other entity in order for people to see it as representing warmth. A yellow shape on a blue background doesn't have to have the shape of an object from reality in order to appear to approach the viewer, as Newberry's online essay clearly demonstrates. It is just as "objective" to interpret the approach or retreat of a non-mimemtic shape as representing certain human characteristics as it is to interpret the approach or retreat of mimetic shapes as representing the same human characteristics.

J

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Visual art, unlike music, deals with concretes. As long as an object is representational - as long as it presents an intelligible subject- it can be evaluated objectively.

Great! Then abstract paintings are representational, and can be evaluated objectively by your standards, since I've quite often identified the intelligible subjects which they convey.

When the object is not representational the evaluation is subjective.

Only objects contained in an artwork are "representational," so your view seems to be that any judgments of beauty outside of representational artworks are subjective, and therefore your judgments of human beauty are subjective -- human beauty outside of an artwork is not representational.

J

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I honestly don't know. I realize that your example illustrates an individual getting two contradictory and opposing reactions from two different depictions of twilight, both of which can be objectively valuable in different contexts (aggressiveness, strength, and passion vs. peace and gentleness).

Right -- it is not contradictory for a person to value some types of aggressiveness and, at the same time, to value some types of tranquility.

I see no reason why I should discount either of these as being objective. As I said, both reactions which are evoked in your hypothetical observer reflect human qualities which are objectively valuable in certain contexts.

Do you see any reason why you should reject my judgments of these paintings as being objective, or of this one (which I created)?

J

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Do you see any reason why you should reject my judgments of these paintings as being objective, or of this one (which I created)?

While I did partially go on a tangent myself, please focus on the topic of human beauty in particular rather than art specifically, unless of course your point about art relates to your points about beauty in humans. Art is quite a different context due to how it requires a process of selection and even choosing how to make a figure in the first place. Even if selection is important in human beauty, you have to work with what you've got; you can't choose to have a certain body type.

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While I did partially go on a tangent myself, please focus on the topic of human beauty in particular rather than art specifically, unless of course your point about art relates to your points about beauty in humans.

My comments do relate to human beauty. Haven't I been clear that people can see beautiful or virtuous human traits even in non-human entities, shapes or colors?

Art is quite a different context due to how it requires a process of selection and even choosing how to make a figure in the first place.

My comments about appreciating the beauty of realistic paintings of twilight skies would apply just as well to viewing those same attributes in actual twilight skies, as well as in humans or any other entities.

Even if selection is important in human beauty, you have to work with what you've got; you can't choose to have a certain body type.

Haven't you seen the television program The Biggest Loser?

J

Edited by Jonathan13

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Why not just use the concept "healthiness" instead of "beauty" then?

Beauty abstracts certain elements from healthiness (appearance) while omitting others and joins them with attraction. Attraction occurs in the perceiving subject, so it is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But this does not make beauty any more subjective than the concept of truth which also depends on a correspondence between object and subject.

It is metaphor to use beauty to refer to judgments about character. Beauty does not refer to virtue. Wouldn't life be easy if the good were all beautiful and the evil all ugly?

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Just a quick point:

In post #57, Eiuol asked me to focus on the topic of human beauty rather than art, unless my point about art relates to beauty in humans.

I replied that my comments do relate to human beauty, but I neglected to mention that, more importantly, my comments related to the germane issue of objective judgments of beauty. I was looking for clarity on the issue of objectivity by giving examples of aesthetic judgments, and asking if others would agree that they were objective. I would still be interested in hearing if people think that the examples that I posted qualify as objective judgments. The issue is not tangential, but I think gets to the core of it.

J

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I have trouble with the word "beauty" in the same way that I have trouble with the question "what is your favorite color?" or "what is your favorite building?" An aesthetic experience should go beyond identifying some thing as just beautiful.

I love Bach and Thelonious Monk, however, much of their work is not "beautiful" in the conventional sense of being "pleasing to the senses" . Their works can be fascinating, intriguing, sad, wistful, arresting -- but always more that just "beautiful".

The question should not be so much why is something beautiful, but rather, why do we ask this question in the first place? What are the neurological underpinnings that give rise to an aesthetic experience? Why can the colors of a thunderstorm illicit a feeling of tension while a pastel sunset calmness?

Regarding human beauty, and speaking as a man, a woman's beauty can be playful, harsh, regal, nurturing, cunning, distant, etc. This can be the collective assessment of the sum total of your observation of that particular person. In the same way, I've known some women who have all the hallmarks of the western idea of beauty (large eyes, full mouth, high, well defined cheek bones, etc) but who are so uninteresting that I'm not attracted to them beyond an almost clinical appreciation of their attributes.

. . .

Hugh of St. Victor (1096–1141) pondered the beauty we find in animals. He presents the reader with a list of all sorts of animals: “a resounding roll call of the graceful and the grotesque, the enormous and the miniscule” (Cizewski 1992, 298).

“For Hugh, the category of beauty includes not only shapeliness or grace, but also the curious, the exotic, and the grotesque. His catalogue of creatures is designed to move his reader to admiration, and so also praise of the Creator. Thus, divine wisdom is sought not only in conventional elegance, but in the beauty of the beast at its oddest . . . .” (ibid.)

Well, in naturalistic terms, I can appreciate that a wood tick is abstractly beautiful in its internal organization, development, and species survival. However, at a more immediate, untutored, perceptual level, I have not thought any of the ticks with which I have been personally acquainted to be beautiful. I find the mosquito to be beautiful in form and flight (notwithstanding its enemy-status in my book). I don’t think this perceptual-level response has anything to do with convention or instruction, though, of course, conventions can be elaborated from it.

I suspect Hugh was sliding back and forth from perceptual appreciation to conceptual appreciation without cognizance of the slide. At any rate, I notice that he classifies all the creatures and all their behaviors as beautiful, as they exhibit the wisdom of God (or as we would say, the marvel of biological nature). When it comes to people, I have noticed that if you meet someone with some hideous deformity that is hard to witness, it begins to go away if you are able to join the intelligence and feelings of the person. Maybe some art is a little like that too. I mean maybe its ugliness can recede if we find some intelligence there to appreciate.

Reference

Wand Cizewski 1992. Beauty and the Beasts: Allegorical Zoology. In From Athens to Chartres. E. J. Brill.

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There was an experiment done where 99 caucasian faces were digitally 'averaged', by features, on a computer algorithm and the 'averaged' face was included with the 99 making it 100. This was repeated for each sex.

The 200 faces were shown to randomly chosen individuals and a rating system was devised based upon each individuals preferences. I cannot remember but I believe that, for simplicity, the control groups were confined to the caucasian race.

An overwhelming majority picked the 'average' face of each sex. This supports the theory that man unconsciously rejects abnormalities suggesting that physical beauty is health based -that is, an indicator of preferred genes.

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