Is beauty in the object or in the mind?

3 min read

Which of these landscapes do you think is the most beautiful

Design, in its myriad forms, fundamentally shapes our daily existence—from the most minute cutlery details to the sprawling architectural landscapes that encapsulate cities. This influence prompts recurring dialogues about beauty, conversations that spark initial interest but often end in discord. Our individual lenses determine how we perceive these abstract concepts, making them deeply subjective.

That said, how many times have we come across with the beauty conversation? It always starts well but always ends badly. We tend to describe these two interesting words based on our own convictions of how we see the world. There is a book called "Beauty" that talks specifically about this topic, and I'll share a piece of it with you, where it says the following, "We find beauty in something done well."

American philosopher Dennis Dutton states that any well-executed human achievement can be called beautiful. The beautiful goal in a soccer match or a beautiful musical composition are rightfully admired as actions performed at the highest level: "From Lascaux to the Louvre to Carniegie Hall, human beings have a permanent and innate taste for masterful performances. The same applies to a mathematical equation. If a formula is correct, it will also be elegant and beautiful. Nobel Laureate in Physics Richard Feynman put it succinctly, "You can recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity."

Let me ask you the following question: is beauty in the object or in the mind?

The eternal debate on beauty's nature revolves around its inherent presence in an object versus its subjectivity to the observer. Plato posited that the universe inherently holds beauty, an entity beyond human perception. He even suggested that if something were beautiful, it must also be true. Conversely, thinkers like David Hume disagreed, contending that beauty is a construct of the perceiver's mind, devoid of any universal truth. Hume emphasized individual perception, suggesting that what one deems beautiful, another may see as deformity. To him, seeking a universal truth in beauty was a futile endeavour.

However, other academics often argued that beauty was not inherent in the object. David Hume wrote: "Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may even perceive deformity, where another is sensible of beauty; and every individual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those of others. To seek the real beauty, or real deformity, is as fruitless an enquiry, as to pretend to ascertain the real sweet or real bitter." Others believed that beauty was attributed to its association with other things: whiteness was considered beautiful because of its association with purity, the majesty of mountains with the power of the gods." Stendahl called beauty "only the promise of happiness."


In closing, Many times, we make the mistake of judging and avoiding conversations when we realize that this person, this group, with whom we are having a conversation or collaborating with, does not see the same way what we consider "beautiful" or "elegant".


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