Beauty is what makes good things good.

The opposite of beauty is ugliness.

The kinds of things we love-persons and objects both-and our reasons for loving them and finding them beautiful determine and, express, a large part of our character. To find something beautiful, I have been saying, involves the sense that life will be more worthwhile if that beautiful object were to become part of it.

But I have said nothing about what makes life worthwhile and unlike Plato, who thinks that this is in all cases moral virtue, I don't even think that there is anything both general and informative to say about it. - Alexander Nehamas


1   Function

Life without beauty is dreary. There is no way to distinguish between the quality of items.

Clothes become a matter of retaining heat. Food becomes a matter of staying alive and well. There can be no incentive to do anything since no value judgments can be made. Even life and not life become indistinguishable.

It follows that aesthetics are not something to be put by the wayside, and more so, that it is worthy of study. An understanding of aesthetics is an understanding of what makes life good.

Beauty seems to be a clue to where we can find the good. Now, beautiful things can also be evil as in temptresses, and good things can be ugly as in concrete. But in general, it seems to be the case that beautiful things are good.

In this sense, we might use beauty as a way to find the things we ought to emulate in our own character.

2   Desire

A desire is a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wish for some thing to happen.

Lust is an emotion of intense desire.

In economics, a want is something that is desired. It is said that everybody has unlimited wants, but limited resources. A need is want that is necessary for survival.

Buddhism states that desire or wanting is a cause for most of the suffering experienced in life.

3   Causes

Desire can be increased by scarcity.

4   Recognition

Depending on the theory we adopt, either pleasure, cognition, or moral value make art valuable.

We can also ask whether or not any of these elements are necessary in addition to being a source of aesthetic value.

DuBos thought art was a way to avoid boredom.

4.1   Cognition

Kant, Babbitt, Plato, and Schopenhauer thought cognition.

This would be like games and watches and kinetic sculptures. Also humor/wordplay, puns.

I would claim this is actually just a subcategory of pleasure, since learning is (chemically) pleasurable.

4.2   Awe


4.3   Moral Value

Tolstyor, Aristotle, Plato

  • Plato: The Republic
  • Nehamas: Plato and the Mass Media
  • Gaut: The Ethical Criticism of Art

4.4   Redundancy

There is evidence that beautiful things are redundant.

  • The popularity of pop music
  • The discovery by Francis Galton that averages of faces are more attractive than individual faces
  • The beauty of symmetry, the ugliness of an unlevel picture frame

It's very unclear why this might be.

5   Study

Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy that studies art, beauty, and taste.

Aesthetics is the study of quality. It attempts to discover what makes things beautiful.

6   Attraction

Attraction is a feeling ...

Attraction is an uncontrollable feeling and biological response. It is not logical, but gut-level.

Attraction is a necessary condition for romantic love.

7   Causes

Attraction comes from three sources:

  1. Finding positive survival traits attractive
  2. Finding negative survival traits attractive (peacock)
  3. Finding attractiveness attractive (sexy sons)

8   See also

9   References

[0]Danto 1964. The Artworld.