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Are looks subjective or objective?

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From an evolutionary perspective, good looks are considered those features that tell others that you are healthy and have good genes and that your off spring will have a higher chance of reproducing himself since he will inherit half of those genes. As such, even features, prominent gender specific physical characteristics that give away proper hormone levels, etc are objectively preferable (because the genes are objectively better) to uneven features, lack of symmetry and so forth. 


According to this logic we can objectively say that James Dean, for example, is objectively better looking than the Elephant man. 


However, for people who are normal looking and do not have any genetic defects or uneven features the debate over if that person is good looking or not seems endless. For example, a lot of people find Emma Watson very good looking, while a lot do not find her good looking. We could basically take every celebrity and for each and every one of them there will be people in both camps (good-looking/not good looking). 


Even if we were to compare someone who from an evolutionary perspective has superior physical characteristics to someone who has worse features there will still be people who will find the one with worse features better looking than the other one, but if looks are objective...how is this possible? 


If you take Brad Pitt and Jared Leto, for example, is there any way in which you could objectively say that one is better looking than the other? And if not, does not this mean that looks are subjective since there is no objective standard for measuring beauty? 


So...are looks objective or subjective? Or are they both?! But how could something be both subjective and objective?! Would not this be logically impossible?



What do you think?

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There are some features that are considered beautiful for objective reasons, and some features that are considered beautiful for subjective reasons. So it's not a contradiction to say that both objective and subjective value judgements are involved.

Some of our preferences might even be intrinsic (which means they're not value judgements at all, we're just attracted to what we're attracted to), though I'm not familiar enough with the pertinent science to say for sure.

2 hours ago, RandsPitbull said:

If you take Brad Pitt and Jared Leto, for example, is there any way in which you could objectively say that one is better looking than the other?

Yes. Jared Leto is too fucking ... blonde!


Edited by Nicky

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The matter of whether someone's looks are "good" is a matter of aesthetics, and as such the evaluations are ultimately purely objective. Different people can have different evaluations based on their philosophical premises, sense of life, or level of knowledge, and the degree to which they've misintegrated contradictions into their prior thinking and value judgments. People's subjective evaluations of looks can thus change accordingly, if they change their minds on any of these issues because they've been convinced by reasonable argument.

Aesthetic philosophy describes objective standards of beauty in visual form with standards such as symmetry, proportionality, harmony, etc. The ultimate standard is the idealized form of man - the fundamental elements of human nature projected into a bodily form, following perfectly (without lapse or contradiction) the standards of aesthetic beauty, and, when it applies to the volitionally chosen aspects of a person's looks, following perfectly also the standards of rationality and morality. When all of these elements are projected out from the metaphysically given in human nature, with perfect consistency and without contradiction (either metaphysically, aesthetically, epistemologically, or morally), that resulting image is the standard against which good looks are measured. To the degree a given example of a person's looks is consistent with this image, their looks are objectively better, and to the degree a person's looks are inconsistent or contradictory to this image, their looks are objectively worse.

As for Brad Pitt vs. Jared Leto, I'd say Brad Pitt is objectively more good looking due to having a more masculine face.

Edited by epistemologue

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the usual reason for differences of opinion on particular issues is an underlying difference in values and their hierarchy (consider politics, for example). beauty is the same way.

it is possible to break down an aesthetic evaluation, to figure out why you find someone attractive or unattractive and why, including which features factor into your evaluations and to what extent, but it takes a lot of thinking. then for someone to agree with you, you will probably have to give reasoned arguments for each of -those- attributing elements, for instance details like: a tan is more/less attractive than pale skin, eyes are a bigger/lesser component in facial beauty than noses, etc, which all lead back to the even deeper questions of what specific visual elements communicate a person's nature best / most consistently, and ultimately what you think that nature is in the first place. you get the variety in opinions out of the complexity, from the fact that the evaluation of concretes contain all these other judgments, not from any part of it being subjective.

these are quotes from The Fountainhead from Roark on buildings, but the same principle would apply to other arts, or to aspects of appearance:

"Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it's made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose. ...Its maker gives it the soul and every wall, window, and stairway to express it."

"We live in our minds, and existence is the attempt to bring that life into physical reality, to state it in gesture and form. For the man who understands this, a house he owns is is a statement of his life."

"A building has integrity, just as a man and just as seldom! It must be true to its own idea."


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