Aesthetics–the Quest for Beauty

File:Collection of Philippine shells (4808526378).jpg

Why is something beautiful? Studying the answers to this question is the domain of aesthetics, a branch of philosophy that deals with art, beauty, and taste.

Many people have tried to understand the mystery of beauty, and perhaps the most common answer to the question is, “I know beauty when I see it.” To this we can add that our sense of the beautiful seems to be tied to the culture we grew up in–for instance, French, American, Haitian, and Indian culture, all of which have differing aesthetics.

And, then again, as the photograph above reminds us, certain kinds of beauty are appreciated everywhere.

Let me suggest that this thing that is everywhere but also seemingly different from place to place is an aspect of our sense of community. Our sense of home is learned early in life–certainly before we’re 10 years old. What we are talking about here is the way that the brain incorporates its environment as it grows–and RT has a hunch that the middle brain and hindbrain are highly sensitive to their environment, processing and then imprinting such things as native language, our sense of right and wrong, and what we feel to be beautiful. We learn what is beautiful by watching how our parents and others desire or reject the things around us.

This is only one of many aesthetic theories, but for RT it more than any other explains why the study of aesthetics (including visual art and poetry) is so important: the conscious mind, by experiencing and evaluating a larger sample of beautiful art and poetic thought can enrich and, at least to some extent, alter its conception of what is beautiful, enabling the student of beauty to enter a more cosmopolitan world of experiences and ideas. Reserving judgment until we have thought through our reaction to something is only part of the process–we must be capable of feeling the particular beauty set before us.

Art helps us experience the world more fully–and enables us to recognize the beauty in other people much more easily.   RT

Photo: Collection of Philippine Shells, Roberto Verzo from the Phillipines, WikiCmns, CC 2.0 Generic.


  1. March 19, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    If beauty is recognised, felt, experienced as right, then that suggests a deep brain nerve path, as you say. We tend to think of that sense of rightness as equivalent to a spiritual perspective of the ‘true’, whereas it may just be the familiarity and ease of recognition of well-worn neural pathways. Yikes. Beauty, Truth, Justice, Ethics, Morality, etc all just a learned pattern of synaptic fireworks….

  1. March 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm

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