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Isaac Wells

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What knowledge changes your perception of whether or not something is beautiful?

In Richard Seymour's video, 'How beauty feels', he discusses the idea of beauty. One of the particular aspects he talks about is how generally our view of something's beauty is based not on the intrinsic appearance of something, but on extrinsic interpretations or processing of it. One example he gives is a drawing that looks to be made by a small child. He asks whether or not the audience finds it beautiful. Then he proceeds to inform us that the drawing was by a little girl, just prior to her death by cancer. This drastically alters are perceptions, because it is not simply a drawing, but one layered with much more emotional meaning. My question here is what knowledge, or what kinds of knowledge, change our emotional perceptions, and thus our view of whether or not something is beautiful?

Added to this could also be questions of what is beauty (I would, at this moment, say a particular kind of emotional response to or interpretation or a thing), and what different kinds of beauty there are (because I might find the above mentioned drawing beautiful in a poignant sense, or I might find a picture of an explosion awesome, or perhaps a statue aesthetically pleasing). These questions become relevant because I would guess that different kinds of knowledge about an object or thing, evoke different kinds of beauty.

Lastly, how universal are these responses? Does everyone find the little girl's drawing beautiful after hearing that she died right afterwards? If they do, is it all in a poignant sense? I would guess that there is some universality, but also some that isn't, so what distinguishes between whether or not it would be a universal interpretation?

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    Oct 12 2011: Beauty is shaped by our memories, of course, and by our individual preferences - which, again, are based on past experiences and associations we make in our lives.

    That being said, the one type of beauty that fascinates me is people's beauty. How you can see someone a first time and think nothing more of it, but then discover how amazingly beautiful they are when you get to know them more. It's little things that make a difference... that can be endearing and/or beautiful.

    Sometimes, something insanely creative is beautiful just because it is so out of the ordinary.
    • Oct 12 2011: I appreciate what you are saying in regards to how getting to know someone changes what they look like. It makes me think of an episode of Dr. Who, though I don't think I'll specify, since you may not happen to watch that.
      People become physically much more beautiful when you care for them, and in a deeper sense, who they are becomes more beautiful seeming.

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