Friday, September 16, 2011

Darwinian Theory of Beauty

http://www.ted.com/talks/denis_dutton_a_darwinian_theory_of_beauty.html

"beauty comes from doing something well."

6 comments:

  1. But how could anyone say this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=beQc-WDMnow
    is not beautiful?

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  2. There's one thing i'd like to add to it though, that in general for beauty to be emotionally felt it has to be accessible too. Higher mathematics is beautiful too, it's done well, however many people have in fact a distaste for it simply because it's unpalatable to them... despite being done well. Having a connection with the endeavor being done well is beauty that can be felt viscerally. That makes sense too I suppose, it's evolutionarily beneficial to make something that people can relate to no matter how well done it is, otherwise you won't get more sex. Neh?

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  3. Adam: your post disproves that beauty is something done well. Leona Anderson is a terrible singer, yet there is something strangely beautiful about it - maybe it has to do with admiration for her courage that comes through in her singing. It also makes me think about the many things that are beautiful that are not done well, but are rather exceptional moments of humanity - displays of compassion, or even someone or something dying can give a feeling of beauty. Where's the biological function in that?!?

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  4. Case: "beauty is in the culturally-conditioned eye of the beholder." While I think the feeling of beauty is a universal, biological given for all of us, how it is manifest is subjective and maybe more of a function of feeling connected like you said. However, the tricky part about that for me is that when something that is intended to be beautiful is also overly culturally-conditioned (when a song is written to cater to a certain cultural preference or taste for example). When this occurs, I become suspicious of its integrity as with a lot of pop music. Kant had a similar problem with "culturally conditioned" beauty. As soon as a goal or motive is attached to the creation of beauty, it is no longer beautiful. At the same time, Dutton (and I think I agree) and yourself point out that there is always going to be a sexual-biological motivation attached to it intrinsically. Where you at Kant?!

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  5. Also, a great pickup line from that ted talk:

    "Hey girl, you wanna come over and check out my Acheulian Hand Ax? It demonstrates that I have ingenuity and manual dexterity and am thus, a worthy mate!"

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  6. If Beauty has (or had) a biological function, at some point that function became conceptualized (ie the hand-axe), and abstracted into the realm of discourse and culture. There, Beauty is free of the constraints of its origin and can reproduce all by itself – ie the Meme of Beauty. This seems consistent with Kant, as attaching the goal of reproduction to Beauty would reduce it to something far less beautiful. I then don't agree that there is always a a sexual-biological motivation attached to Beauty. Instead, the opposite seems to be the case: that Beauty can only exist in a social space which supersedes biological necessity.

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