On beauty

It’s all been said before, but maybe this term means more or less than you think it does. Philosophers have driven themselves (and their readers) mad in labyrinthine rhetorical treatises on the subject without ever (re)solving anything. One man’s pleasure is another’s pain. Most essays on beauty are fruitless, thornless, roses that neither praise nor defend any particular position, or perhaps not. The rose has been over-utilized as a metaphor for beauty, but dissolving the concept of beauty in an ironic metaphorical rose soup does nothing to define what makes something or someone beautiful. Some roses are ugly, too. A lot of beauty is about what looks good now–a fad, a passing moment, an ephemeral moment in time, a wisp of smoke, a shadow, nothing. People have fought over what is beauty, but in the long term their explanations are hollow, vacuous, superficial, focusing on the physical, which may be beautiful or may be ugly. Who knows? Some would have you think that they know. I would suspect that they are worried about being found out as fakes and phonies. An idea might be beautiful, or it may deserve to be on the hash-heap of history. We fill museums with beautiful things–paintings, sculptures, and the like, and then we charge admission to see them. Are they more beautiful because one must pay to see them? One might acquiesce to the idea that certain aesthetic structures are more pleasing to look at than others, that colors may go together, that this painting is more pleasing to look at than that sculpture, but again, is beauty a learned concept or are some things innately beautiful? As is the case with all human constructions, beauty is a contrivance, a convention based on what the hierarchy says is beautiful. Beauty is constructed, but I often wonder to what end. Nothing, it seems, is more inherently beautiful than anything else. I suppose that it boils down to what we have learned to love, and that is what we find beautiful.