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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: I often look at people of all sorts and think how utterly lovely they are. One phenomenon for me is though, that if I see that same person do something ugly like yank on a child's arm, or ridicule someone, they instantly are no longer beautiful and I cannot seem to see them the same way again.
    • Oct 12 2011: Can your perception of them shift to a more positive one through things that you observe afterwards?
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        Oct 12 2011: Isaac, yes, it can be somewhat restored if I can begin to understand their frailties but for me inner cruelty taints external loveliness to one degree or another.
        • Oct 12 2011: I can understand that. I struggle sometimes with trying kind in thoughts of people I dislike, because they all have short comings. But everyone has potential to be lovely, and it is a process to get there. That is hard to always keep in mind though.
          Thank you for your comments!
    • Oct 12 2011: Then perhaps your initial perception was not based on their real internal beauty but on a projection of something from inside you, which is easily broken.
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        Oct 12 2011: Hi Eva, You are right, of course. When we only have the physical impression of a person we tend to project many things onto them. That initial perception, one of physical loveliness is superceded by new information more of the kind you refer to which is their internal state or internal being. That projects through the exterior.
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        Oct 13 2011: Hi Frans, I was unable to respond to you directly so I hope you see this. Thanks for the link. It is a lovely philosophy.
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          Oct 13 2011: Hi Debra

          Thought you'd like it.

          Nice video report about Dr. Hew Len

          The man was head of a hospital for mental disabled in Hawaii.
          It was a mess before he came and every director left within months.
          He, Dr. Lew didn't much but reading the files of the patients.
          After a few years they had to close for lack of patients.
          They got better and better and had to be released.
  • Oct 13 2011: A very interesting question Isaac. ... And a very beautiful one.
    I guess for me, something that moves me in some way (spiritually, mentally or physically) is beautiful. Things are not beuatiful themselves; its us who make them beautiful.

    Just like Mr. Seymour said in this particularly thoughtful video, "We do not see things as they are, but as we are." And I agree. The world looks the way we see it. We might see beauty in anything-- in the simplest structures possible, that seem completely ordinary. We might not see beauty in something that is generally considered gorgeous. Why? Because it is our perception-- our point of view, which tells us what is beautiful and what isnt.

    What can change this perception? I would say knowledge. Not the academic knowledge you acquire at school, but knowledge of life and of the certain thing, whose beauty is upon the decision.
    I am aiming at people. Think back... Im sure there were cases, where you judged someone by the first sight and thought they were not extraordinary or beautiful, but when you got to know them, your opinon changed. You realized, that when they smile, their face lights up adorably, or that when they talk, their eyes glisten with excitement. You started to feel the vibe, the energy and the beauty of them. All because of the knowledge gained.

    Beauty, and the perception of beauty, is something genuinely intimate, personal, and beautiful :)
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    Oct 13 2011: Isaac,

    The knowledge that changes my perception of whether or not something is beautiful is when I am aware of it's integrity.

    The converse is true, for me, too.

    When i have knowledge that something lacks integrity, I have a much harder time seeing it's beauty. And if this knowledge emerges after I previously perceived it as possessing integrity, I lose faith in any original integrity it might have actually had.

    • Oct 13 2011: Thank you Andrea! You are giving words to some of the concepts expressed by others, which I quite appreciate. Integrity is about the best, most accurate sounding word for the qualities of context that affect perceptions.
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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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    Nov 6 2011: Hi Isaac,
    Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder.
    To me, Beauty is seen through actions, it allows the soul to be seen. Beauty is kindness, love and pure goodness, postive intent.
    Simple as that.
    :) ~ Jeni
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      Nov 11 2011: Truth and Intention.

      Well said Jennifer !!
      "Beauty is seen through actions, it allows the soul to be seen. Beauty is kindness, love and pure goodness, postive intent. "
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    Oct 13 2011: This video may explain something about manipulating people's feeling that causes positive actions.

    Derren Brown demonstrates how environmental cues can influence people's generosity without their awareness of it.
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    Oct 13 2011: simple: THE WORLD IS YOUR MIRROR.
    "Your outlook on life is a direct reflection of how much you like yourself" a lululemon manifesto
  • Oct 12 2011: Maybe just like the word 'love' 'beauty' is used to mean many things. There are things some people call beautiful, simply because they have a positive reaction to it, which may be conditioned by past experiences, biological programming or such things. This would perhaps be analogous to 'love' as need, or attachment.

    Then there are those things that are archetypal, like a sunset, or the beauty in mathematics, or music or many other things I can't think of right now. These are not reactional, but can be felt more when a person is more in touch with their subtler part/ perception and so on. It is what I would call a feeling as opposed to an emotion. It could be considered analogous to unconditional love.
    • Oct 12 2011: I do believe you are correct in saying that they are used to mean many things.

      The second part...I don't feel as though I entirely understand, but it seems as though it would be a very...useful, interesting, concept for me to understand. What do you mean by feeling, and by emotion, or what distinguishes them from each other for you? Could you expand more on this subtler part/perception (I feel I have a basic idea of what you mean here...but more details, or more in depth, would help me to understand more.).

      Thank you for these!
      • Oct 12 2011: What I mean by feeling vs emotion is that there are times when we react, meaning that what we do is not chosen consciously, but is a mechanism that plays out automatically, and we get carried away by it. (Maybe one can get very angry at something and realise half way through the reaction that they are doing it again... that sort of thing). These are emotions. Feelings by comparison are not based on some mechanistic programming, so to speak, or are not conditional. Feelings come from your real self, and can be something like contemplating a higher symmetry, or for no reason at all. You can feel enthusiastic, joyful, or just be able to think or view things with clarity. These can all be feelings.

        By the subtler part etc I mean I have the experience of some part(s) of me that can have extremely refined perception, and when i am coming from this part I feel (as in feelings), and am out of the reactive (emotional) parts of me.

        I hope this is helpful.

        • Oct 13 2011: This is quite helpful, thank you. I think I'd have to agree with your thoughts in regards to thoughts and feelings, although I would question whether or not emotions are still not part of your real self, although perhaps a different part of one's self? I don't know.

          I am curious of your perceptions of love then, if I may ask, given this concept of feeling and emotion. What does love consist of, and how does feeling and emotion go into it, and also the subtler part?
    • Oct 12 2011: Love is intangible. Not a feeling or emotion, a state of being. Mostly abused by society as a 'strange feeling'. "I love...carpet" The Anchorman 2004.

      Emotion feels to me like a reaction to external influence. Fear, anger, hate. "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering" Yoda.

      Sorry for lowering the tone.

      • Oct 13 2011: Could you explain further, or expand more, on your concept of love?
        Thank you,
  • Oct 12 2011: I would think any information that disarms our filters would allow us to find beauty in the things we behold. We might see a picture and think it is poorly drawn based on some standard. But when we learn the photo is drawn by a child, our expectations and, therefore, appreciation might change. Learning about the child's illness might disarm our more judgmental reactions; we might also associate the picture with our feelings with sympathy or sadness, so the reaction it evokes from us changes. The image evokes a feeling, the information might change the feeling it evokes.
  • Oct 12 2011: If we are pushed into liking something, whether it be by guilt (like with the little girl's drawing) or bias, then the sentiment behind it cannot be honest. We might say we find something beautiful but not really mean it, and in my opinion the dishonesty is worse than the people who pushed us into liking these things in the first place.

    Because we come from numerous cultures it is hard to claim something is universally beautiful. Some might disagree out of spite, others will continue the tradition of dishonesty I put forward earlier. The purity of something beautiful is lost in its interpretations, becoming something completely different to it's original form by the time we are through processing it.
    • Oct 12 2011: I appreciate your comment, and thank you for it. I do have thoughts though, in regards to what you are saying. If you feel something that you don't appreciate should be, and thus have a guilty type feeling, that sounds rather dishonest, but what if you genuinely find something beautiful because of someone else's influence, in trying to have you see it as such? Even if the way they get you to see it as beautiful is through guilt, if that is what you see, then does that change what you feel? Is it not still beauty? The way you say, do we not still like something, regardless of how we got to like it? (I imagine my bias clear, that I think the answer to those is that it is yes, but I would like to distinguish, I'm not addressing the honesty of getting someone else to like something, simply whether you honestly like something due to someone else's influence.)

      I would also say that what was said about the little girl's drawing, while intended to get a particular response, did not for me at least seem to be with the intent of making us feel guilt. My perception of it changed, not by guilt, but by empathy, sympathy, and by a further understanding of the situation. A connectedness to it. Not at all by guilt. Would what he said be less dishonest seeming in a different context? If the information shapes your view in a particular way, no matter which way it is, is it dishonest to tell that to get a particular view? Despite the difference in context, is it really different than if you were talking to a mother, who had that drawing hung up, and you were to ask about it, and be told that it was her daughter's, and get the same story?

      If you are to say that it is different in different contexts, would you say that it is dishonest in this man's particular use, where it is used to help us to understand what he is trying to say rather than say if it was in an advertisement to give away money to someone?

      Thank you for getting me to think about these things!
    • Oct 12 2011: Of course it is also possible that someone is simply stating the facts when saying that the picture is drawn by a sick girl etc.
  • Oct 12 2011: This implies that you can see things intended to be beautiful in (depending on the object, of course) countless ways. And also may grade their beauty very differently, depending on the amount of information you have about it.
    Would you imagine the most beautiful red painting you have ever seen. And then. Someone tells you it's been painted with the blood of little puppies. That would lead to an instant reevaluation, at least for me it would.
    But. Did that really change the beauty of the picture itself, outside of the context of its creation?
    • Oct 12 2011: I think that it depends on how you are conceptualizing beauty...from the viewpoint that beauty is inherent in something, no it wouldn't. From the viewpoint, which I am presently coming from, that beauty is constructed in the minds of those interpreting, and not really a characteristic of something, it very well could. My viewpoint, since it was thought up consciously like that only today, lacks some of the nuance to make it fully what I want to be still...

      Another viewpoint occured to me, that perhaps there is an inherent beauty to everything, and we respond based on what parts of it that we see. Thus with different amounts of information, and different backgrounds, we'll see different parts of an entire picture, and from those parts form a perception of something, which is only part, rather than all, of the whole thing. So with the painting in blood, knowing of its creation would not change its beauty, but it would change our perception of its beauty, but our perceptions would never line up fully with the thing's actual beauty. I'm not sure if that is clear. It is difficult sometimes clearly express ideas you've just thought of, but I hope I managed alright.

      I thank you for getting me to think about this!
      • Oct 12 2011: My sense is that there IS an inherent beauty in things, and that when we are in touch with the 'truth of the thing' then we can appreciate its beauty. All other stuff is emotional and a reaction, and comes from out emotional baggage so to speak, or other programming like culture, family organisation. This is so, whether the reaction is 'positive' or 'negative'.
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          Oct 30 2011: Information provided from outside, can be useful when we ourselves are perceiving through conditioned eyes. When outside information reminds us that we are unconditional and unlimited, we are able to bring ourselves back to the truth that we can appreciate the beauty that is there.
      • Oct 12 2011: Likewise. :-)
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      Oct 13 2011: Martin --

      I'd say, yes, the realization that "blood of little puppies" or any other vulnerable being was used to paint a picture would reverse any previous visual beauty I might have perceived it possessed.

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      Oct 13 2011: Martin let me tell you respectfully that you are wrong with your assertions...the beauty NEVER depends of the amount of information you have. And your example about puppies blood is out of the question here. Please be more and better oriented and informed if you want play games.
      • Oct 13 2011: Jaime, beauty tends to be a subjective thing...even if you or I believe in an objective reality for it. People are allowed to have different ideas, thoughts, and beliefs about it, because they more than likely experience it differently. The point isn't to assert your views, and impose them on others, as you are doing, but to say what you think, and discuss the topic, so as to develop a greater understanding of your beliefs, to incorporate useful ideas you'd not thought of into your thoughts and view and beliefs, and to help others to further develop similarly.

        I do respect that you are trying to express your views to Martin respectfully, but the way you do it comes off to me like you are not being very respectful, and trying to impose your evaluative judgements and opinions on others. If you had objective, empirical evidence for a claim, this would be a somewhat different matter, but seeing as you provide none, the way you say your comment does not seem the most appropriate.
      • Oct 14 2011: First of @Isaac, thank you. I really appreciate that.

        And thank you, Jamie, for not reading the last question in my first post... I appreciate that you're asserting your point of view, even if you are doing it as aggressively as you did. But let me assure you, I did never intend to "play games" with anyone. I'd go see some friends if i would want to do that...

        All I did ever say was, that receiving the information, that the creation of such a wonderful painting involved utterly cruel methods, would involuntarily change my perception of its beauty. Though knowing, that it is in fact the same picture, I wouldn't be able to appreciate it's beauty in the same way as before getting that information.

        And: No Sir, in my opinion the beauty of things ALWAYS depends on the amount of information we have.

        (Though you might have meant the information about the observed object itself, I am going a little bit further in order to spark some more discussion: )

        Imagine you lived in an empty room with nothing but white walls in it from the moment you were born. How would you perceive a simple picture as opposed to someone else. Perception of beauty always depends on the individual.

        When I said one should imagine the most beautiful red painting one has ever seen, that means something different for each individual person, as beauty is to a certain degree a matter of personal perception and, of course, experiences. Or why would we argue with our spouses about the color to paint the living-room in?
        Of course, everything looks the same, but. If it comes to beauty, you wouldn't be able to measure it entirely(!) without personal values and experienced beauty to measure it against.
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    Nov 6 2011: Whether it is life affirming, or not?

    You can't hug your child with nuclear arms.
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    Oct 25 2011: Social learning is very influencial about what is beautiful. But We have our own perception of things, so at the end the things that society try to influence on us has no effect. Our feelings, instincs, mind, and experience take the ultimate decision of whether or not something is beautiful, it doesnt matter if someone else think you are wrong about what true beauty is, if is real to you, i think thats enough. It would be strange if every human agree to one idea about beauty.
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    Oct 20 2011: I believe we determine value by rarity...The little girl's drawing becomes her last act.
    Which becomes finite and the loss of any young girl is a very fragile thing.

    But, if you were to show a group of drawings that she had drawn to the audience
    I doubt any one drawing would have more value than the group of drawings.

    For beauty to exists something must in turn take its place. Because, nothing is beautiful in itself it just is.....
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    Oct 17 2011: Beauty is without......................There is beauty in everything...............You either see it or you don't
    • Oct 22 2011: ..........................
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        Oct 22 2011: What did you want to say, Jason ?
  • Oct 13 2011: I started crying when I learned the little girl's last act before dying of cancer had been the drawing. I couldn't really explain why I found it to be beautiful and felt justified in Mr. Seymour's contentedness in saying it was just beautiful and leaving it at that, haha. But I think it has something to do with bravery and the preservation of innocence even in the most difficult situations. . .which boils down to hope for and faith in humanity, I think. That inspires me to continue seeing beauty in everything.

    Even if someone does something "awful", I can still acknowledge superficial beauty, but I would not want to be personally involved with someone like that. I think in many cases, deeper beauty relies on context or function, like the plastic bag filtering water. There are obviously different sorts of beauty, but my favorites usually depend on context, or acknowledging something I love or desire in myself, whether conscious or unconsciously.

    I think history surrounding an object is important, too. When I know an artist had suffered, I can more easily see that in their work and it allows me to appreciate it more. Conversely, if I see something I think is beautiful but learn there is no spirit behind it, I am much less moved or able to find it beautiful. I once saw a girl in what I thought to be very unique clothing walking down the street, and felt a sort of love and respect for her individuality. When I almost immediately saw another girl dressed almost exactly the same way, I realized it was merely a fad and found neither of them as beautiful anymore.
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    Oct 13 2011: The type of knowledge that would change my perception on whether or not something is beautiful certainly varies, but the more nostalgic, positive, or empathetic feelings triggered by the information, about an object, the more beauty I find in it. Often the more pain or struggle behind the object increases the I find more beauty while in a compassionate or empathetic state. Beauty is all in the way something makes me feel. If i feel like I want to be a part of something, I become drawn to it, or just want to look at it...this is beauty...very much perceived by feelings.
  • Oct 13 2011: It depends on how one defines beauty. Beauty in an object or thing can refer to the qualities in the object that deem it to be beautiful, or it can also refer to how the object is created, the reason behind the creation of the object etc... How do we define something that is beautiful? To me, it depends on which is the focus...For example, how the object or thing is created does not interfere in my perception of vandalism. Yes, vandalism is an illegal act but if the vandal illustrates super creativity in his art and creates a masterpiece during the vandalism act, i would not discredit him on the beauty of his art...To me, it is still beautiful if it illustrates qualities that i admire.. It's just that he chooses to express his creativity and talent through this avenue, which many of us see it as wrong act....To me, seeing something as beautiful requires the person being able to appreciate the qualities as protrayed in the object (be it intentionally or not)...independent of the means to do it...It might also depend on the perception of the individual, the experiences he brings along with him will shape how he views certain things to be beautiful. What one may see as beautiful may not be beautiful in the other's eyes. One possible reason might be that we use different judging criteria in the first place. i see beauty if the product have A on my checklist but not for the other dude who sees beauty if he has B on his checklist.
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    Oct 13 2011: Just one quick note , Richard Seymour pointed out that Light fading out in BMW makes us feel better because of the same feeling of movies Theaters , I personally don't believe it is for that.

    I think it is because of the SUNSET not cinemas , For thousands of years sunset meant we could stop working, go home, rest and sleep, or maybe have a little fun before sleep ;) SUNSET mean it is time to RELAX.

    By my sight it is rooted in our Gens way before movie theaters.
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      Oct 13 2011: Yes! I hadn't considered that, Amir. But it is so innate....the feeling of the sunset the slow fade, is by all means relaxing and natural.
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        Oct 13 2011: yeah, normally when respond to something at that level its very deep inside , and usually embedded in our Gens , like the joy of hearing bird sing , sound of waves or breeze of ocean and on the other side fear of snakes , spiders and Darkness.

        we have been going to movies for maybe two generations and just once or twice a week, I am a film maker so just imagine me talking about Movie theaters not being effective in that term ;)
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      Oct 13 2011: Adriaan beauty is totally independent from the love. We use the Love as one way among others to reach the beauty.
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          Oct 16 2011: See= perception and experience.
          Love= Voluntary commitement.
          Reach the beauty=build or encounter the inner path to your own beauty, to find your own sense of beauty.

          Just do it. Without thinking......the mind kills the beauty.
    • Oct 13 2011: Thank you Adriaan! Your description of beauty resonates with me. It seems as though how it interacts with things we have different emotions for would also be applicable, like if something interacted with something else we dislike or hate, it could perhaps negatively impact our conceptions of its beauty.
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        • Oct 14 2011: People have, in this conversation, said things similar to that, but the phrasing you give is very direct, and hearing the same thing in different ways often helps to give a different perspective and understanding, and makes you think more. But, yes, I'd have to agree that it is largely an indication of who we are, or what kind of person we are!
    • Oct 14 2011: I desagree with you Adrian, I learned by my self my knowledge of beauty, reading what more else existe that the ambience in which I live. I'm different from my parents likes, they are completly out of knowledge about decoration, I learned because I'm intereseted in modernity, in good taste, in be more for me and my son, my ambitions, my goals (professional and financial). I have a University entitled degree Maths-Finance, different to decoration or art, and additional to my degree during my professional experience I worried to learn from many strategic themes that focuse me in my main goal, I paid attention to learn from multiple cultural themes since I am a child at school and autodidacticly; and, decoration, modals and appropiate dressing for the occassion I consider to be an important part which I learn by my self. See as a model, dress as a model and have intellectual knowledge; of course the exquisity of the most fine taste, car, big house... My point is, I defined my necessities and goals; and, I take my decisions based in them.
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        • Oct 14 2011: Perhaps interactions or associations, with other things that we have some kind of strong emotion for tends to influence our view of a something, but you can consciously try to oppose that influence, so that you are trying to evaluate strictly on the merit of the thing itself? And so it could vary on how much you consciously change initial feelings, and how much you don't?

          Could that resolve both points of view, and incorporate them together?
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      Oct 13 2011: The beauty is the shine of true. The beauty is a whole sensitive perception that is perceibed with the whole body and senses (minimum 11 senses), and is like a mirror to see the reflectons from the eternity. Beauty is more than experience this or the primal state of astonishement and express by the ¡AH! reaction when something is breathtaking (AISTOU in ancient greek ) and this becomes in aesthetics (the same word) meaning without air or holding the breath. Beauty is true (VERITAS). philosophically is the experience to be alive and awake. From the beuty experience we can go directly to feel the "inspiration" (air that becomes fire in greek) that is the main job from the Muses.

      Ah...the eleven senses: Sight, Hear, Smell, Taste, Touch, Motion, Space, Time, Humor, Love and common sense. (Really there are 64 senses, but in the cotidian behavior we use this eleven senses)
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        Oct 13 2011: Jaime --

        A "verities et utilities" analysis of beauty. Yes, ah....

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          Oct 13 2011: Andrea we have all the senses to be delighted by beauty. Beauty is not a psychological experience. Is an approach to the mistery. So we can said a lot about in the non-sense of phsycological sofismas, but not theories (TEOS...thing from God). Beauty is a perception that reclames silence and concentration.
      • Oct 13 2011: Jaime, this is a very interesting comment, and I quite appreciate it. The outline of what beauty is given by you resonates. I do have a question though. I've never before been talked to of senses beyond the typical 5, taste, smell, touch, hear, sight. Could you say more about these?
        Thank you,
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    Oct 12 2011: Understanding about how human brain works changed the perception I had about "God's existence and other absolute truths that I thought existed"
    :-). In a way, I was captivated in those perceptions, and having knowledge or understanding that "I" shape those percemtions with elements around me freed me. Letting it go of those concepts around me is still not entirely easy for me at times, but those traditional concepts are no longer limiting my choices which are hugely impacting in all aspects of my current decisions.

    I think that similar change is happening to a lot of people due to the fact that access to knowledge is ever been easy, and that's when I do realize how powerful knowledge is and can be and how we are lucky compared to people who lived with those "dead knowledge" in the past.
    • Oct 13 2011: Hello Jeong-Lan. I have a question, if it is alright to ask. Before asking though, I'd say that I do believe in the existence of God, or a God, and I also love science and knowledge, and seek it out, and generally have little trouble reconciling the concepts from both. This I suppose leads to my question. While I can understand how greater knowledge can upset beliefs that are religious in nature, by showing them to be inaccurate, I don't know or understand how greater knowledge affects the more fundamental absolute truths, such as whether or not God exists. Those seem to be beyond the scope, at least at present, of any kind of science, or empirical evidence. So how did greater understanding affect and alter your perceptions? (Besides the particulars of this question, which I find fascinating to ask about, I do also find just general, large shifts in thinking to be quite interesting to look at, in terms of how and why they happen.)
      Thank you for you comment!
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    Oct 12 2011: Re commercials, I suspect that one of the characteristics of beauty is scarcity, and over exposure reduces that scarcity. For example, there is a folksong which I first heard sung by someone with an excellent voice, after we had kayaked into a remote island cave with tremendous acoustics. I found the song hauntingly beautiful. Yet friends with similar musical tastes regarded it and pretty commonplace simply because they knew it as the sound track to a beer commercial. Not being a TV watcher it didn't have that connotation for me. Several people admitted that they had previously liked the song but the commercial usage, or possibly over usage, had tainted their perception.

    I suspect that such a taint is difficult to reverse. In a parallel vein, Burberry lost its upmarket image through overexposure, adoption by C-list celebrities and the abundance of cheap fakes. It has taken it years to struggle back, and has had to look at a different target audience to achieve that.

    As regards my own attitude to advertising, show me an ad with a beautiful picture or great music and I may make the effort to find out where the picture was taken, or what the music is, but it doesn't make me want to remember the product. I might remember a brand name as being a source of content I enjoy, but it doesn't incline me to try the product. Red Bull is a case in point. I've never drunk oit but I love some of their extreme sports videos, particularly those taken in environments I consider beautiful. Show me an all-singing, all dancing website for a product, with beautiful pictures and clever design, and it will turn me off straight away. To me the act of purchasing is utilitarian and I want the facts so I can get it over and done with as quickly as possible. So if I'm amenable to any sort of advertising it has to be very fact based. And it has to be something I have chosen to look for, not something pushed at me.

    If I was typical the entire marketing profession would be out of a job.
    • Oct 13 2011: If you were typical the marketing profession might be out of a job, but the world could very well be a better place. Thank you for this comment, and for having a very sensical way of acquiring things.
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    Oct 12 2011: "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder"
    For me, philosophy make things beautiful. One thing may be such an apple of my eyes, and doesn't have to make the same value of impression to others, and vice versa; And THIS make our world beautiful, the diversity of opinions.
    • Oct 12 2011: I don't know that I have anything to respond to your comment with, or ask about it, but I appreciate your comment, and thank you for it!
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      Oct 12 2011: Well said.
      For a depressive person nothing is beautiful, for someone in a good balance nothing isn't.
  • Oct 12 2011: Great topic. I have often though about this as I find myself appreciating the beauty of 'things' in quite a inconsistent manner. Confusing. I think that I have the reason for this though, and that is to do with my own personal beliefs and prejudices. I find great beauty in the dichotomy of emotions given off by different people. I used to love playing poker, and found my oppositions emotional roller-coaster ride fascinating.

    Krishnamurti wrote about this topic in 'Awakening of Intelligence' and he posited that true beauty was only ever found in by viewing something or somebody for the very first time. Because he believed that each and every time after the first glance had taken place was corrupted by the previous view. Then that was corrupted by the last etc. What he was saying was that experience and knowledge corrupts your perception of beauty. Therefore, viewing a child's sketch for the first time and believing it to be beautiful (without the extra knowledge about her mortality) is the only true response. The following responses are tainted by the world and therefore not reliable emotions.

    Any good?

    • Oct 12 2011: I would rephrase Krishnamurti's statement t say that to appreciate beauty you need o look at it with what buddhists may call 'beginners mind' or in a way that is not filtered through your rational everyday mind. I would tend to agree with this, but say that it is possible to be in a state where this is maintained for longer than just a fleeting moment.
      • Oct 12 2011: Thanks Eva. I agree that the 'feeling' may well be felt for longer, or atleast seem to be. Krishnamurti had a wonderful way of tying himself up in his own observations. I felt a hollow inside after reading that book... for a fleeting moment atleast ;-)

        I'm not a Buddhist, perhaps I should read a book or two about their religion though.
    • Oct 12 2011: That was wonderful Glen, and Eva as well.
      I don't know that I can...fully accept that, but definitely in part I can and do. I'll have to think of how that fits into what I've got in my head right now.
      Thank you!
      • Oct 12 2011: My pleasure :-) So long as you can imagine another path, you can attain it, should you wish to of course!
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    Oct 12 2011: I must admit that my reaction to that picture was negative. Beforehand I was unimpressed. Afterwards I remained unimpressed but was irritated by the attempt to manipulate emotions.That said, I am also quite resistant to advertising and marketing material for similar reasons. If advertising does catch my attention I may remember the material but I am unlikely to remember the product.As regards beauty in the abstract,

    I think there must be some sort of extrinsic quality in some types of beauty, otherwise there wouldn't be common perceptions of beauty across people and across cultures. However I think that there is also a strong tie between what we perceive as beauty, and experience. Someone trying to make a farming living in an arid climate might see a rainy green environment as beautiful whereas someone having spent a rainy winter there wouldn't see the same beauty.

    And behind all of that, I think that some forms of beauty are devalued through being exploited commercially.
    • Oct 12 2011: Do you think that the beauty exploited in commercials is less...beautiful, or simply that people tend to value it less, due to its use and over exposure to it? And if it does become devalued, do you think one can consciously change their perception so that those forms become not devalued, so as to appreciate other times when they are found?

      Thank you for the other reaction to the picture. I personally appreciated it more after he talked about it, and so your comment illustrates to me, or reminds me, of how what I think and feel is not necessarily the same as what others do. Sometimes it is hard to remember that, with out being given other views, it can be hard to see those other views.

      I am curious, is there any advertising which you might respond to? I would imagine that if there were, it'd be based on the actual product, and you'd respond better to more honest, less manipulative commercials, yes?

      And now as I am thinking, I've got to question what makes, for my personal perceptions, what he did different than manipulative commercials, because I tend to not like those commercials, but I don't dislike what he did with the picture.
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    Nov 12 2011: when I see a reflection of myself in something the symmetry then becomes beautiful
  • Nov 11 2011: Beauty, like everything else that evokes emotion in an individual, is dependent on the meaning which one attaches to something. Without meaning, beauty cannot exist.
    Personally, I believe that to call something beautiful doesn't tell you anything inherent about the artwork but, rather, tells you something about the individual to whom the artwork is beautiful.
    Given that beauty is dependent on meaning, and meaning exists in both similar and variable ways to different people, there are many different things that could make something beautiful to one person and not to another.
    However, I believe that generally, people attach meaning to some very elemental aspects of life. These include life itself, effort/perseverance/time, skill/mastery, novelty/originality, happiness/sadness etc. (the emotion of others and themselves), and I'm sure there are many more that I can't think of at this time.
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    Nov 11 2011: Beauty is Truth and Truth Works! All else is subjective.
  • Nov 11 2011: Beauty in everday signs and symbols. Finally realizing that the true beauty of life and creativity has been mysteriously "working through us" and leaving subtle cryptic clues along the way of a multilingual puzzle to be discovered by humanity i.e. ... AMER ICA ... Immortal ONE or Adi Das - Primordial Servant, Terra Nova - Your Star in phonetics Punjabi mother tongue! Rock on Creator of the Universe.
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    Nov 10 2011: I'd say the intention and impact.
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    Nov 6 2011: Things we like are beautiful. (That is essentially the definition of beauty - if we like it, it is beautiful; if we do not, it is not.)

    We are "programmed" to experience certain things as more beautiful than others: balance, symmetry, certain colours, smells and so on.

    One thing that changes our perception of beauty is comparison. When we see something "very beautiful" we are more likely to see something that is merely beautiful as less beautiful than we would otherwise. It works the other way too. If we see something that is not beautiful we will judge the next beautiful thing we see as more beautiful than we would if we had not seen the less beautiful thing.

    Other "associations" will also have an effect: have we seen something like it before; under positive or negative circumstances; do others we know "like" it? And so on.

    Platform shoes looked beautiful for a time - not because they are - but because "beautiful" people wore them.

    The art we grow up surrounded by (music, painting, literature, cinema, dance, etc.) is more likely to be seen as beautiful than art we have never experienced before.
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    Nov 4 2011: The true universal concepts of beauty are perhaps found only in nature. A waterfall, the flight of a bird, the setting of the sun-I would venture to think everyone, no matter what their environment would see in these inherent beauty.

    All man-made things of beauty need some frame of reference to be perceived as beautiful. A Pollock or Rothko or even a da Vinci become beautiful because of the knowledge we have about the artist or their circumstance, which may be of a personal nature or a wider sphere of knowledge such as cultural, economic or religious values.

    Nature and our interpretation of it is the secret to the perception of beauty Our interpretation is always flawed because we can never get it just right, we can never achieve that balance, so the ability to percieve beauty universally will always be flawed much the same way - depending on knowledge to evoke the senses.
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    Nov 4 2011: At the root of all emotions, there are only two: love and fear. Those things that evoke positive emotions are by way of love and in it, we find beauty.
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    Nov 3 2011: essentially whether it is infected or not.

    to elaborate, its how much you look into something... If you view something romantically, its hard not to see the beauty of its light, dark or indifferent natures. looking at something from the classical perspective you learn to truly appreciate it and also learn of the true horror it may be concealing.
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    Oct 30 2011: Our perception of beauty can be internally referenced or externally referenced. If we have a stronger inclination to reference our point of view by information that is mainly coming from outside ourselves, then our perception is dependent on that and shaped by any such information.

    When perception is primarily internally referenced, then it is unconditional... there are no strings attached and one will tend to perceive beauty more easily.

    Our natural, unsocialized, unconditioned self, tends to look with a child-like sense of wonder and appreciation.
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    Oct 30 2011: Beauty is relative. Imperfection can be beautiful. Like you said human emotions, past experiences, the social environment and nurture mould what we perceive as beauty.
  • Oct 28 2011: I think in simple terms "beauty is in the feelings of the beholder."
    A simple, child like picture can become beautiful by poignant context, whether that context be provided by outside knowledge (the girls drawing of the flower from the video) or from an individual's personal history. If that picture reminds them of something special or is reminiscent of something evocative in one's past it promotes feelings and those feelings can help one perceive "beauty."
    On the flip side of course, beautiful bone structure and/or form in a human being can be wholly negated by a personality or character that evokes negative feelings.
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    Oct 27 2011: Isaac;
    I can begin simply by saying that if I find a woman beautiful in the contemporary sense but then begin to realize that her personality is not kind and she is the type of person who will treat others poorly, she becomes ugly very quickly in my eyes. If a snake is colorful and has beautiful markings but is poisonous I am running too fast to care if the pattern is aesthetically pleasing. the outside could be classically beautiful but if the inside is deadly or hurtful, the beauty begins to lessen for me. Oddly, I still see the beauty and can admire it for what it is, cold and lifeless. My emotions do not change the fact that it may or may not fit the description of beautiful. The child's drawing was not beautiful, it was naive. There is a beauty in the naive and the emotional attachment that we have to the last expression of hope and life make that expression, no matter how small and naive, beautiful. The circumstances surrounding the work made the work beautiful.
    If I am walking on a path in the autumn and it has just rained and there is a scent in the air of crushed and fallen leaves and the trees are covered in brightly colored,slightly wet clusters of leaves and the sky has cleared to reveal a blue so intense that I have to shade my eyes to heart will fill with joy and there could be nothing more beautiful. Even the drops of rain falling on my face and all over my clothes and the mud clinging to my shoes are all beautiful. I am reacting to the turn of the seasons, to the scents in the air, to the world that is larger, the seasons that are larger, a spiritual experience with nature and that is what makes it beautiful for me.
    I see beauty everywhere because I choose to seek it out. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but the beholder can chose to see it everywhere, in everything.
  • Oct 25 2011: Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder, what seems beautiful to you may not be to me. There is external influence to define what is beautiful or what not, but at the end we, individually, will either find something the beauty around us or not.
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      Nov 3 2011: you don't believe in universal beauty?
      • Nov 3 2011: It is not whether I believe or not in universal beauty, I could just say that I do, but it will still be MY point of view. I just believe that our perception of beauty is individual, it is based on the knowledge we have of what we qualify as beautiful; for example one may totally dislike snow, because of the associated cold temperature, or because it aggravates their health issues, so they don't necessarily find it beautiful anymore; I may find it absolutely beautiful simply because it looks clean when it falls or because I know that I will be hearing cheers from children.
        So, again, I think that beauty is perceived based on one's knowledge of the subject matter, no matter what it is, it can be anything, art, books, reading, moments in time, food, religion, technology, etc... it is all about individual perception, experience and knowledge.
  • Oct 25 2011: There are reasons behind some beauty, and some beauty there is no reason for. Any knowledge would change the view of beauty of an object; an abundant of knowledge that strikes you are unimportant or boring would mean you wouldn't see the beauty. The limit of knowledge about the object might attract you to the object more, because of the mystery it provides, which lets imagination have free reign. It's down to personal history; how the things you perceive affect you, what emotions you draw from what you see and don't see, and the entirety of your memories that sum up who you are.
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    Oct 23 2011: The real knowledge is for transformation, not to change anything. Changes are superficial, transformations are from interior.
    Trascendental knowledge.
    Knowledge to be, not to stay.

    Beauty is for being.
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    Oct 20 2011: I think the reason is that beauty is kind of value system to judge or evaluate things around you. People have various standards to evaluate beauty, and generally speaking the standards are from subjective mood. I do agree with that there are indeed some universal standards to judge beauty, while as to specific things, such as the painting in the speech from the girl suffering cancer, people's subjective emotions actually are in the dominant positions.
    That's why the recognition of beauty will be changed by the extrinsic interpretation. People will change their minds, their emotions, and their reflections toward certain events when the circumstance of those events are changed. So that's why children find beauty is colorful paintings, boys in 20s find beauty is those tall, slim and sexy ladies, and environmentalist may find beauty is the purity of nature. They have different subjective emotions!
    As to what kind of knowledge changes the perception of beauty. I think every possible kind of knowledge which may change people's subjective value system will achieve that. If I learn architecture, I may perceive the beauty of symmetry; If I learn legal knowledge, I may perceive the beauty of strict logic in words; If I learn photography, I may perceive the beauty in the contrast of light and shadow.
    All in all, if one kind of knowledge can change our subjective minds or emotions toward the world, it does change the perception of beauty.
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    Oct 20 2011: It's in the eye of the beholder. That has not changed.
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    Oct 17 2011: According to me Beauty is purely internal to a person and nothing to do with outside information.For what example you have givenHe gives a drawing that looks to be made by a small child. He asks whether or not the audience finds it beautiful.If the answer at that point is not then it is not at any point after that for you.whatever information given does not alter whether the drawing is beautiful or not beautifu to you.It just alters your preception as you said and answer that comes from emotional interpretation of it.Two different thinks for me.If you are capable of forgetting that information and answer it purely as a form of art ,it would make you a good judge of art.As it is same for music,thats why I liked the show "The Voice",which purely rated singers on their voice rather than how they looked ,are they a begger or handicaped they were choosen on the basis of their voice.Beauty is the same for me, soemthin that comes from deep inside and any information cannot alter that.We can act blind or say are emotionally forced to be blind to overlook the true beauty.
  • Oct 16 2011: two nights ago (it wasn't until today that i noted the ted comment forum doesn't allow links to be posted,it is now on my profile)i had written a slightly longer than allowed response to this on my tumblr page which can be found on my profile as i state in my response (especially toward adriaan braam as i see he is a leader in this discussion) i welcome any new knowledge no matter how it is acquired.
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    Oct 16 2011: Interesting, what is beauty?

    And is it independent of the subject? Independent of the object? Are we universally wired in some way to recognize beauty? Or is it an individual perception, as unique as there are individuals?

    This one TED presenter is convinced beauty is ingrained in our DNA, is part of homo sapiens; across the cultures and across history the perception of beauty is universal. So, NOT on the eye of the beholder, or if it is, is the same in the eye of all beholders. See if you agree...
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      Oct 16 2011: Karina you said "recognize beauty"....then you know the beauty , you have seen the beauty and you re-cognize.
      The beauty is a reflection of the Truth. The DNA issue could be possible if the scientists can demonstrate but I suspect that we have to wait a lot to see that. Sometimes the science crash against a philosophical wall.
      And philosophy has their own way.

      The beauty is a complex perception from the philosophical point of view. The truth is inside us. We are the truth but we dont realize that. The beauty appears when the light of the truth hit the miror of the intelect. The intelect is usefull just for one thing and only one: discernment.
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        Oct 19 2011: Jaime, I had missed your comment here, sorry!

        I agree with you so much... We are kindred spirits. Truth is inside us, from the very beginning.

        I posted that link to make people think. I paint, and when I see beauty or paint beauty, I don't care for a scientific explanation, I don't need it. And for the record, none of my paintings include what the presenter said a beautiful painting has to have.

        I personally watch with surprise when science (the people behind it) tries to come up with the latest big discovery: "DNA research discovered that..." or "a new better telescope can now take us 3000000000 years back closer to the beginning of the universe" The fact that science has evolved means that what years ago was considered absolute scientific truth, was proven wrong and replaced, again, and again for something else. Truth does not need updates, Truth is.

        Impressive. ingenious. Creative :-) But nothing of that is new, and nothing reflects the whole truth. The only news there is that men have seen a little more of the wonderful design, which can never be reproduced, and can never be fully explained by humans.

        For me it is enough to know the truth, I don't need scientific proof.
  • Oct 15 2011: We see beauty when we FEEL beautiful.
  • Oct 14 2011: Well, since I am a kid, now with the experience of 31 years old, I always know that I'm really different from my mom and from my dad. In fact, I am Ultra more intelligent than both, my IQ is over both of them, it's over the average of the world. In others that's one of the reasons that makes me know that I'm completly capable to be decided to have one of the most high functions in the biggest ICT Corporation, which accomplish with all my expectations and which is my choose; and, focused in that, is what I'm prepare my self during all those years to achieve that goal. If we, adults, know that some word damage us, why to repet with our kids? Sounds to be really ilogical and from dummies!!! So? The way they took when I was a kid dislikes me, to solve it and gives my son a new panorama, I'm taking my own decision apart of them. They are point apart from me and unnecessary to follow my way with my son. I learned from my mistakes and from those that from me, in my parents, was a mistake too. After 31 years old, now I know that, I don't have need any additional from them that the education that my mom payed me, by my self is how I was and continue being responsible of my learning during my professional experience. In my opinion, FOCUS is the way to "oppose that influence" as call Isaac, me I will call it FOCUS in my own way. Thanks Adrian and Isaac.
  • Oct 14 2011: Beauty is felt in a moment, then the moment is gone, then there's another moment, how beautiful is that?
    What does "knowledge" do for us as Human E-motion -al Creatures anyway? Beauty is afeeling, being connected to our feelings brings us to awareness of this moment, if we need to take action, or know something, our ever present Intuition, connection to Spirit will guide us. Beauty just "is" creation. As my friend Hafiz says "never say it is not God".
    May we all be blessed with feelings to experience ALL of creation.
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    Oct 13 2011: Hello Isaac,

    I think that if there is real GOD, He would not mind my "wondering" minds about Him. He should be that big. Ialso catch myself believing GOD as my habits are quite sold one. So, do reconcile the two well as well. I think it will be my conflicts until I die.

    The real problem for me at the moment, I, do not believe that there are "ABSOLUTE TRUTHS" unlike you. It seems to me that it is only relations of things other than isolated truth. I also believe that "facts" we believe as they are also are partial truths in relation to other relations.

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    Oct 13 2011: Pleasures, beauties and Taboos, hot topics

    The best Explanation of beauty that I have ever seen as an Artist, is Denis Dutton's. just Wonderful. the answer to many of the things people said is explained in here.

    About that girl's drawing We would like something if we know the origins and the back story of it , We get emotional because of the stories not objects. We don't empathize with girl because of the beauty of drawing but the tragic situation she was in while doing it.

    That is why we go to Museums , we enjoy looking at a broken stone behind a glass, because we know the how old it is and how much it influenced people's lives and ….. When something has a story behind it, it is not simply an object but an object with CULTURE, that CULTURE is the origin of our pleasure, I refer to Paul Bloom's Origins of Pleasure .

    in " Pulp Fiction " this is shown amazingly by the story behind the wrist Watch, Chris Walken talks a lot about the wrist watch and later Bruce Willis gets into a lethal situation just to save that.

    What I can add to Paul Blooms wonderful speech is , the story is not only the origin of pleasure but origin of TABOOs as well.

    If I show an old coat you might not get thrilled If tell you I bought it for 25 million dollars and it belongs to Napoleon you will be Thrilled but if I ask you to Try it on you won't do it.

    being expensive and belonging to Napoleon makes it pleasing but turns it into an UNTOUCHABLE thing, Now it is not a coat but a Cultural object a TABOO.
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    Oct 12 2011: Our history, backgrounds and influences define our perception of beauty.
  • Oct 12 2011: One aspect of visual beauty that my change with information is smell. I particularly think of the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., USA. The gruesome pictures are more strongly impressed by the smells of burnt flesh.
    • Oct 12 2011: I imagine all senses would apply as such. That is not something I had thought of, thank you!
  • Oct 12 2011: I think our judgement on beauty varies depending whether we can relate to something or not. Let say flower. We all agree it's beautiful because it is. Picture on the other hand was made by human and if it was a sick child we automaticly have sympathy for the creator of the picture because we can relate.