Is beauty subjective or objective? Is it a thing defined by us, or a thing that exists apart from us? I guess it all comes down to this: Is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder, or is that particular maxim a particularly boldfaced lie? For those of you thinking this is a boring excursion of a non-controversial nature, let me tantalize your intellect – if beauty is objective, there is a God. If it isn’t, there ain’t.
Oh we’ll get there, you studly individuals, don’t you worry. Now then, when people say “beauty-is-what-we-make-it”, or “we-define-our-own-beauty” or what have you; they don’t actually mean it. They think they do, but they don’t. For instance, a man might say, “Darling, you are beautiful, by which I mean you are beautiful to me,” and simply be taken as a relativistic jerk, slapped, and left with massive child-support expenses. But if a man were to say, “Darling, you are beautiful, by which I mean panda,” he would be insane.
My point is that when a man says, “We define beauty”, he doesn’t actually mean that he has created an alternative definition for beauty that he alone abides by. “Ah yes, sir, I see that you believe that sunset to be beautiful. But for me, beauty is defined as the vague feeling of nausea before I throw up. This sunset – therefore – is not beautiful to me.” No. Beauty is not defined by us, because we all agree – by our very nature, it seems – on St. Thomas Aquinas’ definition: Beauty is that which when perceived; pleases. Even the dictionary agrees!
So ignoring insanity, we have clearly a recognition of an experience. This experience is universal. All men agree on the existence of this experience, and have given the cause of this experience a name – Beauty.
The question that remains – and the point the aesthetic relativists are really making when they say “we define beauty” – is: What is beautiful? Everyone agrees on the definition of beauty, but surely not everyone agrees on the things the definition applies to? The axiom of proof for the relativist was first confirmed in high school. It went like this.
“Dude, she’s hot.”
“What? She has a overwhelmingly massive nose!”
“What are you talking about? Her nose is fine!”
“You’re an idiot.”
If the experience of beauty varies from man to man, beauty cannot be objective. A nail in the coffin, it would seem.
Just kidding, the coffin thing was a rhetorical device used to augment the wrong view with false strength, credibility and respect, making it all the more epic when IT IS CRUSHED BY EXISTENTIALISM MWHAHAHAHA –
– wait, what were we talking about? Ah, yes:
The fact that men disagree over what is beautiful in no way denies the existence of objective beauty. After all, it seems that if two men are gazing at the sunset, and one mutters “awesome”, while the other scoffs “foul”, it could be equally true that one of them is simply wrong as it could that there is no such thing as beauty. And indeed this seems to be the case, especially when taking into account another of the three Transcendentals – Truth.If one man says, “3 + 4 = 18”, in all sincerity and belief, while another man says “No, you moron, 3 + 4 = 7”, it would be a madman who concludes that there is no such thing as Truth. For if this disagreement amongst men negates the existence of Truth, than the statement that Truth is therefore ‘defined by us’ is irrelevant – it cannot held to be true.
So it is with Beauty. To deny objective beauty is to deny the existence of “that which when perceived; pleases.” But if you deny this existence, you have to account for the fact that indeed – men perceive and are pleased. This is the point where the relativist will say, “Ah, but it is all subjective.” But what is subjective? Beauty? You cannot apply the adjective ‘subjective’ to a noun you’ve claimed does not exist. It becomes entirely nonsensical: “That-which-when-perceived-pleases does not exist, and is defined by me.” This silliness is besides the fact that to deny the existence of Beauty by this logic – that because men disagree with it, it is subjective – is to deny Truth by the same logic. And then the question remains, “Are you truly saying that beauty is subjective, when there exists no beauty and no truth?”
Contradictions upon contradictions. But the real reason I believe Beauty is objective is an existentialist one. When a man experiences beauty, there are two components to his experience. There is the responsive side, which simply says, “This is beautiful.” Then there is ridiculous and seemingly irrational side, which asserts that all men should find it beautiful. Think about it. What sunrise is viewed with the confidence that the man next to you could be simultaneously finding it hideous? If we are gazing upon the Pieta….
…and a man behind us says, “that’s absolutely ugly,” our innate, immediate response is not to say, “Beauty in the eye of the beholder,” it is to say, “Are you stupid? Look at it!” (This is not to say that, with a couple years of relativistic philosophy you can’t suppress this response, turn to the man and say, “I value that opinion as much as my own.”) C.S, Lewis said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
I say, “If I find in myself the innate, natural desire to declare beauty as universal and objective, I can only conclude that there exists such a Beauty.” There is no rational reason why what is inherently real in me would be at odds with reality.
That, in gross oversimplification, is why I believe that Beauty is objective. Oh crap, I almost forgot that whole God thing. It’s like this. If Beauty is objective, then it is a Non-material Thing that exists outside of us, and outside of matter. If that is possible, than it is entirely possible that there exists the being we call God, a non-material being outside of matter. In fact, God would be beauty, and beauty God – but that’s another post.
I realize there are some noteworthy objections, but every time I came across one worth exploring – like if this is true, why are there differences in what people consider beautiful? – but each would require writing a separate post. I’ll make sure to.
I’ll leave with another form of beauty, because why not? It’ll make your day.