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31 January 2014

Friday Question Is beauty purely subjective or can someone be wrong about whether something is beautiful?
Good one, HJ. I am sure a person (creature?) from a race that looked like that would find the image beautiful, though, if what was depicted indicated healthy genes, the way symmetrical features do for us.

The older I get the more subjective I think beauty really is. Especially since what we perceive is itself so dependent on our equipment (eyes versus Jacobsen's organs) and how well it works (color blindness, sensitivity to movement, etc.)
posted by bearwife 31 January | 16:33
Hehe, it's a creature from the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual called a beholder, as in "Beauty is in the eye of."

There's a Ukrainian saying along the lines of "love makes us see beauty in the one we love." I think people may be likely to love what they find beautiful, not simply to find beauty in those they love, but I like the sentiment and I think it's accurate.

Familiarity and sentiment turn imperfection and irregularity into the very essence of beauty, while unattainable standards and golden symmetry can easily appear lifeless and unreal.

My feeling is that all appreciations -- beauty, taste, style, humor, sentiment -- are informed by such a variety of internal and external factors as to render any judgment personal and not universal. It can be said that a photo is expertly taken, a hairdo exquisitely styled, or a maquillage tastefully chosen and deftly applied, but to say the model is objectively beautiful and to muster science or tradition to "prove" such, is ultimately a false path.

I don't expect anyone else would think my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world, nor do I expect them to agree with me that my fiancee is the greatest beauty in the history of the universe. But the one was, and the other is, and that's the truth as I see it, so I know beauty standards aren't universal.

You'd probably agree with me if you met either of them, if only to humor me. And I would appreciate your kindness.
posted by Hugh Janus 31 January | 17:15
thanks to MeFi, I just read a really thoughtful article on just this topic.
posted by lonefrontranger 31 January | 18:52
I had to sleep on that question before I could parse what it really asks. A devout Mormon could find beauty in polygamous marriage. A sex offender could find beauty in whatever. Whereas they see simple beauty, society views the people themselves abnormal, and their fixation as abhorrent or even hateful. It's all about context.
posted by Ardiril 01 February | 11:38
I would think that beauty is purely subjective because perception is not uniform.
posted by Splunge 02 February | 07:17
End of January goal post update! || Worst pickup lines?