TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

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?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • 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.
    • thumb
      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.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.