Beauty is Not Just in the Eye of the Beholder

October 4, 2010

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Creativity has to do with recognizing differences and similarities.

Recognize patterns that have a certain appeal to us, patterns in which we see beauty.

Now it is often said that beauty is subjective. That beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But according to David Bohm in On Creativity, beauty is not purely subjective. He says there is a more objective part about it.

Beauty is not simply a matter of personal opinion, dependent primarily upon the eye of the beholder. It is the result of dynamic, evolving processes that consist in order, structure, and harmonious totalities. Consequently, Bohm suggests the need for a new language in which these processes are conceived in objective terms, asserting that their coherent interplay results in an aesthetic perception of wholeness that is not strictly subjective.

So it is about recognizing a certain harmonious totality. Maybe a certain structure that makes sense to the person. At best a person who can see beyond the concepts. Seeing beyond the static, already known concepts and see that what lays beneath them.

Seeing that, means there can be formed other patterns or concepts from that underlying wholeness. Seeing new relationships between things.

Such sensitivity to similarity and differences enables one to perceive new orders of structure, both in the objective world of nature and in the mind.

Adorno about Aesthetics

I thought that David Bohm’s views on that are very interesting. Some time ago I read something from the philosopher Adorno, that seemed to say something similar about art.

The art object and the aesthetic experience of the art object contain a truth-content. Truth-content is a cognitive content which is not exhausted either by the subjective intentions of its producers or by the subjective responses of its consumers, and that may be revealed through analysis. Whereas Kant conceives of beauty as a subjective experience, Adorno suggests that beauty mediates between subject and object.

It seems that Adorno’s opinion about art is different from the philosopher Kant, who says that it is subjective. Kant says that it is in the eye of the beholder, while Adorno says that the artobject and the observer together are the truth.

That truth part is not just the artobject. And it is also not just the observer. Maybe it is not art at all, until the artwork is understood.

UPDATE: I have to stay with this a little longer, as it seems that Kant differentiates between taste and beauty.

Aesthetics is the philosophical notion of beauty. Taste is a result of education and awareness of elite cultural values; therefore taste can be learned. Taste varies according to class, cultural background, and education. According to Kant, beauty is objective and universal; thus certain things are beautiful to everyone. The contemporary view of beauty is not based on innate qualities, but rather on cultural specifics and individual interpretations.

So in my next post I might better compare the views of Bohm, Adorno and Kant more closely.

Beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Leisa LaDell

Fascinating!

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Annemieke

Glad you found it fascinating. It is a subject that really fascinates me too, for a long time already. But only recently I got a better understanding of it, mainly because of putting it into words myself.

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Craig Addy

I love this conversation. Thank you. I just hosted a Salon called “What is Beauty” and while a definitive meaning for “Beauty” was not forthcoming, we all finished the evening knowing we would not want to live without it. I like the idea that “beauty” might be something or some awareness in the space between the observer and the object or even idea being observed.

Your differentiation between taste and beauty is also very interesting. Looking back at the Salon, I see that much of what we were inquiring about was really taste rather than beauty.

A post I created recently is called “Beauty Will Save the World”. It very briefly summarizes a small part of an amazing radio broadcast by the same name. “Beauty Will Save the World” is a quote by Dostoyevski. I’ve provided links to both the programs Website Page and the Downloadable MP3 file at:
http://craigaddy.com/?p=489

Craig Addy

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Annemieke

Thanks for that, sounds really interesting!

Yeah great, a conversation about beauty! A while ago I had one on a music forum and it was just fascinating.

About the differentiation between taste and beauty, it is something I only just now see as essential in the view of Kant. I read his views about aesthetics some time ago, but only now I realised the importance of that distinction.

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