Objective Beauty


Question on Quora:

Is the Mona Lisa truly objectively beautiful?

Marcus:
There’s no evidence than anything is objectively beautiful. Can you think of a single thing that all people, of all cultures, find beautiful? So, no, the Mona Lisa is not objectively beautiful. Though I like it.

Yink:
Can anyone genuinely appreciate the Theory of Relativity without the knowledge of science? Probably not. So can one truly see the beauty in things without ever spending a minute in life learning aesthetics? Surprisingly, most people think so before being asked the question.

Like science at the most primitive level, people start experiencing aesthetics by relying on their intuitions when they are born to the world. Unfortunately, aesthetics seems to stop at where science takes off for most people when they age and grow: Knowledge of science escalates while the ability to experience aesthetics stays at the ground level. Yes, aesthetics is influenced by aspects of life such as cultural difference, but we can equally argue that science is influenced by biases in life such as religious belief… until Math as a scientific language is introduced.

So can beauty be objective? Maybe, maybe not. But the answer is definitely not an affirmative no. I believe that no one can truly experience the beauty in things and say something is or is not beautiful until they learn the language(s) for aesthetics. As such, I respectfully disagree with your point of view.

Marcus:
I still believe it’s a definitive no. When it comes to aesthetics, there’s no metric by which you can objectively say one aesthetic is better than the other (or more “right”), unless you simply define “better” as more common or more likely to be held by experts.

Yink:
I think you might have misunderstood my point. Here your belief seems to be based on the premise that beauty is determined by us human’s subjective mind, and for an object to be objectively beautiful, it must earn a consensus amongst observers.

I am seeing things the other way around. I believe that beauty lies “within” the object and the fact that not everyone (including the so-called experts) is capable of experiencing it does not demolish the object’s innate aesthetics in any way. Individual judgment does not affect an object’s objective aesthetics for that objectivity does not require universal agreement.
As an electrical engineer (in my previous life) who falls in love with science, I find Euler’s Identity strangely beautiful. As an art enthusiast who loves to explore the beauty in nature, I find Antarctica one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Obviously, not all people will agree with me. Does it make Euler’s Identity or Antarctica any less beautiful, objectively speaking? : )

Marcus:
What are your evidences that Euler’s Identity or Antarctica are objectively beautiful? And why did you put “within” in quotes? In the beauty objectively within or not?

Yink:
I put “within” in quotes because we all know that aesthetics is not a physical attribute embedded in any object. It is rather more of an emotional attachment or, scientifically speaking, a psychological connection between our mind and the object.

My standpoint on aesthetics falls apart, at least partially, when one starts asking for empirical evidence. It falls apart because I have no physical measurable evidence on, say, how Euler’s Identity or Antarctica is empirically beautiful other than the fact that… I, as a human being, can feel it. Yet neither is the search for empirical evidence the best way to find aesthetics in life.
Philosophers have been scratching their heads ever since Plato asked the question “What is aesthetics?” more than 2000 years ago. No one has figured out a definitive answer to this day, but it is also true that no one has ever disputed the existence of aesthetics.

The undisputed existence of aesthetics is exactly my point. Aesthetics can exist regardless of opinions. In some cases, we just need to look for it.

So, is the painting, Mona Lisa, objectively beautiful?

I believe so, for that the painting is capable of evoking our feeling of aesthetics, at least when one knows “how” to look for it. The “how” does not necessarily have to be the knowledge of arts & history, but rather can be something as simple as finding a quiet time to immerse yourself with the painting. The “how” will also differ from individual to individual because our minds are all built differently. True, some people will dislike the painting for various reasons, but it does not take away the painting’s certain attributes that can evoke us humans’ feeling of aesthetics. This is what I mean by “objective beauty.”

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