Beauty

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Beauty

Postby Nick_A on March 17th, 2019, 1:49 pm 

What is beauty and why do we feel it? PLato called it an objective value existing independently of Man which Protagoras rejected in favor of Man being the measure of ll things. I will use this link as a source

https://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl201 ... alues.html

Objectivity vs relativism

I'd like to begin by asking you if you consider the approaches taken by Richard Feynman and Simone Weil as meaningful reactions to the experience of beauty? Can a person be attracted to both without living in contradiction?

"Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars — mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is "mere". I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination — stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern — of which I am a part... What is the pattern or the meaning or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little more about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?" ~ Richard P. Feynman

"Beauty is the only finality here below. As Kant said very aptly, it is a finality which involves no objective. A beautiful thing involves no good except itself, in its totality, as it appears to us. We are drawn toward it without knowing what to ask of it. It offers its own existence. We do not desire something else, we possess it, and yet we still desire something. We do not know in the least what it is. We want to get behind beauty, but it is only a surface. It is like a mirror that sends us back our own desire for goodness. It is a sphinx, an enigma, a mystery which is painfully tantalizing. We should like to feed upon it, but it is only something to look at; it appears only from a certain distance. The great trouble in human life is that looking and eating are two different operations. Only beyond the sky, in the country inhabited by God, are they one and the same operation. ... It may be that vice, depravity and crime are nearly always ... in their essence, attempts to eat beauty, to eat what we should only look at." ~ Simone Weil
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Re: Beauty

Postby BadgerJelly on March 18th, 2019, 12:45 am 

I really like something about what Protagoras represents. I don’t really hold to the same interpretation you’ve given by equating him with “relativism,” although he certainly leans to this area in some respects!

Any kind of “absolutism” I see as being useful only within set boundaries. Like Wittgenstein puts it if we don’t play by the same rules then we’e not playing the same game. Given that we’ve no ansolute appreciation of “being human” as a game and explore soem set of proposed “rules”/“laws” of the universe, we are not in a position to declare something as “absolute” in any other terms than abstract ones. To play poker we play by the rules or we’re not playing poker. To “break the rules” would be to break from playing the game.

Beauty is something difficult to set out as an item of investigation because the term has mulitiple linguistic applications. The same can be said for multiple other terms such as “art,” “religion” or “culture”.

Perhaps it would be useful if ou outlined the exact extend of meaning you wish to look at regarding “beauty”? Extracts from Plato would be useful references to add too. Thanks :)
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Re: Beauty

Postby someguy1 on March 18th, 2019, 1:29 am 

Nick_A » March 17th, 2019, 11:49 am wrote:What is beauty and why do we feel it?


Since you mention scientific beauty I have a perspective.

Music is beautiful. And the beauty of music is accessible to anyone, without any training in music being necessary. In fact this is encapsulated in a saying: "Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast." I've also heard it with savage beast. Either way the meaning is clear. The sublime beauty of a piece of music may be directly experienced by even the basest of creatures.

Math is beautiful. I'm always awed by the proof that there is a nonmeasurable set; and the related contemplation of the object known as "the reals mod the rationals." And I'm truly in thrall to the strange ascending tower of the countable ordinals. I'm slowly working my way up trying to understand some of them. But both those examples require work. They're taught to upper division or early grad level math students.

And there's so much incredibly beautiful math out there that I will never be able to directly appreciate. I'd love to grok Grothendieck but that is probably not going to happen in this lifetime. That makes me sad.

So there are these two types of beauty. There's the beauty that may be appreciated by all; and there's the beauty that may only be appreciated by specialists; and even then, only to the level of their training.

But then Feynman has a story about this if I recall it correctly. Someone asked him if he didn't lose some of the wonder of a rainbow for having a scientific understanding of it. He said no. He could appreciate both. The beauty of nature and the beauty of physics.
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Re: Beauty

Postby Serpent on March 18th, 2019, 8:43 am 

Of course, the beauty of music is mathematical, as is the beauty of sand dunes and snail-shells and human faces. It's all about proportion and symmetry.
Because we are pattern-discerning creatures, we have evolved an appreciation of more and more complex pattern and to build pattern - proportion and symmetry - in our own creations. Understanding how and why this is done doesn't detract from the appreciation and may even enhance it; what it takes away is the mystery.
Mystery is a requirement of religious awe, not of delight in nature and art.
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Re: Beauty

Postby TheVat on March 18th, 2019, 9:27 am 

Sorry I went a little nuts with the like button. Much to feed on. Agree that beauty can be a vague umbrella of a word, covering a wide range of patterns, symmetries, proportions (phi, for example, the old 1.618 golden ratio), hues, tones, even dissonances that tweak certain emotions. And, of course, Simone Weil's wikipedia photo, which suggests suitors struggling with that "only at a certain distance" ruling. :-)
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Re: Beauty

Postby Serpent on March 18th, 2019, 10:21 am 

Some people think bulldogs are beautiful. As compared to what, I'm not sure.
In the case of personal relationships - other people, pets, home decor - the eye of the beholder is subject to all sorts of influences beyond the aesthetic: anyone/anything you love is beautiful. Indeed, our aesthetic sense itself (taste; discernment) is influenced by a number of factors in our life experience. One person's simple elegance is another's drab monotony; one's lively and colourful is another's garish and vulgar.

We watch the BBC show Grand Designs at lunch-time. I've had a life-long interest in architecture, and I find the shiny white & glass box buildings attractive - and also the hand-crafted and original, the compact and functional, the ecological and the innovative - because I appreciate the design and building aspects. My partner likes or hates houses purely according to how pleasant they would be to live in.
(I'll watch old Poirot episodes over and over, just for the wonderful Art Deco settings. That's the period which inspired my original interest and is still my favourite. Probably not coincidentally. Here, you can see how the style was adapted to different cultural aesthetics. https://www.loveproperty.com/gallerylist/70159/amazing-art-deco-houses-that-you-can-actually-live-in)

OTH, I used to keep my ailing mother company when she watched an American series called What Not to Wear in which a couple of brash young nitwits wasted a lot of money to turn amusing, original women into trendy clothes-hangers. I know nothing about fashion, but appreciate individual self-expression.
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Re: Beauty

Postby BadgerJelly on March 18th, 2019, 11:30 am 

I’ve always been fascinated by the beauty of what isn’t quite symmetrical. We seem to prefer what is slightly “imperfect” in terms of proportion and symmetry.
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Re: Beauty

Postby Serpent on March 18th, 2019, 12:29 pm 

BadgerJelly » March 18th, 2019, 10:30 am wrote:I’ve always been fascinated by the beauty of what isn’t quite symmetrical. We seem to prefer what is slightly “imperfect” in terms of proportion and symmetry.

Ah, but there is a method to making asymmetry beautiful.
A human face is rarely a perfect bilateral image, and that's how we have learned facial recognition from infancy - anything perfect looks artificial. But if one side is off by more than a tiny fraction, or one feature is more than a few millimeters out of proportion to the rest, that face can't be beautiful - though her mother won't ever admit it. (It can still be art, since art isn't necessarily about beauty, and there are lots of other reasons to like something.)

Look closely at a man-made object that is beautiful and not quite symmetrical. I bet you find that if there is a tall tower on one wing, the other wing is 1.5X the length, or has a couple of buttresses - some feature to balance that tower.
Balance stands in for symmetry in nature, too - up to a point. It works with a tree, but not with a lion.
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Re: Beauty

Postby charon on March 18th, 2019, 1:03 pm 

Serpent -

I've been to the De La Warr pavilion. Interesting. Whether it was beautiful is another question. More like a sort of air traffic control tower :-)

Image
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Re: Beauty

Postby Nick_A on March 18th, 2019, 1:47 pm 

I see I wasn’t clear as to my initial question. We all have the experience of beauty but is beauty itself an objective quality as described by Plato or a subjective experience as describe by protagoras? The link in the opening post introduces Plato’s divided line as the means to explain beauty as an objective quality.

The qualities above the line such as one, identity, permanent, divine, soul, reason, truth, and knowledge take place at the intelligible level above the line. The qualities below the line such as many difference changing human, body, senses , appearance,and opinion are experienced below the line described as the visible domain made visible by the sun

The higher parts of the tripartite soul are attracted to reality above the divided line while the lower parts of the soul are attracted to what is interpreted as beauty experienced below the divided line.

Most here seem to be attracted the the experience of beauty below the line. However those like Simone Weil described in the OP are attracted to reality above the line beauty masks.

If beauty is an objective quality then truth must be also as well as respect for life. If true, there is no reason why conscience as the experience of objective value we have in potential may not be real as well.

I’m not saying one is better than the other but curious s to which path you are more drawn to; the one explained by Richard Feynman which is the path from wholeness into diversity or the one described by Simone Weil which is the path from diversity to wholeness?
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Re: Beauty

Postby charon on March 18th, 2019, 3:50 pm 

Why do you say either/or? If it's only objective how do we know it's beauty? If it's only subjective why do we agree certain things are beautiful or ugly?

Of course there is beauty outwardly, in nature, in art, music, poetry, in the face, and so on, but what tells us it's beauty?

Is there beauty which is wholly subjective, completely independent of anything external? I'd say yes.
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Re: Beauty

Postby someguy1 on March 18th, 2019, 3:56 pm 

Or as the now-disgraced philosopher Bill Cosby once said: Beauty's only skin deep; but ugly cuts right to the bone!
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Re: Beauty

Postby Serpent on March 18th, 2019, 4:18 pm 

charon » March 18th, 2019, 2:50 pm wrote:Is there beauty which is wholly subjective, completely independent of anything external? I'd say yes.

But our senses (as distinct from the autonomous system) are pointed outward. Everything we know, we learn from outside.
If there is a beauty unavailable to the senses, you have to create it, with no materials except the genetic memory of an infant mind. How would you know to do that, or what it was you're producing? Why would you make the effort? What purpose would it serve?
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Re: Beauty

Postby Nick_A on March 18th, 2019, 5:26 pm 

charon » March 18th, 2019, 3:50 pm wrote:Why do you say either/or? If it's only objective how do we know it's beauty? If it's only subjective why do we agree certain things are beautiful or ugly?

Of course there is beauty outwardly, in nature, in art, music, poetry, in the face, and so on, but what tells us it's beauty?

Is there beauty which is wholly subjective, completely independent of anything external? I'd say yes.


I'm trying to combine the Conscience thread with this one. Conscience when pure FEELs objective value and beauty is an objective value. When we feel the wholeness of life we can respect it since we love it. How can we know? All we do know is what it means to feel beauty when we do. As philosophers all we can do is to contemplate if Diotima's Ladder of Love is genuine by FEELINg the idea as a reality above Plato's divided line.

I've found it helpful contemplating this very deep idea beyond my intelligence by trying to appreciate the Ladder of Love and how diotima explained it to Socrates. it concludes with

https://www.thoughtco.com/platos-ladder-of-love-2670661

6. Beauty itself–that is, the Form of the Beautiful. This is described as “an everlasting loveliness which neither comes nor goes, which neither flowers nor fades.” It is the very essence of beauty, “subsisting of itself and by itself in an eternal oneness.” And every particular beautiful thing is beautiful because of its connection to this Form. The lover who has ascended the ladder apprehends the Form of Beauty in a kind of vision or revelation, not through words or in the way that other sorts of more ordinary knowledge are known.
Diotima tells Socrates that if he ever reached the highest rung on the ladder and contemplated the Form of Beauty, he would never again be seduced by the physical attractions of beautiful youths. Nothing could make life more worth living than enjoying this sort of vision. Because the Form of Beauty is perfect, it will inspire perfect virtue in those who contemplate it.

This account of the ladder of love is the source for the familiar notion of “Platonic love,” by which is meant the sort of love that is not expressed through sexual relations. The description of the ascent can be viewed as an account of sublimation, the process of transforming one sort of impulse into another, usually, one that is viewed as “higher” or more valuable. In this instance, sexual desire for a beautiful body becomes sublimated into a desire for philosophical understanding and insight.


Can we become capable of higher love and its consequent respect for life as a whole or are we doomed to continue in Plato's cave in eternal battle with shadows? IMO it is a profound philosophical question.

There is nothing wrong with being attracted to how details and facts of the domain of the senses are related.. which is what Richrd Feynman represents. and the way of science. It is wonderful that the scientist can do it. But is it really a good thing that contemplation of the Ladder of Love is discarded as we become more enchanted with technology? Is there anything lost if culture forgets about what attracts those like Simone Weil after they have read Palto? They become open to the experience of beauty which transcends our normal subjective reactions. Does it do any good to contemplate the objective form which is behind and the source of the experience of beauty?
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Re: Beauty

Postby BadgerJelly on March 19th, 2019, 12:51 am 

Nick -

I don’t really have answers for the questions in the prevous post.

I don’t really agree with the sentiments expressed in this question though:

But is it really a good thing that contemplation of the Ladder of Love is discarded as we become more enchanted with technology?


I don’t think the “Ladder of Love” is necessarily discarded just because of technology. If anything it can, like all things, be put to good or bad use.
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Re: Beauty

Postby charon on March 19th, 2019, 4:08 am 

Nick -

I'm not sure why you combine beauty with conscience. I don't see the two go together.

All we do know is what it means to feel beauty when we do.


I'd go for that.

Can we become capable of higher love and its consequent respect for life as a whole or are we doomed to continue in Plato's cave in eternal battle with shadows?


Don't forget they escape Plato's cave at the end :-)

Does it do any good to contemplate the objective form which is behind and the source of the experience of beauty?


I don't think one can contemplate the source of beauty. One would first have to know what it is. If one does there's no holding onto it; like beauty itself it comes and goes and we have no control of that.

When we say 'contemplate' I suspect we mean thinking about it. One can think about it but I'm not sure what good it does. The thinking about it is not the same as the reality.
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Re: Beauty

Postby Serpent on March 19th, 2019, 9:21 am 

What can you contemplate behind beauty?
Only the science: what makes something beautiful and why we see it as beautiful. That's a lot of science, hard and soft, and you can even include aesthetics among the soft sciences, which can all be studied.
None of them have a conscience or any moral sense at all; they belong in a different category.

But, what the hay, the sun is shining, the bluejays are horny and I'm feeling generous:
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
- Cecil Frances Alexander
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Re: Beauty

Postby charon on March 19th, 2019, 10:52 am 

Serpent » March 19th, 2019, 2:21 pm wrote:What can you contemplate behind beauty?


It's not literally 'behind', it's the source of all beauty.
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Re: Beauty

Postby Serpent on March 19th, 2019, 11:19 am 

charon » March 19th, 2019, 9:52 am wrote:It's not literally 'behind', it's the source of all beauty.

What is?
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Re: Beauty

Postby Nick_A on March 19th, 2019, 2:35 pm 

Charon


I'm not sure why you combine beauty with conscience. I don't see the two go together.


Objective conscience by definition feels objective value in relation to the Source of value and the many expressions of value we experience by our senses . Beauty is an objective value. We experience the conditions within which beauty can be expressed.

Look at beauty as white light. Its many expressions we perceive at lower vibratory rates as colors. The essence or vibrations of of white light are within colors

I don't think one can contemplate the source of beauty. One would first have to know what it is. If one does there's no holding onto it; like beauty itself it comes and goes and we have no control of that.


This is an interesting topic that is introduced in Meno’s Paradox

https://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/menopar.htm

On the one hand we believe that “Either you know what you’re looking for or you don’t know what you’re looking for."

But according to the theory of recollection: "What appears to be learning something new is really recollecting something already known."

The way of science is learning new facts while the study of human being is the attempt to remember (recollect) what has been forgotten but we are drawn to.


When we say 'contemplate' I suspect we mean thinking about it. One can think about it but I'm not sure what good it does. The thinking about it is not the same as the reality.


Normally we associate contemplation with analysis which is a function the lower mind but conscious contemplation is the work of higher mind.

Simone Weil — 'When a contradiction is impossible to resolve except by a lie, then we know that it is really a door.'


This IMO is a wonderful example of conscious contemplation. Analysis pursues answers while conscious contemplation intensifies the question. Conscious contemplation of higher values brings us closer to the question and the door it can open to the realitlies above Plato’s divided line..
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Re: Beauty

Postby charon on March 19th, 2019, 8:33 pm 

Nick -

Objective conscience by definition feels objective value in relation to the Source of value


Sorry, I have no idea what this means.

Beauty is an objective value.


How do we know?

Normally we associate contemplation with analysis which is a function the lower mind but conscious contemplation is the work of higher mind.


Analysis is thinking, of whatever level of mind. Contemplation means to gaze upon, which is not the same as thinking. But I would still ask the same question - what are you gazing upon? The idea of beauty or the actuality of beauty? Can we gaze on actual beauty? Or only on what we think is beauty?
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Re: Beauty

Postby BadgerJelly on March 19th, 2019, 9:21 pm 

Charon -

I think he simply means that we all appreciate “beauty” in some experiential capacity. We don’t fall into a state of confusion when someone calls a painting or sunset Beautiful. The meaning is explicit enough.

Of course I’m guessing, and even if so I don’t quite see how this is pertinent to the topic - being obvious enough not to need mentioning.
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Re: Beauty

Postby charon on March 19th, 2019, 10:07 pm 

Of course I’m guessing


In that case I'll hear it from the horse's mouth, if that's all right :-)
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Re: Beauty

Postby Nick_A on March 19th, 2019, 11:12 pm 

Does this make sense

http://users.rowan.edu/~clowney/Aesthet ... /plato.htm

Beauty, Justice, and The Circle are all examples of what Plato called Forms or Ideas. Other philosophers have called them Universals. Many particular things can have the form of a circle, or of justice, or beauty. For Plato, these Forms are perfect Ideals, but they are also more real than physical objects. He called them "the Really Real". The world of the Forms is rational and unchanging; the world of physical appearances is changeable and irrational, and only has reality to the extent that it succeeds in imitating the Forms. The mind or soul belongs to the Ideal world; the body and its passions are stuck in the muck of the physical world. So the best human life is one that strives to understand and to imitate the Forms as closely as possible. That life is the life of the mind, the life of the Philosopher (literally, the lover of wisdom). Self control, especially control of the passions, is essential to the soul that wants to avoid the temptations of sensuality, greed, and ambition, and move on to the Ideal World in the next life.


We experience devolutions of beauty but the higher parts of the soul are drawn to the ideals including beauty. Richard Feynman is drawn to the devolutions and the relationship of parts within them. while those like Simone Weil are drawn to the truths of the ideals
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Re: Beauty

Postby BadgerJelly on March 20th, 2019, 1:07 am 

Nick -

It would be a helluva lot easier if you either said that I was right or wrong? It appears I was right, but if not I’ve you’ve found a possible deadend (which may be negatively useful and move us towards a place where we can communicate more directly?)
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Re: Beauty

Postby charon on March 20th, 2019, 5:46 am 

Nick_A » March 20th, 2019, 4:12 am wrote:
We experience devolutions of beauty but the higher parts of the soul are drawn to the ideals including beauty. Richard Feynman is drawn to the devolutions and the relationship of parts within them. while those like Simone Weil are drawn to the truths of the ideals


Well, we seem to be discussing what other people say about beauty rather than beauty itself. I'd say what they think is up to them and unfortunately they're not here :-)

By 'experience devolutions of beauty' I suppose you mean different people think different things are beautiful. What one person thinks is beautiful, another may not. So, really, you're saying beauty is all a matter of opinion. That's rather tragic, isn't it?
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Re: Beauty

Postby PaulN on March 20th, 2019, 12:58 pm 

And subjective.

None of this stuff works unless you are a classic Platonist. As few people are these days, there's really not much compelling about all this speculation in old-school Idealism.
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Re: Beauty

Postby Nick_A on March 20th, 2019, 2:35 pm 

charon » March 20th, 2019, 5:46 am wrote:
Nick_A » March 20th, 2019, 4:12 am wrote:
We experience devolutions of beauty but the higher parts of the soul are drawn to the ideals including beauty. Richard Feynman is drawn to the devolutions and the relationship of parts within them. while those like Simone Weil are drawn to the truths of the ideals


Well, we seem to be discussing what other people say about beauty rather than beauty itself. I'd say what they think is up to them and unfortunately they're not here :-)

By 'experience devolutions of beauty' I suppose you mean different people think different things are beautiful. What one person thinks is beautiful, another may not. So, really, you're saying beauty is all a matter of opinion. That's rather tragic, isn't it?


The idea is that we are unable to experience the form or idea of beauty. What we call beautiful is an opinion but the idea, the reality or form of beauty is behind what we call beautiful.
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Re: Beauty

Postby Serpent on March 20th, 2019, 3:37 pm 

There is nothing behind beauty except its bones - by which I mean the structure; the construction and design of an artifice or the physics in a natural phenomenon. The bones, too, can be beautiful, but to appreciate that takes a certain amount of specialized knowledge. To appreciate the surface beauty takes only senses and mind, both of which are wholly untrained, uneducated when they first begin to perceive beauty. The more one knows, the deeper the appreciation.

Ideal forms may exist in some imaginary realm; you may, if you are so inclined, assess every real example of a thing according to how closely it approximates your interpretation of the ideal. Where beauty is judged, as in a dog-show or decorating contest, the judges use both the institutional standard (the imaginary ideal of a committee) and their own experienced aesthetic sense.
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Re: Beauty

Postby Nick_A on March 20th, 2019, 4:45 pm 

Serpent » March 20th, 2019, 3:37 pm wrote:There is nothing behind beauty except its bones - by which I mean the structure; the construction and design of an artifice or the physics in a natural phenomenon. The bones, too, can be beautiful, but to appreciate that takes a certain amount of specialized knowledge. To appreciate the surface beauty takes only senses and mind, both of which are wholly untrained, uneducated when they first begin to perceive beauty. The more one knows, the deeper the appreciation.

Ideal forms may exist in some imaginary realm; you may, if you are so inclined, assess every real example of a thing according to how closely it approximates your interpretation of the ideal. Where beauty is judged, as in a dog-show or decorating contest, the judges use both the institutional standard (the imaginary ideal of a committee) and their own experienced aesthetic sense.


IYO is Simone just indulging in fantasy or does something in her being drawn to remember what has been forgotten? From the OP:

"Beauty is the only finality here below. As Kant said very aptly, it is a finality which involves no objective. A beautiful thing involves no good except itself, in its totality, as it appears to us. We are drawn toward it without knowing what to ask of it. It offers its own existence. We do not desire something else, we possess it, and yet we still desire something. We do not know in the least what it is. We want to get behind beauty, but it is only a surface. It is like a mirror that sends us back our own desire for goodness. It is a sphinx, an enigma, a mystery which is painfully tantalizing. We should like to feed upon it, but it is only something to look at; it appears only from a certain distance. The great trouble in human life is that looking and eating are two different operations. Only beyond the sky, in the country inhabited by God, are they one and the same operation. ... It may be that vice, depravity and crime are nearly always ... in their essence, attempts to eat beauty, to eat what we should only look at." ~ Simone Weil
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