Is beauty real?

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This topic contains 36 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  PopeBeanie 8 months, 1 week ago.

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    Unseen, your attribution to Jody Lee about animals perceiving beauty is in error. That was me.

    You wrote…Animals perceive beauty? So they are critics?

    That is an obvious non sequitur. One need not be a critic to perceive beauty.

    Next you write…Knowing which painting is more beautiful than another? Nonsense.

    Some animals have been proven to have opinions. Birds have shown preferences. They may prefer cubists to impressionists. When Koko the amazing gorilla was painting she explained that her preference for red paint is because it is beautiful. (clearly she perceived beauty) Your use of the word knowing implies that there is a correct answer. Is Gauguin’s Where do we come from better than Van Gogh’s the Potato Eaters? Does anybody definitively KNOW?

    In considering the issue of whether animals perceive beauty it may be a mistake to limit the inquiry into whether animals perceive beauty in human art. Cats for instance have shown more interest in music that is at their pitch. Some whales by the way make up and sing songs hour after hour. That is a different kind of appreciation of beauty but it shares with art a mathematical make-up. Another example of an appreciation of beauty in the animal kingdom is the bowerbird. The male uses whatever it can find to create an aesthetic impression to lure a female to mate.

    Evolutionary ornithologist, Richard Prum writes…”It’s scientifically demonstrable that animals have an aesthetic capacity,” he says. “What I mean by that is that they can perceive objects, they can evaluate whether or not they like them, and then act on that. That in-and-of-itself makes for an aesthetic experience.”

    You would need proof that the platonic ideals of beauty exist, humans can identify those ideals, nonhuman animals cannot identify those ideals to say nonsense and say it with conviction and justification. But surer than shit…other animals perceive beauty.


    Simon Paynton

    What is it that makes something beautiful?  Surely it is when it carries some kind of superlative qualities to our eyes.  So beauty must be subjective, even if we are programmed to like certain things (such as symmetrical faces).



    I think we have a different understanding of chaos. Your last post indicates chaos as what you considered to be beautiful is not the same for everyone.

    I did not say, nor did I mean anything like “chaos is beautiful.” I was saying that the fact that diverse artists from different arts can agree on what’s good and what’s not in another art would seem to indicated some overarching aesthetic principle, which is anything but chaos.



    What is it that makes something beautiful? Surely it is when it carries some kind of superlative qualities to our eyes. So beauty must be subjective, even if we are programmed to like certain things (such as symmetrical faces).

    And yet you have the cross-cultural 70% ratio and the fact that artists are good judges of quality in unrelated arts! It would seem there’s something going on well beyond social influences.



    Here’s another beauty thing you learn when you study anatomy-for-artists (I attended an art school after high school before going to college).

    Men tend to be straight- or bowlegged. Women a wee bit knock-kneed. A woman with straight legs or bowed legs will look a wee bit less attractive than the more knock-kneed woman. Ditto for a knock-kneed male.

    IT'S FUNNY THE THINGS YOU NEVER FORGETAfter graduating from high school, for a year or so I attended an art school and took life drawing classes. (Yes, nude models.) I was reminded yesterday of something I learned from the instructor when I saw a couple walking in front of me, he in snugly-fitting jeans and she in tights.I learned that, typically, males are slightly bow-legged and women are slightly knock-kneed, and there was the example right in front of me. As they walked his knees passed each other about 6 inches apart whereas hers almost touched. This stock footage demonstrates the truth of it.

    Posted by Thomas Hunscher on Friday, December 23, 2016

    • This reply was modified 8 months, 1 week ago by  Unseen.

    Simon Paynton

    the cross-cultural 70% ratio

    I am sure that the things we like tend to be fairly standard, however, people vary to quite a wide degree too.



    Beauty is a brain-derived construct that feels real. It’s not easy to explain all forms of beauty, which btw can be sensed visually or audibly. Attraction to beauty can be strong even if only because it enhances evolutionary competition between mates. (Unseen, you mock this as a “calculation”, but it’s more primitive than that.) So what is the definition of “real”, when beauty is just in your head, and yet affects sexual selection, and attracts bees to flowers, and so on?

    I find interesting that flowers look so appealing to both humans and insects. There most certainly are “formulas” involved, from which colors can attract at long distances, to species-specific flower designs that attract specific insect species. As for beauty in human females, again, competition for those females enhances sexual-selective competition among males, as does beauty of male peacocks attract competition from hens.

    And then there are colorful and beautiful looking poisonous and otherwise dangerous animals, because they are more easily recognized by potential predators who should avoid them. It’s a formula that works both genetically in prey, and as more perceivable in the brains of predators. Yet another kind of easily recognizable colors and designs that would not even exist without (predator) brain power making it effective.

    Only humans (or rare off-the-bell-curve animals) dabble in art. Why? I think it’s because the penchant for it at primitive levels spurred our species to attempt new forms of communication and abstraction, e.g. cave art in particular, and early group cooperative behaviors like dance before hunts or war, and rhythm and song to make people especially aware of each other’s nuanced abilities to communicate feelings and intentions with each other.

    How about poetry!? Maybe before complex language was invented, brains evolved to appreciate an unnaturally nuanced level of vocal sounds and their aural recognition, which eventually allowed us to create new language, not to mention the importance of bringing new abilities to communicate emotions that were previously noncommunicable except by primitive body language (that, btw, we share in part with other animals). Beauty in voice, once again, made possible only by more sophisticated brains, able to construct notions of pleasurable or “beautiful” sounds, and eventually becoming increasingly sophisticated language.

    We think beauty is “special”. And so it becomes so in its visual and auditory utility, just as it does even in lower animals, and it sparks more and more cooperative and appreciated behaviors in humans, especially during early evolution of culture.

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