PHIL 332 -- Philosophy of Beauty -- Supplementary Materials

Table of Contents

1. Descriptions of beauties and of the effect of beauty --1-12

  1. Salman Rushdie, Fury, excerpt -- 1
  2. John Ruskin describing a day high in the Alps -- 2-3
  3. Dylan Thomas, "Poem in October," excerpt -- 4
  4. Jean Dubuffet on things traditionally despised as "unaesthetic": Empreintes. -- 4-7
  5. Sarah Hubbell on the beauty of insects -- 7
  6. The Japanese Wabi-sabi aesthetic -- 7-8
  7. A consolingly beautiful feature in a corpulent, aged body -- 9
  8. A truly beautiful state of mind: Patrick Leigh Fermor -- 9-10
  9. An impressive sculptural work that challenges us to try to explain its beauty -- 10
  10. Mongolian throat-singing -- 10
  11. Beautiful mutilated sculpture -- 11
  12. Examples of ugliness -- 12
  13. Amazing pendulum movements -- 12

2. Special types of beauty -- 12-17

2.1 Mathematical Beauty
2.1.1 Mathematical beauty in art forms: images and texts from Ivar Peterson, Fragments of Infinity. 12-13
2.1.2 Kenneth Chang, "What makes an equation beautiful." NY Times, 10/24/04. -- 13-14
The golden section properties within the mystic pentagram -- 15
2.13 Jonathan Swift on the Laputans' obsession with mathematically regular forms, from Gulliver's Travels, 1729. -- 16
2.1.4 Paul Erdos, "the man who loved only numbers." -- 16-17
Pythagorean Theorem proved by a simple diagrammic demonstration. -- 16-17

2.2. Beauties of scent and flavor -- 17-25
2.2.1 Scent and flavor as an art form created by Karl Joris Huysmans' decadent aesthete, Des Esseintes. -- 17-24
2.2.2 What would it take for cuisine to become fine art? -- 25
2.2.3 Feeling of fullness in relation to satisfaction in eating --25

2.3. Athletic beauty 26
2.3.1 R. Scott Kretchmar, in "'Distancing': An Essay on Abstract Thinking in Sport Performances," in Journal of the Philosophy of Sport (1982) and the superlative surfing of Andy Irons. -- 26
2.3.2 Example of beautiful balancing -- 26

2.4. Environmental/natural beauty --27-28
2.4.1 The Pleistoscene ideal landscape -- 27
2.4.2 Natural beauty -- 28
2.4.3 Scruton on the perfection of natural forms -- 28
2.4.4 Amazing case of resilience: the water bears -- 28
2.4.5 The beauty of clouds: the Cloud Appreciation Society -- 28

2.5. Functional beauty -- 28
2.5.1 Two paragons of high functionality and therefore of functional beauty -- 28

2.6. Human bodily beauty (including facial beauty) -- 29
2.6.1 Variations in ideals of the human body -- 29
2.6.2 Dwarfism and other problematic bodily proportions -- 29-30
2.6.3 Functionally good proportions -- 30
2.6.4 Psychological investigation into the common properties of faces widely judged beautiful, the connection between beauty and evolutionary survival, etc .Nancy Etkoff, "Beauty and the beholder," Nature, 3/17/94 -- 31-33
2.6.5 Facial beauty and the golden section: the Marquardt beauty mask -- 33
2.6.6 Observations on the Marquardt beauty mask -- 33
2.6.7 Polykleitos's "canon": golden section analysis -- 34-35
2.6.8 Faces made symmetrical -- 35

2.7. Animal beauty -- 36-40
2.7.1 Thoughts on the beauty of animals -- 36
2.7.2 Examples relevant to questions about the U&V or other criteria of beauty in natural organisms -- 36-37
2.7.3 Animals compared with humans in respect of beauty: Jonathan Swift on the Houyhnhnms, from Gullivers' Travels (1729) -- 38
2.7.4 Gulliver’s problem, part 1 -- 39
2.7.5 Gulliver's problem, part 2. -- 40

2.8. Architectural beauty -- 40-44
2.8.1 Modes of Apollonian and Dionysian architecture
2.8.2 Classical Greek temples -- 40-41
2.8.3 Gothic and Hindu temples -- 41
2.8.4 Cool modernism: I. M. Pei's National Gallery East wing. -- 42
2.8.5 Post-modernist free-flow architecture: Frank Gehry Guggenheim Bilbao -- 42-44
2.8.6 Landscape architecture in the classic English style: Stourhead -- 44.1

2.9. Simple beauty
Examples and analysis -- 45-46

3. Beauty and sexual attraction 47-52
3.1 Fat culture among Mauritanian nomads. -- 47
3.2 Sexual attractiveness and beauty (1) -- 47
3.3 Sexual attractiveness and beauty (2) -- 47-51
3.4 Labrets -- are they beautiful? What do tribal members find good about them? -- 52

4. Love and beauty 53-55
4.1 Forms of love, genuine or defective (jealous love; foolish love; not real love). -- 53
4.2 On love: what we can learn from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. -- 55-54
4.3 Commentary on Jane Eyre's description of Rochester. -- 55
4.4 An example of a near relative of love of a person in Jane Eyr.e -- 55

5. Color -- 56-63
5.1 Diagram of the dispositional conception of color. -- 56
5.2 Munsell Color Solid -- 56
5.3 Color spectrum -- 56
5.4 Hue, saturation and lightness compared -- 57
5.5 Full color vision contrasted with anomalous color vision, showing reduction of perceived differences (from the website: 57-58
5.6 Colorblindness illustrated. -- 59
5.7 Exhibit showing interaction of colors -- 60
5.8 Exhibit showing harmonious and disharmonious colors -- 60
5.9 Color temperature, re. aesthetic properties of color. -- 61
5.10 Trichromatic and tetrachromatic color vision: what does it tell us about sensory color? -- 61
5.11 Extraordinary color vision in the wider animal kingdom. 62
5.12 Color symbolism -- 62
5.13 What properties do properties have? The example of color. -- 62
5.14 Color and its complications. How do we know all normally color-sighted people have the same color experiences? Could our experienced color spectra be reversed without our being able to tell? 62-63

6. Sensory modalities -- 63
Density and repleteness of sensory arrays -- 63
Chemical senses 63-72
6.1 Properties of Taste -- 63-64
6.2 Properties of scent -- 64-65
6.3 Odor descriptions of fragrant oils --65-66
6.4 Odor classification -- 66
6.5 A code for smell -- 67-69
6.6 Creative development of perfumes of a given type -- 69-70
6.7 The Malororous garden71-72
See items in Color preceding
Also see items in Scent and Flavor contrasting the sensory modalities
6.8 An unbreakable visual illusion -- 73
Touch/bodily feeling

7. Platonic matters --74-81
7.1 Apollonian and Dionysian ---74
7.2 Illustrations re. Apollonian vs. Dionysian beauty ---74-75
7.3 More images relevant to Apollonian vs. Dionysian beauty
7.4 Thoughts about Plato's theory of beauty --76
7.5 Ontological points concerning Plato's theory --76
7.6 Plato's dialogue Hippias Major, which concerns the definition of beauty --76
7.7 Cicero's notion of the idea in the artist's mind --77
7.8 Neo-platonism ancient and modern: Plotinus and Kirwan -- 77-81
7.9 Great chain of being illustration --81
7.8 Shaw's alternative to Kirwan's ideal existence 81-83

8. Sense of Beauty matters 83-85
8.1 Hutcheson's application of the uniformity and variety criterion to geometry and astronomy --83
8.2 Diagram of the dispositional (response-dependent) concept of beauty. -- 84
8.3 The concept of a disposition puzzles students needlessly 84
8.4 Sense of beauty, essential points -- 84
8.5 Short statement of the updated sense of beauty theory --84
8.6 Sense of beauty criteria of accuracy: three levels -- 85
8.7 Sundry questions about the updated SOB theory-- 85

9. Aesthetic properties, verdictive and descriptive --83-89
9.1 A vocabulary for beauty -- 86
9.2 Descriptive aesthetic properties: the Kikki-Bubba, Ping-Pong and Mil-Mal crossmodal resemblances (shown in class ppt. presentation). --87
9.3 Faster and slower lines illustrated -- 87
9.4 Synesthesia is different from crossmodal perceptiveness. --88
9.5 Harmonious and disharmonious (clashing) colors (see in Color, p. 60)
9.6 Aesthetic Property Exercise --89-93
9.7 Matisse's Joy of Life as a prime example of expressive line and color -- 93
9.8 Contrast with Mel Ramos' Olympia -- 93
9.9 Visual balance: Mondrian options re. balance --94

10. Aesthetic experience/pleasure -- 94-96
10.1 Edward Bullough, "Psychical Distance as a Factor in Art and an Aesthetic Principle," excerpt -- 94-95
10.2 Beautiful regularity and appearances of regularity/irregularity. Temple of Poseidon at Paestum and three modifications. Homework exercise. -- 94-95
a. Perception of differences
b. Aesthetic appreciation of differences
10.3 Comments on Scruton re. disinterestedness and intentionality-- 96

11. Aesthetic appreciation/judgment 96-97
11.1 Ideal vs. ordinary aesthetic appreciation and judgment -- 96
11.2 On the possibility of altruism (re. disinterested pleasure) 96
11.3 Beauty and goodness -- 96-97
11.4 Sublimity -- 97

12. Art problems -- 97
12.1 Further thoughts about the capacity of the different sensory modalities to provide artistic media 97 (see also under Scent and Flavor above, p. 25).
12.2 Fine art as opposed to vernacular or outsider art.

13. Evolutionary explanations of beauty -- 97
13.1 Amazingly resilient creature, the tardigrade (URL)
13.2 Mate choice as influencing human development: Geoffrey F. Miller (1998) --98
See also file on Scruton.

14. General methodology 98
14.1 Causes versus reasons in "the reason why Mary finds that beautiful" -- 98

15. Miscellaneous -- 98-104
15.1 The Nature of Happiness -- 98
15.2 How does the material all relate? --98
15.3 A further thought on bad reasons for subjectivism (or nihilism) about beauty. --99
15.4 Scruton on truth, goodness, and beauty further analyzed. -- 99
15.5 Checklist of terms, phrases, and ideas having a role in the updated SOB theory. -- 100
15.6 Normal/natural human responses to beauty -- 101
15.7 Everyday beauty and the category of design or applied or decorative art -- 101-103
15.8 Arthur Schopenhauer on the sublime -- 103-104

16. Further thoughts on the updated theory of beauty ------104-
16.1 Questions about descriptive aesthetic properties.-------------104



1. Descriptions of beauties and of the effect of beauty.

1.1. Salman Rushdie, Fury (2002) describes the effect of a beautiful young woman of mixed Polynesian and Indian parentage. The protagonist of the novel, himself dazzled from an earlier meeting at her boyfriend's apartment, meets her on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue. They sit for a while and then start walking on Fifth Avenue.

Neela was wearing a knee-length mustard-colored scarf dress in silk. Her black hair was twisted up into a tight chignon and her long arms were bare. A cab stopped and expelled its passenger just in case she needed a ride, A hot dog vender offered her anything she wanted, free of charge. "just eat it here, lady, so I can watch you do it." ...Solanka felt as if he were escorting one of the Met's more important possessions down an awestruck Fifth Avenue. No: the masterpiece he was thinking of was at the Louvre. With a light breeze flowing the dress against her body, she looked like the Winged Victory of Samothraki, only with the head on... (147)

They walk into Central Park:

They sat on a bench near the pond, and all around them dog walkers were colliding with trees, Tai Chi practitioners lost their balance, rollerbladers smashed into one another, and people out strolling just walked right into the pond as if they'd forgotten it was there. Neela Mahendra gave no sign of noticing any of this. A man walded past with an ice cream cone, which, owing to his sudden but comprehensive loss of hand-to-mouth coordination, completely missed his tongue and instead made contact, messily, with his ear. Another young fellow began, with every appearance of genuine emotion, to weep copiously as he jogged by...(149)

Much later she talks about herself. (204-5)

She spoke of her beauty as something a little separate from herself. It had simply "shown up." It wasn't the result of anything she'd done. She took no credit for it, was grateful for the gift she'd been given, took great care of it, but mostly thought of herself as a disembodied entity living behind the eyes of this extraordinary alien, her body: looking out through its large eyes, manipulating its long limbs, not quite able to believe her luck. Her impact on her surroundings — the fallen window cleaners sitting splay-legged on various sidewalks with buckets on their heads, the skidding cars, the danger to cleaver-wielding butchers when she stopped for meat – was a phenomenon of whose results, for all her apparent unconcern, she was sharply, precisely aware. She could control "the effect" to some degree...she could intensify the world's response to her by making fine-tuning adjustments to her stride length, the tilt of her chin, her mouth, her voice. At maximum intensity she threatened to reduce entire precincts to disaster zones.


1.2. John Ruskin describing a day high in the Alps

From Modern Painters (1873), Vol. 1, Section III, Chapter IV, "Of Truth of Clouds," ##35-37.

Ruskin's purpose is to contrast clouds as they really are with the poor efforts of traditional painters, and to describe how superior the clouds in J.M.Turner's works are, but I have deleted references of this sort. All that matters for our purposes are the description Ruskin gives and the manifest effect the beauties he witnesses have on him.

§ 35. Morning on the plains

...Stand upon the peak of some isolated mountain at daybreak, when the night mists first rise from off the plains, and watch their white and lake-like fields as they float in level bays and winding gulfs about the islanded summits of the lower hills, untouched yet by more than dawn, colder and more quiet than a windless sea under the moon of midnight; watch when the first sunbeam is sent upon the silver channels, how the foam of their undulating surface parts and passes away; and down, under their depths, the glittering city and green pasture lie like Atlantis, between the white paths of winding rivers; the flakes of light falling every moment faster and broader among the starry spires, as the wreathed surges break and vanish above them, and the confused crests and ridges of the dark hills shorten their gray shadows upon the plain...

§ 36. Noon with gathering storms.

Wait a little longer, and you shall see those scattered mists rallying in the ravines, and floating up toward you, along the winding valleys, till they couch in quiet masses, iridescent with the morning light,* upon the broad breasts of the higher hills, whose leagues of massy undulation will melt back and back into that robe of material light, until they fade away, lost in its lustre, to appear again above, in the serene heaven, like a wild, bright, impossible dream, foundationless and inaccessible, their very bases vanishing in the unsubstantial and mocking blue of the deep lake below...Wait yet a little longer, and you shall see those mists gather themselves into white towers, and stand like fortresses along the promontories, massy and motionless, only piled with every instant higher and higher into the sky, and casting longer shadows athwart the rocks; and out of the pale blue of the horizon you will see forming and advancing a troop of narrow, dark, pointed vapors, which will cover the sky, inch by inch, with their gray network, and take the light off the landscape with an eclipse which will stop the singing of the birds and the motion of the leaves together; and then you will see horizontal bars of black shadow forming under them, and lurid wreaths create themselves, you know not how, along the shoulders of the hills; you never see them form, but when you look back to a place which was clear an instant ago, there is a cloud on it, hanging by the precipices, as a hawk pauses over his prey...And then you will hear the sudden rush of the awakened wind, and you will see those watch-towers of vapor swept away from their foundations, and waving curtains of opaque rain let down to the valleys, swinging from the burdened clouds in black, bending fringes, or pacing in pale columns along the lake level, grazing its surface into foam as they go.


§ 37. Sunset in tempest. Serene midnight.

And then; as the sun sinks, you shall see the storm drift for an instant from off the hills, leaving their broad sides smoking, and loaded yet with snow-white torn, steam-like rags of capricious vapor, now gone, now gathered again; while the smouldering sun, seeming not far away, but burning like a red-hot ball beside you, and as if you could reach it, plunges through the rushing wind and rolling cloud with headlong fall, as if it meant to rise no more, dyeing all the air about it with blood... And then you shall hear the fainting tempest die in the hollow of the night, and you shall see a green halo kindling on the summit of the eastern hills, brighter -- brighter yet, till the large white circle of the slow moon is lifted up among the barred clouds, step by step, line by line; star after star she quenches with her kindling light, setting in their stead an army of pale, penetrable, fleecy wreaths in the heaven, to give light upon the earth, which move together, hand in hand, company by company, troop by troop, so measured in their unity of motion, that the whole heaven seems to roll with them, and the earth to reel under them...

§ 38. And sunrise on the Alps

And then wait yet for one hour, until the east again becomes purple,* and the heaving mountains, rolling against it in darkness, like waves of a wild sea, are drowned one by one in the glory of its burning; watch the white glaciers blaze in their winding paths about the mountains, like mighty serpents with scales of fire; watch the columnar peaks of solitary snow, kindling downwards, chasm by chasm, each in itself a new morning; their long avalanches cast down in keen streams brighter than the lightning, sending each his tribute of driven snow, like altar-smoke, up to the heaven; the rose-light of their silent domes flushing that heaven about them and above them, piercing with purer light through its purple lines of lifted cloud, casting a new glory on every wreath as it passes by, until the whole heaven -- one scarlet canopy, -- is interwoven with a roof of waving flame, and tossing, vault beyond vault, as with the drifted wings of many companies of angels; ...

* I have often seen the white, thin, morning cloud, edged with the seven colors of the prism. I am not aware of the cause of this phenomenon, for it takes place not when we stand with our backs to the sun, but in clouds near the sun itself, irregularly and over indefinite spaces, sometimes taking place in the body of the cloud. The colors are distinct and vivid, but have a kind of metallic lustre upon them.


1.3. An example of succinct but intense beauty-description

Dylan Thomas, "Poem in October," excerpt.

The poet walks out early on his 30th birthday from his Welsh village by the sea into the country: "I walked abroad in a shower of all my days".

A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
On the hill's shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the rain wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.

Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
With its horns through mist and the castle
Brown as owls
But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud
There could I marvel
My birthday

1.4. An off-beat appreciation of usually disregarded aesthetic objects

The French painter and sculptor Jean Dubuffet (b. 1901) writes rapturously of things that traditionally were despised as highly "unaesthetic." (From Empreintes, 1957; excerpted from Herschell Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, 1968.)

I like to proclaim that my art is an attempt to bring all disparaged values into the limelight. Also, I am more curious about these elements than about all the others, because they are so prevalent as to be always in sight. The voices of dust, the soul of dust, interest me a great deal more than the flower, the tree, or the horse, for I have a feeling that they are more extraordinary. Dust is a being so different from us. Just that absence of defined form ... one might want to change into a tree, but to change into dust-- into such a continuous existence -- would be so much more tempting. What an experience! What information!


Dubuffet admits to 'a fascination with untouched traces,' and declares himself to be 'in all spheres, smitten with savagery.'

Would you rather, reader, friend, that I traveled, that I took you to absurd countries, led you before mosques, pagodas, Persian markets, tropical rivers, coral reefs. Kindly think seriously about the inanity of dimension. It is a mad prejudice, a vulgar trap, which makes you marvel at your snowcapped peaks, high cliffs, your gardens of rare species, or your elegant islands. Burn scale! Look at what lies at your feet! A crack in the ground, sparkling gravel, a tuft of grass, some crushed debris, offer equally worthy subjects for your applause and admiration. Better! For what is more important is not reaching objects of reputed beauty after long days of travel, but learning that, without having to move an inch, no matter where you are, all that first seemed most sterile and mute is swarming with facts which can entrance you even more. The world does not extend over one single plane, all on the surface. The world is made in layers, it is a layer cake. Probe its depths, without going any further than where you stand, you will see! I am speaking figuratively, you understand.

The probing, Dubuffet explains, requires a special intensity:

But take care, this is a venture in which a certain spiritual position in the operator is more necessary than anything else; this is an operation whose success is dependent above all upon a certain forcing of the thoughts, a certain over-excitement which augments conduction, facilitates the transformation of one order of ideas into another, makes all parts of the mind permeable, so that currents can pass without restriction. Therefore, please allow me my grasses and tufts of weeds, allow me my common plants which, by their very commonness, exercise a stimulating effect on my spirit. Heat, a high spritual temperature, is needed in my business.

The veil obscuring the real character of things falls away only when the observer achieves a self-forgetful state of naturalness or spontaneity:

Plants or people, or everything existing, each has a mask all ready with which to reply to tiresome inquiries, and it is only by this mask that we usually know them. The truth is that no one wants to be looked at; each one, the instant he senses a stare, and before having been touched by it, pulls the painted curtain. The indiscreet always get caught! Return with their painted curtains thinking that they have something -- having seen nothing, suspected nothing of the real creatures behind them. You must have savoir faire to unveil the creature and have it dance in your presence, forgetting that it is watched. For everyone dances and does nothing but dance; living and dancing are one and the same thing; indeed each thing is finally no more than a specific dance; the dance is the thing. Dancing is the subtle word for living, and it is only by dancing too that one can discover anything. One must approach dancing. He who has not understood that will never know anything about anything. All the faults dance badly -- dance stiffly, too laboriously, watch themselves dance, do not forget that they are dancing. He who dances will not endure a stare, especially his own. Socrates, the point is not to know, but to forget, oneself....


Dubuffet's orientation toward the unbeautified natural phenomenon goes hand in hand with a curious impression which he himself seems to concede lacks any rational foundation.

I will permit myself to add, parenthetically, that I am perhaps more sensitive than just anyone to phenomena from which the intervention of the human hand has been totally eliminated, because of a certain temperamental disposition peculiar to me, which leads me to attribute, contrary to popular opinion, less intelligence, less knowledge, less power, to the human being than to other beings of the natural world, and indeed to those which are rather more often considered out of the question in this sphere, such as plants or stones. I can not rid myself of the constant impression that consciousness -- that endowment of which man is so proud -- dilutes, adulterates, impoverishes, as soon as it intervenes; and I feel most confident when it does not seem to be present.

A closely associated idea, of slightly higher standing in the history of natural philosophy, is that of the animate, indeed psychic, character of all natural objects -- which Dubuffet is quite ready to extend to momentary states of things (a wave, a shadow, a gesture)!

No one contests the breath of life is found in minerals as well as plants or animals, and whoever hesitates at that has only to think of the polyhedric crystal, which aspires with all its will to form, and finally does form, the rock. At this point, we are quite easily led to expand our idea of what is embraced by the term being -- although not without a slight hesitation -- to certain elements, no longer isolated and with well-defined contours, like the leaf of a tree or the crystal, but continuous and having neither form nor limited quality, such as coal, metal, water. But what of the momentary and moving, of the wave which forms for an instant in the great open sea; is it a being? If a will -- no matter how obscure, how vacillating -- appears in any part of the inert mass, even for a very short time, does this not suffice to make a being? Is the shadow of a walker a being like the walker himself? And the step of the walker, his walk, are they beings? Where does one begin, where does one end, in the use of the term being?



Whatever we think of Dubuffet's beliefs about natural objects we can hardly deny that Dubuffet's experience, as described, is aesthetic. Whether such experience has any chance of yielding knowledge of the sort Dubuffet thinks it gives, is another matter altogether. We may also wonder whether his delight partly depends on his belief. Perhaps dust and pebbles would not look as beautiful to him were it not for his belief in their being animate.

1.5. Sarah Hubbell on the beauty of insects. From Broadsides from the other orders: a book of bugs, 1993, pp. 138-9.

Although some people who are not familiar with them think of bugs as ugly, you can't be around entomologists for long before bug handsomeness becomes obvious. When I talked to Cassie Gibbs about black flies I asked her how it was she had specialized in mayflies, which appear to have wings made of isinglass. "They are such beautiful insects," she said forthrightly. But it was Asher [Treat] who first introduced me to bug beauties beyond normal human seeing. One day he invited me to inspect a tiny moth, undistinguished and dun-colored to the naked eye. Under the microscope it revealed itself, shimmering, gleaming, golden, decked out in mothly splendor. A goldsmith would have been impressed by its exquisiteness, and so was I. The scanning electron microscope opened up a new world of information and study for entomologists, just as it did for scienctists in other fields, but it also opened up a new world of beauty. I have a copy of A Scanning Electron Microscope Atlas of the Honey Bee,nearly 300 pages of SEM photos of bees, photos of surpassing loveliness of shape, texture, and form. I know a sculptor who uses it to give him inspiration for his work.

Added example of natural things of low repute being admired by specialists who have knowledge of their deeper nature. Ann Kennedy, a soil scientist concerned with controlling an invasive grass species called cheatgrass that is devastating Western grasslands, is quoted as saying: “Really, there is a beauty to soil,” she said. “It’s just absolutely a wonder world of activity. You just have to go in search of it.” (NYTimes, 10/6/15)

1.6. The Japanese Wabi-sabi aesthetic

1. An excerpt from Wikipedia "Wabisabi"

Wabi now connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs.

From an engineering or design point of view, "wabi" may be interpreted as the imperfect quality of any object, due to inevitable limitations in design and construction/manufacture especially with respect to unpredictable or changing usage conditions; then "sabi" could be interpreted as the aspect of imperfect reliability, or limited mortality of any object, hence the etymological connection with the Japanese word sabi , to rust.

A good example of this embodiment may be seen in certain styles of Japanese pottery. In the Japanese tea ceremony , the pottery items used are often rustic and simple-looking, e.g. Hagi ware , with shapes that are not quite symmetrical, and colors or textures that appear to emphasize an unrefined or simple style. In reality, these items can be quite expensive and in fact, it is up to the knowledge and observational ability of the participant to notice and discern the hidden signs of a truly excellent design or glaze (akin to the appearance of a diamond in the rough). This may be interpreted as a kind of wabi-sabi aesthetic, further confirmed by the way the colour of glazed items is known to change over time as hot water is repeatedly poured into them ( sabi ) and the fact that tea bowls are often deliberately chipped or nicked at the bottom ( wabi ), which serves as a kind of signature of the Hagi-yaki style.


2. JB's commentary on Yuriko Saito's explanation of Wabi-Sabi

The Japanese aesthetic of imperfection and insufficiency is quite puzzling. Naturally one turns to explanations by specialists. One such is found in an article by Yuriko Saito, “The Japanese Aesthetics of Imperfection and Insufficiency,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 55, 4 (Fall 1997) 377-385. Her purpose is to show that ugliness or imperfection can indeed be aesthetically prized. Her account has the virtue of recognizing the complexity of the factors that go into the Wabi-Sabi view of things. But problems arise in taking it as a coherent celebration of ugliness or imperfection.

(1) Some of the values cited by Saito seem not to concern the ugly but only mixed cases of mild unbeauty offset by aspects of subdued beauty. Such are worn surfaces, which may have a pleasing patina or weathered surfaces in which the grain gains saliency. We need more enlightenment as to what exactly is deemed beautiful about the worn plate and the cracked tea cup, and what would count as an exceptionally good Wabi-Sabi example. (2) At some places Saito's account suggests that the judgment exercised in the Wabi-Sabi aesthetic is skewed: it “overcompensates” for naïve and courtly love of luxury and ostentation. This appears to imply that it is invalid, that those who relish the worn surfaces overvalue them.. (3) In some cases non-aesthetic considerations seem mixed with aesthetic ones. Political expediency is said to influence the endorsement of the values; endorsing the aesthetic becomes a self-protective “gesture toward social egalitarianism” on the part of nervous nobles. (381) At another point she characterizes the aesthetic as a movement among cultural elite nostalgic for lost status and wealth. This amounts to a cryptic form of sour grapes. (4) A philosophical or spiritual version of the aesthetic is ascribed to Zen Buddhists who seek the Buddha nature “which makes no discriminations between various objects and activities.” (381f) Taken literally this won't wash as an aesthetic point of view since that necessarily distinguishes between better and worse. Rather it amounts to a principled suppression of the aesthetic point of view in favor of a spiritual one.

These and a number of other elements in Saito's account give grounds for doubting the whole qualifies as a straightforwardly aesthetic elevation of the unbeautiful over the beautiful. Its purer forms seem rather to be refined sorts of aesthetic self-denial for the sake of spiritual beauty in oneself. Perhaps the prudent ruler if candid would claim that the element of hypocrisy in his celebration of the unbeautiful is aimed at producing a beautifully even-tempered civil society. In neither case is the orientation, as described, consistently and sincerely aesthetic.

In class I will give a powerpoint segment on this aesthetic taken as such.


1.7. A consoling beauty in a mass of aged flesh. Edith Wharton, Age of Innocence, Bk. 1, Ch. 6, describing Mrs. Manson Mingott.

The immense accretion of flesh which had descended on her in middle life like a flood of lava on a doomed city had changed her from a plump active little woman with a neatly-turned foot and ankle into something as vast and august as a natural phenomenon. She had accepted this submergence as philosophically as all her other trials, and now, in extreme old age, was rewarded by presenting to her mirror an almost unwrinkled expanse of firm pink and white flesh, in the center of which the traces of a small face survived as if awaiting excavation. A flight of smooth double chins led down to the dizzy depths of a still-snowy bosom veiled in snowy muslins that were held in place by a miniature portrait of the late Mr. Mingott; and around and below, wave after wave of black silk surged away over the edges of a capacious armchair, with two tiny white hands poised like gulls on the surface of the billows.

Needless to say the almost wrinkled expanse of pink and white flesh that Mrs. Mingott presents to her mirror consists only of her face and as much of her upper chest as is decent to expose to her view. Still, such small consolations help make human life bearable.

1.8. A truly beautiful state of mind 

One of the all-time great foot-travelers and travel writers, Patrick Leigh Fermor, who was also a World War II hero and the master of many languages, provides a sterling example of a beautiful state of mind in his book, A Time to Keep Silence. He recounts his experience in 1953 in the Abbey of Saint-Wandrille in Normandy, to which he had repaired as a visitor in order to have absolute tranquility to write his first book. The extreme isolation imposed by the monastic discipline – no talking to almost anyone, no contact with the outer world, only simple food and water to drink, etc. initially brought on a state of depression. He couldn't write. He suffered from insomnia; then a period when he slept as if drugged, waking only for meals. He continues:

Then began an extraordinary transformation: this extreme lassitude dwindled to nothing; night shrank to five hours of light, dreamless and perfect sleep, followed by awakenings full of energy and limpid freshness. The explanation is simple enough: the desire for talk, movement and nervous expression that I had transported from Paris found, in this silent place, no response or foil, evoked no single echo; after miserably gesticulating for a while in a vacuum, it languished and finally died for lack of any stimulus or nourishment. Then the tremendous accumulation of tiredness, which must be the common property of all our contemporaries, broke loose and swamped everything. No demands, once I had emerged from that flood of sleep, were made upon my nervous energy: there were no automatic drains, such as conversation at meals, small talk, catching trains, or the hundred anxious trivialities that poison everyday life. Even the major causes of guilt and anxiety had slid away into some distant cave and not only failed to emerge in the small hours as tormentors but appeared to have lost their dragonish validity. This new dispensation left nineteen hours a day of absolute and god-like freedom. Work became easier every moment; and, when I was not working, I was either exploring the Abbey and the neighboring countryside, or reading. The Abbey became the reverse of a tomb – not, indeed, a Thelema [a potion leading to a sense of release from all inhibitions] or a Nepenthe [a potion that induces forgetfulness], but a silent university, a country house, a castle hanging in mid-air beyond the reach of ordinary troubles and vexations…


That's as close to heaven as I think we need to get! Fermor elsewhere calls it "a state of peace that is unthought of in the ordinary world." This is what I meant when I said that the state of mind implied by Kirwan's thirst for a beauty beyond beauty would not bear comparison with a life blessed with finite but exalted states of being.

Interestingly the ethereal state enjoyed in his best days in the Abbey gave way to acute distress immediately he returned to the outside world: "the outer world seemed afterwards, by contrast, an inferno of noise and vulgarity entirely populated by bounders and sluts and crooks...From the train that took me back to Paris, even the advertisements for Byrrh and Cinzano seen from the window, usually such jubilant emblem s of freedom and escape, had acquired the impact of personal insults."

1.9. An impressive sculptural work that challenges us to try to explain its beauty. Recently on the net I got an image of the work illustrated below by the celebrated Chinese dissenting artist, Weiwei. I believe it is beautiful in a fashion, but I find it very difficult to give a convincing account of its beauty, that is, to say what its beautiful descriptive aesthetic properties are. So I can use it to illustrate the point made about aesthetic appreciation among less than ideal appreciators: recognition of beauty doesn't imply ability to explain one's response. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

1.10 Mongolian throat-singing, two sites for illuminating examples. (the second selection, Hoorai, is recommended); and (the whole is worth viewing). These serve to illustrate the subject of discussion in class. See if you agree with me about this admittedly somewhat weird manner of singing having significant beauty (even when the growly base tone is audible).

1.11 Amazing pendulum movements. Here is an URL for a demonstration of pendulum movement patterns that are worth appreciating for themselves and also instructive to compare with musically meaningful patterns.Pendulum Waves . The accompanying text lists the component waves: traveling waves, standing waves, beating, and random motion. The demonstration works best when NOT viewed full-screen but in the smaller format. Full-screen is too fuzzy. [Note, when last accessed the site had changed. Look up "double pendulum" and get one of the Youtube videos.]


1.12 Strange case of beautiful mutilated sculpture. Would they be more beautiful if unmutilated? Two examples.


On the one hand it would be unreasonble not to want to see what the sculptor produced in full. On the other hand, the mutilated remainder in these cases is very beautiful. We respond to it the way we do to works of recent art that abstract away from the full figure -- the Brancusi torso or the following famous Rodin bronze, Walking Man, 1877-78.

As the Rodin piece shows, we can value a sculpture of a part in abstraction from the full body. This point is obvious from the Brancusi example given previously. Yet clearly not just any abstraction would be good, or any mutilation either. Some would ruin the work. Sculpted faces whose noses have been knocked off, for example.



1.13 Examples of ugliness. As an example of ugliness of form in painting the following detail from a painting by Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VII, World War I, is pretty good, iin my estimation. The whole work is much better, even though it is meant to represent the craziness of "the war to end all wars." I present the detail in two orientations and a flip of one of them.

2. Special types of beauty

2.1. Mathematical beauty

2.1.1 Mathematical beauty exhibited in recent art. These examples are taken from Ivar Peterson, Fragments of Infinity: a kaleidoscope of mathematics and art, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2001.

Here are several of the many fascinating images in this book, which is recommended to anyone interested in the intersection of presentday art and mathematics. The captions are either verbatim quotations from the book or statements built out of quotations.

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2.Helamen Ferguson, Eine Kleine Rock Musik III. To create Eine Kleine Rock Musik III, Ferguson quarried a sixty-pound piece of creamily streaked honey onyx in Utah, then carved it into a topological shape of a Klein bottle. A Klein bottle has a curiously contorted surface that passes through itself and emerges again from the other side.


3. Celso Costa originally discovered this kind of surface by devising equations inspired by the sweeping curves of skirts and hats worn by dancers in Rio de Janeiro's famous Carnival. These equations represented an unbounded minimal surface threaded by several tunnels. Other researchers discovered by use of computer images based on the equations that the surface did not intersect itself. Hence it was a member of an elite group, the other members being the plane, the catenoid and the helicoid.

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The figure (above) has the splendid elegance of a gracefully spinning dancer flinging out her full skirt so it whirled parallel to the ground. A gentle wave ruffled the skirt's hem. Two holes pierced the skirt's lower surface and joined to form a tunnel that swept upward. Another pair of holes, set at right angles to the first pair, led from the top of the skirt downward into a second tunnel.

The Costa surface is one of an infinite number of such unbounded minimal surfaces, each with a different number of tunnels penetrating the form's interior and opening up into wide mouths, like trumpet bells. (162-3)

[JB's comment: Although the Costa surface image is an purely mathematical diagram, it invites artists to make use of it. In that way it belongs in this section. In class I will exhibit materials from a website of a mathematician, Thomas Banchoff. The address is:]

2.1.2 THE BEST OF PHYSICS: What Makes an Equation Beautiful?

CONSIDER a verbal description of the effect of gravity: drop a ball, and it will fall.

That is a true enough fact, but fuzzy in the way that frustrates scientists. How fast does the ball fall? Does it fall at constant rate, or accelerate? Would a heavier ball fall faster? More words, more sentences could provide details, swelling into an unwieldy yet still incomplete paragraph.
The wonder of mathematics is that it captures precisely in a few symbols what can only be described clumsily with many words. Those symbols, strung together in meaningful order, make equations - which in turn constitute the world's most concise and reliable body of knowledge. And so it is that physics offers a very simple equation for calculating the speed of a falling ball.
Readers of Physics World magazine recently were asked an interesting question: Which equations are the greatest?
Dr. Robert P. Crease, a professor of philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a historian at Brookhaven National Laboratory, posed the question in his Critical Point column and received 120 responses, nominating 50 different equations. Some were nominated for the sheer beauty of their simplicity, some for the breadth of knowledge they capture, others for historical importance. In general, Dr. Crease said, a great equation "reshapes perception of the universe."


The mathematical equation providing the speed of a falling ball is just four symbols long: v = gt.
With it, you can calculate the ball's speed 2.5 seconds after release. (That's g, the acceleration of gravity, which is 32 feet per second squared, multiplied by 2.5 seconds, giving an answer of 80 feet per second.)
This equation, a mainstay of high school physics, was not among those nominated as the greatest of all time, which is not surprising, because its use is limited.
The pull of gravity varies with distance from the Earth's surface, and the equation also suggests that an object's speed could go on increasing toward infinity, past the known limit of the speed of light.
The top vote-getters in the magazine poll were Maxwell's equations - a set of four that describe the interplay between electric and magnetic fields - and Euler's equation, a purely mathematical construct that finds wide use in theoretical physics.
"It combines rational and irrational numbers to get zero," Dr. Crease said. "It's bizarre."
Among the other nominees were the all-familiar E=mc2 from Einstein, which equates energy and matter; the Pythagorean theorem; and Isaac Newton's F=ma.
Prominent scientists have their own favorites. Dr. Brian Greene, a theorist at Columbia University and author of "The Elegant Universe," cites Einstein's general relativity equations, which describe how matter warps the fabric of space, and the Schrödinger equation, the fundamental equation of quantum mechanics.
"With a mere handful of symbols, those equations describe almost all phenomena in the universe," he said. "It is so amazing how so much of the universe is encapsulated in a few symbols."
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, said he was disappointed that E=mc2 did not receive more votes. "I think the general physics community, they're a little bored with the equation," he said. "It's risen to the level of icon that people no longer pay attention to."
But Dr. Tyson said that the equation was a fundamental underpinning not only of the universe, but also of the first five chapters of his book "Origins."
"It's simple, yet profound," he said. "I'd be less impressed if it were a big complicated equation."
A half-dozen of Dr. Crease's respondents, including Richard Harrison of Calgary, Alberta, chose one of the simplest possible equations.
Mr. Harrison wrote: " '1 + 1 = 2' is the fairy tale of mathematics, the first equation I taught my son, the first expression of the miraculous power of the mind to change the real world. I remember my son holding up the index finger, the 'one finger,' of each hand as he learned the expression, and the moment of wonder, perhaps his first of true philosophical wonder, when he saw that the two fingers, separated by his whole body, could be joined in a single concept in his mind."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company


2.1.3 The golden section properties within the mystic pentagram

Responding to questions that typically arise in class about the golden section aspects of the Pythagoreans' famous emblem, I first present the thing itself, big enough to be seen easily, using the illustration from H. E. Huntley, The Divine Proportion: a study in mathematical beauty, New York: Dover Publications, 1970, with some supplementary lettering and lines. The Greek letter Ø signifies that the golden ratio holds between the line and the side of the pentagon that stands opposite to it, for instance B'R is to RQ as B'RQ is to B'R.

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Notice that the additional Greek letters Ø are justified by the relations of the segments to the sides of the pentagon. By the same token the red lines SP and QT cut each other at a golden section cut just as the one mentioned in Huntley's passage does. Similar additions can be made to a number of other relations Huntley mentions. Here is the substance of his list. Note that bold face numerals will have to do for superscripts, which don't copy through from Wordperfect to Dreamweaver.

Let PT = 1. Then PQ, QR, RS, and ST = 1.
Then A'P = Ø, OA/OS = Ø/2, OA'/OS = Ø2, OA'/OA = 2Ø.

Further: QS, QT, RT, RP, SP, ST, = Ø;

And where X (Z, etc.) is the intersection of two diagonals, the segments are in the ratio of Ø -- note the additional intersections supplied by the diagonals in red.

In addition: SQ extended to V produces the following instances of Ø: B'V/VA', B'Q/QP, B'X/XT, B'S/SD'; parallel instances are produced by extension of the other diagonals (SP et al)

If that weren't enough, the lengths of B'D',B'S, B'R, RS, RX and XZ are in geometric progression:
B'D' = Ø3, B'S = Ø2, B'R = Ø, RS = 1, RX = Ø-1, XZ Ø-2

Is that enough? Huntley's list goes on for quite a bit.


2.1.4 Jonathan Swift on the Laputans' obsession with mathematically regular forms, from Gulliver's Travels, 1729.

Here we have a description of the imaginary Laputan culture, in which things like Marquardt's beauty-mask might be highly prized -- one that is not put off by the conflict between natural and geometrical forms that I complained of in class. Music is associated with mathematics because of the mathematical ratios exemplified by the harmonies within the overtone scale. (The shape of musical instruments, however, is only loosely associated with those properties.)

[The Laputans'] Ideas are perpetually conversant in Lines and Figures. If they would, for Example, praise the Beauty of a Woman, or any other Animal, they describe it by Rhombs, Circles, Parallelograms, Ellipses, and other Geometrical Terms, or else by Words or Art drawn from Musick, needless here to repeat...

They also apply geometry to the carving of meat and other dishes that lent themselves to being shaped: "In the first Course, there was a Shoulder of Mutton, cut into an AEquilateral Triangle; a Piece of Beef into a Rhomboides; and a Pudding into a Cycloid. The second Course was two Ducks, trussed up into the Form of Fiddles; Sausages and Puddings resembling Flutes and Hautboys, and a Breast of Veal in the Shape of a Harp. (1) The Servants cut our Bread into Cones, Cylinders, Parallelograms, and several other Mathematical Figures."

[1. This symbolism is only loosely or indirectly associated with the mathematics, of course.]

2.1.5 Paul Erdos, "the man who loved only numbers." A brief account of this remarkable man's career and character can be found at: and
Erdos was perhaps as close to a paragon of Platonic recollection as there is.

2.1.6 Pythagorean Theorem proved by a simple diagrammic demonstration.

Can the beauty of the Pythagorean Theorem be explained via multiplicity of uniformities? (JB's attempt to explain how it can)


1. Suppose we discovered empirically some of the infinite set of Pythagorean triples but not the theorem. ( 3 , 4 , 5 ) ( 5, 12, 13) ( 7, 24, 25) ( 8, 15, 17) ( 9, 40, 41) (11, 60, 61) (12, 35, 37) (13, 84, 85) (16, 63, 65) (20, 21, 29) (28, 45, 53) (33, 56, 65) (36, 77, 85) (39, 80, 89) (48, 55, 73) (65, 72, 97) We might have achieved this by careful use of units of measurement applied to templates. We would have discovered a uniformity among all these triples.

2. This would be useful in marking out rectangular fields, a basic surveying task in agriculture. But only for those particular values. For other lengths we would have to estimate. Suppose we narrowed the unknowns by discovering that multiplying each member of a triple by an integer also guaranteed a right triangle, e.g. (6, 8, 10) (9, 12, 15) (12, 16, 20) etc. Such tables would be incomplete and cumbersome to rely on in architectural or agricultural surveying.


3. Discovering that all these and all fractional cases could be swept together in the simple formula given by the Pythagorean theorem would be a revelation. It could be established only by a formal proof, not by measurement. Pythagoras established an overarching uniformity among all those lesser uniformities. That would display a hierarchically integrated uniformity of uniformities in accordance with JB's proposed reinterpretation of Hutcheson's criterion. Does that make both theorem and system beautiful?

I think this kind of complex uniformity is worthy of admiring contemplation and therefore is beautiful.

Part of the appeal of mathematics seems to be that starting from something so basic and familiar as counting we are irresistably led on to more and more complexity. Counting leads to calculating, to adding, subtracting and dividing; the integers we use in simple calculations lead to an infinite set of integers, and also to fractions, which lead to irrationals and so on and on and on. The world of numbers is well-ordered and highly integrated -- algebra with geometry, for instance. And there are practical applications of advanced mathematics to the world, to science and technology. So it's terrifically potent.

A question of interest is whether anything in the world of mathematics is ugly. There seem to be plenty of things that are lackluster. That much seems entailed by praise for the special beauties, e.g., the golden section and all of its progeny.

2.2. Beauties of Scent and Flavor

2.2.1 A fictional aesthete of scent and flavor (radically Dionysian)

Karl Joris Huysmans (1848-1907) published his novel A Rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain )in 1884. It created a sensation in Paris, instantly becoming a beacon for the "decadents" in European culture of the end of the century. Its protagonist, Des Esseintes, is an eccentric aristocrat, the last of his line, whose neuraesthenia (hyper-sensitivity) is almost heroic. The following excerpts are from Chs. 4 and 10. In some ways, and up to a point, he is an energetic aesthetic investigator and insightful literary critic. But ultimately his Dionysian excess does him in. His overexcited senses become really deranged.

Des Esseintes stood gazing at the turtle where it lay huddied together in one corner of the dining-room, flashing fire in the dim half light.
He felt perfectly happy; his eyes were intoxicated with the splendours of these flowers flashing in jewelled flames against a golden background. Then, contrary to his use, he had an appetite and was dipping his slices of toast spread with superexcellent butter in a cup of tea, an impeccable blend of Si-a-Fayoun, Mo-you-tann and Khansky,-yellow teas, imported from China into Russia by special caravans.
This liquid perfume he drank from those cups of Oriental porcelain known as egg-shell china, so delicate and transparent are they; in the same way, just as he would have nothing to say to any other save this adorably dainty ware, he refused to use as dishes and plates anything else but articles of genuine antique silver-gilt, a trifle worn so that the underlying silver shows a little here and there under the film of gold, giving a tender, old-world look as of something fading away in a quiet death of exhaustion.

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After swallowing his last mouthful, he went back to his study, whither he directed a servant to bring the turtle, which obstinately declined to make the smallest effort towards locomotion.
Outside the snow was falling. In the lamplight, ice arabesques glittered on the dark windows and the hoar-frost sparkled like crystals of sugar on the bottle-glass panes speckled with gold.
A deep silence wrapped the little house that lay asleep in the darkness.
Des Esseintes stood lost in dreams; the logs burning on the hearth filled the room with hot, stifling vapours, and presently he threw the window partly open.
Like an overhanging canopy of reversed ermine, the sky rose before him, a black curtain dappled with white.
An icy wind was blowing, that sent the snow spinning before it and soon reversed this first arrangement of black and white. The sky returned to the correct heraldic blazon, became a true ermine, white dappled with sable, where the black of night showed here and there through the gcneral whiteness of the snowy mantle of descending snowflakes.
He closed the window again. But this quick change, without any intermediate transition, from the torrid heat of the room to the cold of mid-winter had given him a shock; he crouched back beside the fire and thought he would swallow a dose of spirits to restore his bodily temperature.
He made his way to the dining-room, where in a recess in one of the walls, a cupboard was contrived, containing a row of little barrels, ranged side by side, resting on miniature stocks of sandalwood and each pierced with a silver spigot in the lower part.
This collection of liquor casks he called his mouth organ.
A small rod was so arranged as to connect all the spigots together and enable them all to be turned by one and the same movement, the result being that, once the apparatus was installed, it was only needful to touch a knob concealed in the panelling to open all the little conduits simultaneously and so fill with liquor the tiny cups hanging below each tap.
The organ was then open. The stops, labelled "flute," "horn," "vox humans," were pulled out, ready for use. Des Esseintes would, imbibe a drop here, another there, another elsewhere, thus playing symphonies on his internal economy, producing on his palate a series of sensations analogous to those wherewith music gratifies the ear.
Indeed, each several liquor correspondcd, so he held, in taste with the sound of a particular instrument. Dry curaçao, for instance, was like the clarinet with its shrill, velvety note; kiimmel like the oboe, whose timbre is sonorous and nasal; creme de menthe and anisette like the flute, at one and the same time sweet and poignant, whining and soft. Then, to complete the orchestra, comes kirsch, blowing a wild trumpet blast; gin and whisky, deafening the palate with their harsh outbursts of cornets and trombones; liqueur brandy, blaring with the overwhelming crash of the tubas, while the thunder peals of the cymbals and the big drum, beaten might and main, are reproduced in the mouth by the rakis of Chios and the mastics.
He was convinced too that the same analogy might be pushed yet further, that quartettes of stringed instruments might be contrived to play upon the palatal arch, with the violin represented by old brandy, delicate and heady, biting and clean-toned; with the alto, simulated by rum, more robust, more rumbling, more heavy in tone; with vespetro, long-drawn, pathetic, as sad and tender as a violoncello; with the double-bass, full-bodied, solid and black as a fine, old bitter beer. One might even, if anxious to make a quintette, add yet, another instrument; the harp, mimicked with a sufficiently close approximation by the keen savour, the silvery note, clear and self-sufficing, of dry cumin.
Nay, the similarity went to still greater length, analogies not only of qualities of instruments, but of keys were to be found in the music of liquors; thus, to quote only one example, Benedictine figures, so to speak, the minor key corresponding to the major key of the alcohols which the scores of wine-merchants' price-lists indicate under the name of green Chartreuse.
These assumptions once granted, he had reached a stage, thanks to a long course of erudite experiments, when he could execute on his tongue a succession of voiceless melodies; noiseless funeral marches, solemn and stately; could hear in his mouth solos of creme de menthe, duets of vespetro and rum.
He even succeeded in transferring to his palate selections of real music, following the composer's motif step by step, rendering his thought, his effects, his shades of expression, by combinations and contrasts of allied liquors, by approximations and cunning mixtures of beverages.


Sometimes again, he would compose pieces of his own, would perform pastoral symphonies with the gentle blackcurrent ratafia that set his throat resounding with the mellow notes of warbling nightingales; with the dainty cacao-chouva, that sung sugarsweet madrigals, sentimental ditties like the "Romances d'Estelle"; or the "Ah! vous di-rai-je maman," of former days.

But to-night, Des Esseintes had no wish to "taste" the delights of music; he confined himself to sounding one single note on the keyboard of his instrument, filling a tiny cup with genuine Irish whisky and taking it away with him to enjoy at his leisure.
He sank down in his armchair and slowly savoured this fermented spirit of oats and barley-a strongly marked, almost poisonous flavour of creosote diffused itself through his mouth.
Little by little, as he drank, his thoughts followed the impression thus re-awakened on his palate, and stimulated by the suggestive savour of the liquor, were roused by a fatal similarity of taste and smell to recollections half obliterated years ago.
The acrid, carbolic flavour forcibly recalled the very same sensation that had filled his mouth and burned his tongue while the dentists were at work on his gums.

In the course of that singular malady which plays such havoc with races of exhausted vitality, sudden intervals of calm succeed the crises. Without being able to explain the reason, Des Esseintes awoke quite strong and well one fine morning; no more hacking cough, no more wedges driven with a hammer into the back of the neck, but an ineffable sensation of well-being and a delightful clearness of brain, while his thoughts became cheerful; and instead of being opaque and dull, grew bright and iridescent, like brilliantly coloured soap bubbles.
This lasted some days; then in a moment, one afternoon, hallucinations of the sense of smell appeared.
His room was strong of frangipane. He looked to see if perhaps there was a bottle of the perfume lying about anywhere uncorked; but there was no such thing in the place. He visited his working-room and then the dining-room; the smell was there too.
He rang for his servant. "Don't you smell something?" he asked, but the man, after sniffing the air, declared he noticed nothing. Doubt was impossible; the nervous derangement was come again, taking the form of a fresh delusion of the senses.
Wearied by the persistency of this imaginary aroma. he resolved to plunge himself in a bath of real perfumes, hoping that his nasal homeopathy might cure him or, at any rate, moderate the force of the overpowering frangipane.
He betook himself to his study. There, beside an ancient font that served him as a wash-hand basin, under a long looking-glass in a frame of wrought iron that held imprisoned like a well-head silvered by the moonlight the pale surface of the mirror, bottles of all sizes and shapes were ranged in rows on ivory shelves. He placed them on a table and divided them into two series; first, the simple perfumes, extracts and distilled waters; secondly, composite scents, such as are described under the generic name of bouquets.
He buried himself in an armchair and began to think. Years ago he had trained himself as an expert in the science of perfumes; he held that the sense of smell was qualified to experience pleasures equal to those pertaining to the ear and the eye, each of the five senses being capable, by dint of a natural aptitude supplemented by an "erudite education, of. receiving novel impressions, magnifying these tenfold, coordinating them, combining them into the whole that constitutes a work of art. It was not, in fact, he argued, more abnormal than an art should exist of disengaging odoriferous fluids than that other arts should whose function is to set up sonorous waves to strike the car or variously coloured rays to impinge on the retina of the eyes; only, just as no one, without a special faculty of intuition developed by study, can distinguish a picture by a great master from a worthless daub, a motif of Beethoven from a tune by Clapisson, so no one, without a preliminary initiation, can avoid confounding at the first sniff a bouquet created by a great artist with a pot-pourri compounded by a manufacturer for sale in grocers' shops and fancy bazaars.


In this art of perfumes, one peculiarity had more than all others fascinated him, viz. the precision with which it can artificially imitate the real article.
Hardly ever, indeed, are scents actually produced from the flowers whose name they bear; the artist who should be bold enough to borrow his element from Nature alone would obtain only a half-and-half-result, unconvincing, lacking in style and elegance, the fact being that the essence obtained by distillation from the flowers themselves could at the best present but a far-off, vulgarized analogy with the real aroma of the living and growing flower, shedding its fragrant effluvia in the open air.
So, with the one exception of the jasmine, which admits of no imitation, no counterfeit, no copy, which refuses even any approximation, all flowers are perfectly represented by combinations of alcoholates and essences, extracting from the model its inmost individuality while adding that something, that heightened tone, that heady savour, that rare touch which makes a work of art.
In one word, in perfumery the artist completes and consummates the original natural odour, which he cuts, so to speak, and mounts as a jeweller improves and brings out the water of a precious stone.
Little by little, the arcana of this art, the most neglected of all, had been revealed to Des Esseintes, who could now decipher its language,– a diction as varied, as subtle as that of literature itself, a style of unprecedented conciseness under its apparent vagueness and uncertainty.
To reach this end, he had, first of all, been obliged to master the grammar, to understand the syntax of odours, to grasp the rules that govern them; then, once familiarized with this dialect, to study and compare the works of the divers masters of the craft, the Atkinsons and Lubins, the Chardins and Violets, the Legrands and Piesses, to analyze the construction of their sentences, to weigh the proportion of their words and the disposition of their periods.
Next, in this idiom of essences, it was for experience to come to the assistance of theories
too often incomplete and commonplace.
The classic art of perfumery was, in truth, little diversified, almost colourless, uniformly run in a mould first shaped by old-world chemists; it was in its dotage, hide-bound in its ancient alembics, when the Romantic epoch dawned and took its part in modifying, in rejuvenating it, in making it more malleable and more supple.
Its history followed step by step that of the French language. The Louis XIII. style, perfumed and full-flavoured, compounded of elements costly at that date, of iris powder, musk, civet, myrtle water, already known by the name of Angels' Water, barely sufficed to express the rude graces, the rather crude tints of the time which certain sonnets of Saint-Amand's have preserved for us. Later on, with the introduction of myrrh, frankincense, the mystic scents, powerful and austere, the pomp and stateliness of the Grand Siècle, the redundancy and artificiality of the orator's art, the full, sustained, wordy style of Bossuet and the great preachers became almost possible; later on again, the well-worn, sophisticated graces of French society under Louis XV found a readier interpretation of their charm in the frangipane and marichale, which offered in their way the very synthesis of the period. Then finally, after the indifference and incuriousness of the First Empire, which used Eau de Cologne and preparations of rosemary to excess, perfumery ran for inspiration, in the train of Victor Hugo and Gautier, to the lands of the sun; it created Oriental essences, selams overpowering with their spicy odours; invented new savours; tried and approved old tones and shades .now rediscovered, which it made more complex, more subtle, more choice; definitely repudiating once for all the voluntary decrepitude to which the art had been reduced by the Malesherbes, the Andrieux, the Baour-Lormians, the vulgar distillers of its poetry.


Nor had the language of perfumes remained stationary since the epoch of 1830. Again it had progressed and following the march of the century had advanced side by side with the other arts. It, too, had complied with the whims of amateurs and artists, flying for motives to China and Japan, inventing scented albums, imitating the flowery nosegays of Takeoka; by a mingling of lavender and clove obtaining the perfume Rondeletia; by a union of patchouli and camphor, the singular aroma of India-ink; by compounding citron, clove and neroli (essence of orange blossoms), the odour, the Hovenia of Japan.
Des Esseintes studied, analyzed the soul of these fluids, expounded these texts; he took a delight, for his own personal satisfaction, in playing the part of psychologist, in unmounting and remounting the machinery of a work, in unscrewing the separate pieces forming the structure of a complex odour, and by long practice of this sort, his sense of smell had arrived at the certainty of an almost infallible touch. Just as a wine-merchant knows the vintage by imbibing single drop; as a hop-dealer, the instant he sniffs at a bag, can there and then name its precise quality and price; as a Chinese trader can declare at once the place of origin of the teas he examines, say on what farms of the Bohea mountains, in what Buddhist Monasteries, each specimen was grown, and the date at which its leaves were gathered, can state precisely the degree of heat used and the effect produced by its contact with plum blossom, with the Aglaia, with the Olea fragrans, with all or any of the perfumes employed to modify its flavour, to give it an added piquancy, to brighten up its rather dry savour with a whiff of fresh and alien flowers; even so could Des Esseintes, by the merest sniff at a scent, detail instantly the doses of its composition, explain the psychology of its blending; all but quote the name of the particular artist who wrote it and impressed on it, the personal mark of his style.
Needless to say, he possessed a collection of all the products used by perfume-makers; he had even some of the true Balm of Mecca, a very great rarity, to be procured only in certain regions of Arabia Petraa and guarded as a monopoly of the Grand Turk.
Seated now in his study at his working table, he was pondering the creation of a new bouquet, aid had reached that moment of hesitation so familiar to authors who, after months of idleness, are preparing to start upon a fresh piece of work.
Like Balzac, who was haunted by an .imperious craving to blacken reams of paper by way of getting his hand in, Des Esseintes felt the necessity of recovering his old cunning by dint of executing some task of minor importance. He determined to make heliotrope, and measured out the proper quantities from phials of almond and vanilla; then he changed his mind and resolved to try sweet-pea.
The phrases, the processes had escaped his memory. So he made experiments. No doubt in the fragrance of that flower, orange blossom was the dominant factor; he tried a number of combinations and ended by getting the right tone by blending the orange with the tuberose and rose, binding the three together with a drop of vanilla.
All his uncertainties vanished; a fever of eagerness stirred him, he was ready to set to work in earnest. He compounded a fresh brew of tea, adding a mixture of cassia and iris; then, sure of himself, he resolved to march boldly forward, to strike a thundering note, the overmastering crash of which should bury the whisper of that insinuating frangipane which still stealthily impregnated the room.
He handled amber; Tonquin musk, with its overpowering scent; patchouli, the most pronounced of all vegetable perfumes, whose blossom, in the natural state, gives off an odour compounded of wet wood and rusty iron. Do what he would, the associations of the eighteenth century haunted him, gowns with paniers and furbelows hovered before his eyes; memories of Boucher's "Venus," all flesh, without bones, stuffed with pink cotton-wool, beseiged him; recollections of the novel Thémidore and the exquisite Rosette with skirts high lifted in a fire-red despair, pursued him. In a rage, he sprang up and, to shake himself free from the obsession, sniffed in with all his might that unadulterated essence of spikenard that is so dear to Easterns and so disagreeable to Europeans, by reason of its over-strong savour of valerian. He staggered under the violence of the shock; as if crushed under the blow of a mallet, the delicate fibrils of the dainty scent disappeared. He took advantage of the moment's respite to escape from the dead centuries, the old-tune emanations, to enter, as he had been used to do in other days, on creations less limited in scope and more modern in fashion.
Of old, he had loved to soothe his spirit with harmonies in perfumery; he would use effects analogous to those of the poets, would adopt, in a measure, the admirable metrical scheme – characterizing certain pieces of Baudelaire's, for instance "1'Irréparable" and "le Balcon," where the last of the five lines composing the strophe is the echo of the first, returning like a refrain to drown the soul in infinite depths of melancholy and languor.
He wandered, lost in the dreams these aromatic stanzas called up in his brain, till suddenly recalled to his starting point, to the original motif of his meditations, by the recurrence of the initial theme, re-appearing at studied intervals in the fragrant orchestration of the poem.


For the actual moment, he was fain to roam in freedom amid a landscape full of surprises and changes, and he began by a simple phrase,– ample, sonorous, at once opening a view over an immense stretch of country.
With the help of his vaporizers, he injected into the room an essence composed of ambrosia, Mitcham lavender, sweet pea, compound bouquet; – an essence which, if distilled by a true artist, well deserves the name bestowed on it of "extract of meadow flowers"; then, into this meadow, he introduced a carefully modulated infusion of tuberose, orange and almond blossom, and instantly artificial lilacs came into being, while lindens swayed in the breeze, shedding on the ground about them their pale emanations, mimicked by the London extract of tilia.
This scene, once arranged in a few imposing lines, melting to the horizon under his closed eyes, he insinuated a light rain of human, not to say half feline, essences, smacking of the petticoat, announcing woman powdered and painted,– the stephanotis, the ayapana, the opoponax, the chypre, the champaka, the sarcanthus, over which he superimposed a dash of seringa, to suggest, amid the factitious life of make-up and make-belief which they evoked, a natural flower of hearty, uncontrolled laughter, of the joys of existence in the eye of the sun.
Then he let these fragrant waves escape by a ventilator, keeping only the country scent,
which he renewed and reinforced, strengthening the dose so as to force it to recur like the burden of a song at the end of each strophe.
Little by little, the feminine aroma disappeared, the country was left without inhabitants. Then, on the enchanted horizon, rose a row of factories whose tall chimneys flamed at their tops like so many bowls of punch.
A breath as of manufactories, of chemical works now floated on the breeze which he raised by waving fans, though Nature still continued to sweeten with her fragrant emanations this foulness of the atmosphere.
Des Esseintes proceeded to turn about and warm between his hands a ball of styrax, and a very curious odour filled the room, a smell at once repugnant and exquisite, blending the delicious scent of the jonquil with the filthy stench of guttapcrcha and coal tar. He disinfected his hands, shut away his resin in a box hermetically scaled, and the stinking factories vanished in their turn. Then, he tossed amid the revivified vapours of lindens and meadow-grass some drops of "new mown hay," and on the magic spot, instantly bared of its lilacs, rose mounds of hay, bringing with them a new season, scattering their delicate odours reminiscent of high summer.
Last of all, when he had sufficiently savoured the sight, he hurriedly scattered about exotic perfumes, exhausted his vaporizers, concentrated his strongest essences, gave the rein to all his balms, and lo! the stifling closeness of the room was filled with an atmosphere, maddening and sublime, breathing powerful influences, impregnating with raging alcoholates an artificial breeze,– an atmosphere unnatural, yet delightful, paradoxical in its union of the allspice of the Tropics, the pungent savours of the sandalwood of China and the hediosmia of Japan with native odours of jasmine, hawthorn and vervain, forcing, to grow together, in despite of seasons and climates, trees of diverse essences, flowers of colours and fragrances the most opposite, creating by the blending and shock of all these tones one common perfume, unknown, unforeseen, extraordinary, wherein re-appeared at intervals as a persistent refrain, the decorative phrase of the opening, the odour of the broad meadows breathed over by the lilacs and the lindens.
Suddenly a sharp agony assailed him; it felt as though a centre-bit were boring into his temples. He opened his eyes, to find himself once more in the middle of his study, seated before his working table; he got up and walked painfully, half-stunned, to the window, which he threw part open. A current of fresh air sweetened the stifling atmosphere that enveloped him; he marched up and down the room to recover the proper use of his limbs, going to and fro, his eyes fixed on the ceiling on which crabs and seaweed powdered with sea salt stood out in relief from a grained background, yellow as the sand of a beach. A similar design decorated the plinths bordering the panels, which in their turn were covered with Japanese crape, a watery green in colour and slightly waved to imitate the ripple of a wind-blown river, while down the gentle current floated a rose leaf round which frolicked a swarm of little fishes dashed in with two strokes of the pen.


But his eyes were still heavy; he left off pacing the short length of floor between the font and the bath and leant his elbows on the window sill. Presently his dizziness ceased, and after carefully recorking the bottles of scents and essences, he seized the opportunity to tidy his apparatus for making up the face,– his paints and powders and the like. He had not touched these things since his arrival at Fontenay, and he was almost astonished now at the sight of this collection once visited by so many women. One on top of the other, phials and porcelain pots littered the table confusion. Here was a china box, of the green sort, containing schnouda, that marvellous white cream which, once spread on the checks, changes under the influence of the air to a tender pink, then to a scarlet so natural that it gives an absolutely convincing illusion of a complexion mantling with red blood; there, jars incrusted with mother-o'-pearl held Japanese gold and Athens green, coloured like the wing of the cantharides beetle, golds and greens that blend into a deep purple directly they are moistened; beside pots full of filbert paste, of rerkis of the harem, of emulsions of Cashmere lilies, of lotions of strawberry and elderflower for the skin, beside little phials of solutions of India-ink and rose-water for the eyes, lay a host of different instruments, of mother-o'-pearl, of ivory and of silver, mixed up with dainty brushes for the teeth and gums, – pincers, scissors, strigils, stumps, crimpers, powder-puffs, back-scratchcrs, patches and files.
He handled all this elaborate apparatus, bought in former days to please a mistress who found an ineffable pleasure in certain aromatics and certain balms, an ill-balanced, nerve-ridden woman, who loved to have her nipples macerated in scents, but who only really experienced a genuine and overmastering ecstasy when her head was tickled with a comb and she could, in the act of being caressed by a lover, breathe the smell of chimney soot, of wet plaster from a house building in rainy weather, or of dust churned up by the heavy thunder drops of a summer storm.
He pondered these recollections, recalling particularly an afternoon spent, partly for want of anything better to do, partly out of curiosity, in this woman's company at her sister's house at Pantin, the memory of which stirred in his breast a whole forgotten world of long-ago thoughts and oldtime scents. While the two women were chattering and showing each other their frocks, he had gone to the window and, through the dusty panes, had looked out on the long, muddy street and heard its pavements echo under the incessant beat of heavy boots trampling through the puddles.
The scene, now far away in the past, suddenly stood out before him with extraordinary vividness: Pantin lay there in front of his eyes, bustling and alive, imaged in the green, dead water of the mirror into which his eyes involuntarily gazed. A hallucination carried him far away from Fontenay; the looking-glass reproduced for him the same reflections the street had once presented to his bodily eye, and buried in a dream, he said over the ingenious, melancholy yet consoling, anthem he had noted down on that former occasion on getting back to Paris: –
"Yea, the time of the great rains is come; behold, the gutter-pipes vomit their drippings on to the pavements, with a song of many waters, and the horse-dung lies fermenting in the puddles that fill the holes in the macadam with a coffee-colourcd fluid; everywhere, for the humble wayfarer, are foot-baths full to overflowing.
"Under the lowering sky, in the dull air, the walls of the houses drip black sweat and the cellar-openings stink; loathing of life is strong within the soul and the spleen is a torment to the flesh; the seeds of filthiness that every man has in his heart begin to bud; cravings for foul pleasures trouble the austerest and in the brain of respectable folks criminal desires spring up.


"And yet, there I am, warming myself before a blazing fire, while a basket of blowing flowers on a table fills the room with a sweet savour of benzoin, geranium and bentgrass. In mid- November, it is still spring-time at Pantin, in the Rue de Paris, and I find myself laughing in my sleeve to think of the timorous family parties that, in order to avoid the approach of winter, fly to Antibes or Cannes as fast as steam will take them.
"Inclement Nature goes for nothing in this strange phenomenon; it is to industry, to commerce, and that alone, be it said, that Pantin owes this artificial spring.
"The truth is, these flowers are of lustring, mounted on brass-wire, and the spring-like fragrance floating in through the cracks of the window-frame, is exhaled by the neighbouring factories where Pinaud and Saint-James make their perfumes.
"For the artisan exhausted by the hard labour of the workshops, for the small clerk, alas! only too often a father, the illusion of a breath or two of good air is a possibility– thanks to these manufacturers.
"Indeed, out of this scarce believable illusion of the country may be developed a quite rational medical treatment. Fast livers affected by chest complaints who are now carted off to the South mostly die, broken down by the rupture of all their habits of life, by the homesick craving to return to the Parisian pleasures that have brought them to this pass by their excess. Here, in an artificial climate, heated and regulated by stoves, libertine recollections will return, gently and harmlessly, along with the languishing feminine emanations given off by scent factories. In lieu of the deadly dreariness of provincial existence, the physician can by this device supply his patient platonically with the longed-for atmosphere of Parisian boudoirs, of Parisian haunts of pleasure.
"In the majority of cases, all that will be required to complete the cure is for the sick man to possess a little touch of imagination.
"Now, seeing that, in these times of ours, there is no single thing really genuine to be found; seeing that the wine we drink and the liberty we acclaim are equally adulterate and derisory; considering how remarkable a dose of credulity it takes to suppose the governing classes to deserve respect and the lower to be worthy either of relief or commiseration, it appears to me," concluded Des Esseintes, "neither more absurd nor more insane to demand of my neighbour a sum total of illusion barely equal to that he expends every day in his life for quite idiotic objects, that he may successfully persuade himself that the town of Pantin is an artificial Nice, a factitious Menton."

"All which," he exclaimed, rudely interrupted in his reflexions by a sudden failure of all his bodily powers, "does not alter the fact that I must beware of these delicious and abominable experiments that are killing me." He heaved a sigh: "Well, well, more pleasures to moderate, more precautions to take," – and he retired for refuge to his study, thinking in this way to escape more easily from the haunting influence of the perfumes.
He threw the window wide open, delighted to enjoy an air bath; but next moment, the wind seemed to bring with it a vague breath of essence of bergamot, mingled with a smell of jasmine, cassia and rose-water. He shuddered, asking himself if he was not surely under the tyranny of one of those possessions by the devil that the Priests used to exorcise in the Middle Ages. Soon the odour changed and altered, however. An uncertain savour of tincture of tolu, balm of Peru, saffron, blended together by a few drops of amber and musk, now floated in from the sleeping village at the bottom of the hill; then, suddenly, in an instant, the metamorphosis was wrought, the scent of frangipine, of which his nostrils had caught the elements and were so familiar with the analysis, filled all the air from the valley of Fontenay away to the Fort, assailing his exhausted sense of smell, shaking afresh his shattered nerves, prostrating him to such a degree that he fell swooning and half dying across the window sill.

(Is this an aesthetic overdose, or what?)


2.2.2 What would it take for fine cuisine to be raised to the level of a fine art? The example of molecular gastronomy.

A article in Vanity Fair, October 2010, "It was delicious while it lasted," by Jan McInerney, discusses the innovative cuisine of Ferran Adrià, a Spanish chef who is currently considered at the very top of world chefs. Here are some passages relevant to the question of his cuisine as genuine art.

…in 1987—the same year that Adrià became sole chef de cuisine —he decided after listening to a lecture by Chantecler chef Jacques Maximin to try to invent his own cuisine. “Creativity means not copying,” Maximin declared in answer to a question. “This simple sentence was what brought about a change in approach in our cooking,” Adrià wrote later, “and was the cut-off point between ‘re-creation' and a firm decision to become involved in creativity.” That year Adrià decided to close the restaurant for five months in the winter—a period later extended to six months—to devote the hiatus to experimentation and creation.

“In 2001, when El Bulli was becoming very well known, the logical thing would have been to open year-round. But, for us, the most important thing was creativity. So we decided to close for lunch, and the level of creativity kept getting higher. But at some point I realized we wouldn't be able to continue to evolve as a restaurant.”

In 2014, El Bulli will reopen under a different format, one that probably will not accommodate paying customers. “It will be kind of a think tank,” he says. “Not a school exactly, but a foundation. A private nonprofit foundation.” He still seems to be defining and refining the concept, improvising. “We'll have 25 people here, chefs, two or three journalists, tech people. At the end of the day our work will be posted on the Internet. We will collaborate with the world of art and design…Every year will be different.”

“There aren't enough professionals dedicated to analysis and research,” he says, drumming the table in from of us. “This is work that people are doing at universities. There will be cooking at Harvard.” I would have scoffed at this notion if I hadn't already read that Adrià is bringing cooking to Harvard this fall, presiding over a course called Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter .

Says Tony Bourdain, “The word ‘artist' can't and shouldn't be used in respect to chefs—with very few exceptions. Ferran Adrià is, without a doubt, an artist. I always find myself comparing Ferran to musicians—rather than other chefs. People like Jimi Hendrix … or Charlie Parker, who heard notes, heard music, where others heard nothing, who made noises come out of their instruments that no one else had ever dreamed possible. I don't know—but suspect—that Ferran, like Hendrix, like Parker, might find it a burden year after year to be that far out in front of everybody else. I can't imagine what that pressure might be like.”

Videos of the amazing dishes created by Adria can be found at:

The article itself is available at:

The videos make it clear why the term "molecular gastronomy" came into use. The ingredients are really reconstituted from the molecular level up.

2.2.3 The feeling of fullness in relation to aesthetic enjoyment of food. This is obviously relevant to the notion that fine cuisine might be, or become, beautiful in the manner of fine art or at a level comparable to that of fine art. Scroll down to the article, "The Feeling of Filling."


2.3 Athletic Beauty

2.3.1 The aesthetic character of athletic mastery.

R. Scott Kretchmar, in "'Distancing': An Essay on Abstract Thinking in Sport Performances," in Journal of the Philosophy of Sport (1982), describes a state of mastery in sports that involves inventiveness and spontaneity of variation that offers interesting parallels with descriptions of aesthetic experience. By "abstract thinking" that "distances" the athlete Kretchmar does not mean what Plato in the one case, and Bullough in the other, mean. In spite of his heavy terminology it turns out that he only means thinking of possibilities beyond the established routines for dealing with a given sport situation. The masterful athlete is creative in seizing opportunities on the fly, making split-second decisions in varying her movements to achieve the goal (to keep possession of the ball, to evade an opponent and get in position to shoot for a goal, etc.) This requires a keen sense of the situation, the dispositions of the opponent, etc., and also a large repertoire of tactics that have become habitual, that can be done without any formal thinking. Armed with this the athlete can often take the opponent by surprise. This doing of the unexpected, the unusual, even the unthinkable or the never-having-been-done-before, belongs to the essence of true mastery. It gives to mastery a sense of freedom and sometimes of effortlessness that is a peak experience for the athlete.

I am quite convinced that athletic experience is often beautifully masterful in what I take to be Kretchmar's sense. Mastery at this level is a prime example of functional beauty. I find confirmation in descriptions given by many close observers of prodigious athletic feats. For instance, this one that appeared a couple of days ago about Andy Irons, a superlative surfer who, the article said, "was admired for an instinctive approach and singular style that blended Hawaiian elegance with modern technical moves...'Andy would throw airs'— do aerial maneuvers — 'in the most improbable ways in the most unlikely parts of the wave,' Mr. Pezman said. 'When he was out, you could hardly take your eyes off him, he was so radical. And he was totally relaxed when he was in a big, grinding tube; when he was in jeopardy.'”
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2.3.2 A stellar example of Apollonian beauty: beautiful balancing. A friend sent me this URL. I'll show enough of it in class to give you the idea. If you're interested, watch the whole, which I take to be a fine example of Apollonian beauty: beautifully graceful, controlled movement producing a beautifully delicately balanced composition. The performer is Miyoko Shida


2.4 Environmental and Natural Beauty

2.4.1 The Pleistoscene ideal landscape. (Venezuela savannah, actually)

Just stock it with plenty of animals, like the Serengeti in Africa in a National Geographic TV program, and you'll have it.


2.4.2 Natural beauty.

(a) Trees considered venerable are often not highly beautiful, as in the case of the 1000-year-old Major Oak.
The artist's rendering of a mighty oak gives it attractively gestural properties and finesses the matter of leaves.


(b) Is symmetry better than asymmetry? Does making the Japanese maple shown below more symmetrical make it more beautiful? Or does it make the tree seem slightly artificial? Perhaps the irregularity suggests more inner vitality.


2.4.3 Scruton’s view on natural beauty. Among the many topics on which Scruton expresses an opinion is that of the beauty of animals, plants and other natural things. On his p. 50 in reference to Kant Scruton speaks of the “perfection of form and intricate harmony of detail” of natural organisms, qualities that “speak to us of an order that lies deep in ourselves.” That raises two questions: how perfect is the form and functioning of animals and what relation is there between our appreciation of those creatures and our self-appreciation. There’s a rich theme! If one takes a cold-bloodedly impartial approach, does all natural form turn out to be so perfect and harmonious?

2.4.4 An amazing example of resilience in the animal world, the 'water bears.'®ion=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront

2.4.5 The beauty of clouds. For a huge archive of pictures of remarkable cloud formations, see: They post a large number of images, select a cloud of the month, etc. You'll be astonished by the variety of clouds. There is also helpful information about how the odd-ball clouds form.

2.5.1 Functional beauty. Two paragons of high functionality and therefore of functional beauty.



2.6 Human Beauty

2.6.1 Variations in ideals of a beautiful human body.

In general I think standards of bodily beauty in humans follow the principles set forth for animal bodies in general in Beauty Notes #11 together with those relating to humans in comparison with other animals in Beauty Notes #13. In class the objection surfaced that some cultures prefer fleshy women and others prefer lean ones. I think it is important to recognize that within limits variations in preference are cases of equal beauty. Not every bodily build or condition can have all the beauties possible in a body. Several models come out as equally beautiful when judged fairly. No emaciated or corpulent bodies will qualify as highly beautiful overall. But there is no ground for judging the beautiful lean female body any more or less beautiful than the beautifully "well-developed" body. Similarly with males, actually.

Since we happen to live in a culture that in general leans toward the beauty of leanness and away from that of fullness, it is in order to hear a dissenting description of lean women. The following opinion of Viking women is put in the mouth of Ibn Fadlan, a 10th Century Arab emmissary from the Cailiph of Baghdad in the semi-fictional Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton:

The North people account themselves keen judges of beauty in women. But in truth, all their women seemed to my eyes to be emaciated, their bodies all angles and lumpy with bones; their faces, too, are bony and the cheeks set high. These qualities the Northmen value and praise, although such a woman would not attract a glance in the City of Peace [Baghdad] but would be accounted no better than a half-starved dog with protruding ribs. The Northwomen have ribs that protrude in just such a fashion.

We can collect from this that Ibn Fadlan prefers women with more flesh and the softer curves ampler flesh produces. Presuming he does not favor corpulence but just enough flesh (muscle not excluded) to produce those contours, who can say his preference is aesthetically less valid? On the other hand, there is no reason to think the Viking women were really emaciated rather than just lean or to doubt that among them were some who were beautifully lean. Each of these models of human beauty has aesthetic advantages and disadvantages, both in the prime of life and over the course of life as a whole. It is mere provincialism not to recognize their essential equivalence. Ibn Fadlan does not come across as a fair judge. And in fact when we read further we find that his distaste partly results from the uncleanliness and crude behavior of the women, which has nothing to do with their bodily conformation.

2.6.2 Dwarfism and other problematic bodily proportions (extending the discussion of Duerer's proportions).

Dwarfism often, though not always, is manifested in uneven growth of the major divisions of the body. Typically the legs are much shorter in relation to the torso, neck and head than in the normal human body. Are we right to regard such proportions as unbeautiful? With all due respect to the many admirable qualities of these people, I think we must take the proportions to be aesthetically unfortunate. A site to consult on the condition, one that aims to serve the interests of dwarfs,is: .


What other vertical proportions are rightly regarded as unbeautiful? A plausible candidate is a body with a very short neck, where the head seems buried in the torso. Likewise a person with an unusually large head, as in the Sotos Syndrome. Perhaps there are persons with overlong legs in relation to the torso -- I'm not sure (I can't cite any examples). Here are examples of Duerer taken to extremes. The question of why these are not accepted as ideal proportions is an interesting one. Is it just convention, or the difference from the majority model? Or are there objective reasons that should weigh with us?

Parts of the body can be disproportionately thick or thin. Lipoedema is a condition that causes legs and other parts of the body to swell to extreme fatty thickness. It's caused by lymph ducts being squeezed shut. Images, some rather horrific, are available at: No question but that these conditions are unbeautiful.

2.6.3 Beautiful bodily proportions as functionally good properties. Good proportions have been characterized as being those that facilitate achievement of human goods. I argued that this isn't reducible to practical advantage. Let me add a bit to this argument. It is true that graceful movements and positions in ballet can't be achieved with a body with overly short legs, as in the Duerer transform in 1 above. One might suppose this is just a causal disability. I think it's more "internal" than that. Even if you could leap to the same height with super-springy dwarfish legs, the pose you achieve at the top of the leap wouldn't be as graceful because the legs are too short. Here is a test of that claim.

What do you think? Try to visualize the leaps achievable with the body on the right, assuming that the legs are springy enough to match the real Marcello Gomez on the left. Could they be as graceful as his leaps?


2.6.4 Psychological investigation into the common properties of faces widely judged beautiful, the connection between beauty and evolutionary survival, etc.

In the 1990s a number of studies were reported testifying to or dissenting from the idea that faces judged beautiful are those the features of which are an average of those of the ethnic population.

Nature, 3/17/94 reports a study claiming that we have a universal preference for certain facial features...

a. Beauty and the beholder

Nancy L. Etcoff

A BEAUTIFUL human face inspires pleasure and interest and often attracts riveted attention. But what constitutes beauty? There must be some general understanding of the concept, however vaguely defined; for instance, even two month-old infants prefer to gaze at faces that adults find attractive 1. In recent years scientists have joined plastic surgeons and cosmetic companies in taking a deep interest in the question, and one such research group - Perrett, May and Yoshikawa - reports its latest results in this issue 2. The findings are scarcely definitive; in this area it is difficult to conceive of any that could be. But they add a new dimension to psychological, anthropological and biological thought on the subject.

The common notion has been that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that individual attraction is not predictable beyond our knowledge of a person's particular culture, historical era or personal history. Beauty has also become a politicized issue. In her bestselling book, The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf 3 argues that there is no such thing as a quality called beauty that "objectively and universally exists". In a society such as the presentday United States, where women earn consistently more than men in only two professions (modelling and prostitution), and where both cosmetics and weight loss programmes are enormously profitable industries, one can see the obvious concern in even contemplating perception of beauty as a universal.

But the assumption that beauty is an arbitrary cultural convention may simply not be true. Perrett et al. belong to a growing body of scientists who are beginning to challenge it, just as scientists have begun to question anew many other assumptions about the relationship between human behaviour and culture. As Cosmides, Tooby and Barkow 4 have pointed out: "Culture is not causeless and disembodied. It is generated in rich and intricate ways by information-processing mechanisms situated in human minds. These mechanisms are, in turn, the elaborately sculpted product of the evolutionary process. Therefore, to understand the relationship between biology and culture one must first understand the architecture of our evolved psychology."

Until the 1960s, it was believed that languages could vary arbitrarily and without limit, but now there is a consensus among-linguists that there is a universal grammar underlying this diversity 5. Similarly, it was once thought that facial expressions of emotion could vary arbitrarily across cultures, until Ekman and others showed that a wide variety of emotions are expressed cross-culturally by the same facial movements 6. Ekman made the important distinction between the expression of emotion and the cultural variation that may exist in. the rules for displaying those emotions. Likewise, although some aspects of judgements of human facial beauty may be influenced by culture or individual history, the general geometric features of a face that give rise to perception of beauty may be universal, and the perception of these features may be governed by circuits shaped by natural selection in the human brain.

What is the evidence for this, and what would a universally beautiful face look like? Donald Symons, an anthropologist, proposed 7 that beauty is averageness - the average What is the evidence for this, and what would a universally beautiful face look like? values of the features of faces in a human population. Symons made the prediction on the basis of evolutionary biology and the principle that, during most periods, evolutionary pressures operate arinst the extremes of the population 8. If this stabilizing selection principle is at work, and people with average physical properties have the best chance of survival, one would maximize fitness by being attracted to and mating with partners displaying such properties. There would thus be selection pressure to find average features attractive.


The hypothesis was tested in 1990 by Langlois and Roggman 9, who used a computerized version of a technique developed by Galton a century earlier" 10 (see box). Galton superimposed photographs to create composites of faces, and to his surprise and frustration (one of his aims had been to create a prototypical criminal)' the composite appeared more attractive than any of the individual photos that went into it. Langlois and Roggman confirmed this effect using ratings by college students of computer-generated composite faces.

Averageness, however, need not be the only criterion for beauty that natural selection might have favoured, When there is competition for partners - the precondition for Darwin's 'sexual selection'- those animals with certain kinds of extreme traits can often be preferre 11. Such extreme traits, the peacock's tail being the most famous example, can be a sign of the owner's innate resistance to disease and parasites, or an advertisement of its ability to gain sufficient resources to be able to `afford' the flamboyant trait. Any disadvantage of the extremeness of the trait might be offset by the advantage of its attractiveness to potential mates.

Evolutionary biologists have thus painted two portraits of the face of beauty, one composed of features that are at the mean of the population, and another:; composed of at least some features at the population extreme. Perrett and colleagues attempt to discern whether averageness alone is beauty or whether we too may prefer the peacock. Using composites of either Caucasian or Japanese faces, they found that in both cases faces rated as 'attractive' were preferred to the composite of the sample from which the faces were selected; moreover, an attractive composite could be made more attractive exaggerating its shape differences from he sample composite.

This study makes the point that averageness is not the only determinant of attractiveness, and it provides more key evidence of cross-cultural agreement on what is attractive. Averageness, then, may be one of several factors that contribute to beauty, just as texture gradients, 'occlusion and a host of other cues allow us to perceive depth. The results of Perrett and colleagues, however, tell us little about exactly when non-average physical features contribute to attractiveness.

The `psychophysics' of beauty has been given a second look by Symons 12. He has reviewed the medical literature on the physical signs of disease and fertility as well as a variety of observations on signs of beauty in various cultures. He sums up the correlations by suggesting that many attractive physical features of female faces (such as a relatively short lower face, gracile jaw, full lips, lighter-than-average unblemished skin, high cheekbones) may be external cues that a female is healthy and fertile, and capable of bearing healthy children. Symons is not suggesting that any man is actually conscious of the evolutionary rationale behind his aesthetic reactions, just that these are the pressures that shaped those reactions as the human brain evolved. Symons has not yet examined the psychophysics of females' perception of the attractiveness of males, but he suggests that some of the cues will probably be the same (for instance, external signs of disease-resistance), others different (for instance, signs of youth).

Clearly, the face of beauty, something we can recognize in an instant, is still difficult to put into words. Although evolutionary psychology has not yet been able to determine the exact face of beauty, it does seem that, as Symons puts it, beauty may be in the adaptations of the beholder.

Nancy L. Etcoff is in the Neuropsychology Laboratory, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


1. Langlois, J. H. et al. Devl Psychol. 23, 363-369 (1987).
2. Perrett, D. I., May, K. A. & Yoshikawa, S. Nature 368, 239-242(1994).
3. Wolf, N. The Beauty Myth (Morrow, New York, 1991).
4. Barkow, J. H., Cosmides, L. &Tooby, J. (eds) TheAdapted Mind (Oxford Univ. Press, 1990).
5. Pinker, S.The Language Instinct (Morrow.NewYork/Allen Lane, London, 1994).
6. Ekman, P., Friesen, W. V. & Ellsworth, P. Emotion in the Human Face (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1982).
7. Symons,D.TheEvolution ofHumanSexuality (Oxford Univ. Press. 1979).
8. Barash,D.P.SociobiologyandBenavior(ElsevierNorthHolland, New York, 1982).
9. Langlois, J. H. & Roggman, L. A. Psychol. Sci. 1, 115-121(1990).
10. Galton, F. J. Nature 18, 97-100 (1878).
11. Cronin,H.The Ant and the Peacock (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991.

12. Symons,D. in Sexual Nature/SexualCulture (eds Abramson, P. R. & Pinkerton, S. D.) (Univ. Chicago Press, in the press).

Predecessor or follow-up articles

Science News, 5/12/90, p. 298. This study claims that faces whose features are average are universally judged beautiful.

Science News, 3/19/94 reports on a study by David I. Perrett, Keith A. May, Sakiko Yoshikawa concerning male and female faces in which features that diverged from the average came out ahead, although ones that are average still scored pretty well.

Science News, 8/29/98 reports on the same team's investigation into male faces judged attractive by women: "Male looks take a feminine turn."

Newsweek, 6/03/96 reports on beauty preferences more generally. Cover story, "The Biology of Beauty."

National Geographic, Jan 2000, Vol 197, p. 94, "The Enigma of Beauty."

2.6.5 Facial beauty and the golden section

Several years ago a student referred the class to a website concerning facial beauty. It has a lot of fascinating illustrations, so I added it to the course material. Just how much it proves about the golden section is another matter which we will discuss in due course. But visit the site and familiarize yourselves with its content. Explore the more relevant of the links (e.g. eternal beauty).The address is of the nearest successor of this site is:

2.6.6 Observations on the Marquardt beauty-mask.

The points for which I would argue in making a case against the validity of the beauty-mask are these:

An objection to the last point might be this: the beauty of the face (or building, or whatever) might perhaps consist in its coming close to the ideal. Now if I am right, coming close can't make the thing mathematically beautiful, any more than coming close to the right note makes a beautiful chord or melody (instead it makes it discordant -- sour, flat, sharp). Still I acknowledge that there may be some other connection. The great popularity of the mathematical connection throughout the ages supports this idea. The best hypothesis I can suggest is that the face or building is taken to symbolize the mathematical beauty. Thus it could be expressive of that beauty, which doesn't require that it actually possess it. If this hypothesis is right, then over the ages expressiveness has been confused with possession. The mathematical beauty of buildings, faces and physiques has been a myth, but an attractive myth.


2.6.7 Polykleitos's "canon" of beauty: golden section analysis

Two art historians, D.E. Gordon and F. deL. Cunningham, have constructed an elaborate analysis of a presumably accurate copy of Polykleitos's famous sculpture called the Diadoumenos, hoping to show how the artist may have conceived his otherwise mysterious rule for achieving beauty in the human figure. Their article appeared in The Art Quarterly 25 (1962): 128-42 under the title "Polykleitos' Diadoumenos -- Measurement and Animation."

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How does one test their conjecture? As philosophers routinely do, by trying to construct a counter-example. This proves easy to do, as in the following construction of a face that cannot possibly be super-beautiful if Polykleitos's face is the acme of beauty.Description: U:\newwebsite\Btynotes\Polyclites2.jpg

It seems obvious that the authors never thought of this obvious point, as searchers for golden section instantiations in art and nature have seldom if ever done. In this they go one step beyond the method of religious folk who "prove" the benificence of a creator god by citing all the favorable signs and consigning all the unfavorable ones to the maker's inscrutability. The art historians don't even recognize the problem (the problem of aesthetic evil, we might call it).

2.6.8. Faces made symmetrical

Here is the Marquardt website's African beauty (version 2) made symmetrical. This is the version with the smaller lips. Study the images to see which is which and then to judge which is more beautiful, and why.

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And here is the other version (where the other side of the face is flipped over to produce symmetry):

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(Note that the transformation by flipping over the one side of the face and superimposing it on the other has produced changes in the width of the nose. The problem is that the axis of the face is slightly tilted and it's hard to align the flipped half with its original. Also, light and shade have been modified.)


2.7 Animal Beauty

2.7.1 Thoughts about criteria of beauty of animals

For purposes of discussion I propose several criteria for a beauty scorecard for animals. The card calls for:

  1. Points for structural beauty and beauty of action
  2. Points for adaptation to difficult conditions
  3. Points for adaptation to a wide range of conditions
  4. Points for structural features suggestive of higher cognition and feelings

2 is meant to offset somewhat the structural ugliness of (say) bottom-dwelling fish with both eyes on one side. Should the fact that the adaptation is successful ("ingenious," perhaps) balance out some of the beauty-deficit of the structure? Or should the adaptation-value be kept separate from beauty -- that is, not be regarded as a kind of beauty at all?

3 is inspired by the thought that the credit allowed in 2 shouldn't entirely balance the structural deficit because confinement to a small niche is itself an adaptation deficit compared with confinement to a wider niche. So a creature is more beautifully adapted if (other things being equal) it can cope with a wider range of environments. I think we tend to think of adaptation that way. But is it right? I invite your thoughts.

4 is meant to help explain why we regard dogs or horses as more beautiful overall than, say, fish. Fish aren't as intelligent-looking, proud-looking, loving-looking as mammals -- or the mentioned mammals, at least. Of course monkeys and apes would score higher than horses in this category, and that might make us uneasy, since we don't usually regard them as outranking cats and horses overall. But remember that the overall rankings come from combining all the points in the different categories, so our personal favorites might still come out ahead. (See the following examples of beautiful and unbeautiful creatures.)

Again, I invite your thoughts about all of this. The animal world is not an easy domain in which to judge things for overall beauty! (think how hard judgment is regarding insects.)

2.7.2 Some images relevant to differential animal beauty: bats as a premier example of unlovely creatures to look at (formally unbeautiful creatures) regardless of how beautifully functional they may be in their ecological niche.

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Ernst Haeckel, Kunstformen der Natur (Nature's art forms), 1904.

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Big Horn and domestic sheep compared: Is one better than the other?

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2.7.3 How beautiful are humans compared with other species? Jonathan Swift on the Houyhnhnms, from Gullivers' Travels (1729).

Swift's concluding section of the Travels, "A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms," deals with his narrator's five-year stay in the country of wise and virtuous horses. These creatures are markedly superior to humans in truthfulness, rationality, good will to their kind, peaceablness and self-control. They have no writing but maintain a sufficient political culture to manage their affairs and an oral poetry that, the author says, vastly exceeds human productions in "the Justness of their Similes, and the Minuteness, as well as Exactness of their Descriptions." They speak by neighing in diverse ways, which the author learned so thoroughly that on returning to England was found to pronounce English with a pronounced neighing inflections, to the vast amusement of his auditors. Upper class Houyhnhms force the wild, disorderlyYahoos (humans) of their country to serve as laborers under the supervision of the lesser servant class of houyhnhnms. They regard yahoos as grossly inferior in rationality, disgusting in behavior, nauseating in body odor, and ugly in bodily form: in shape, in skin quality, in distribution of hair, and in just about every feature. They are amazed to find in the author a yahoo who speaks and behaves in a cultured way, even if his intelligence is considerably below theirs.

This fiction can be used to test the hypothesis I put forward about animals deserving beauty-points for having a form suggestive of higher culture. (See p. 36 above) For Swift, it seems, the horse comes off superior to the human in this category. (And if that idea has any merit, then perhaps other species do too, cats, for instance.) However, to sustain his fiction Swift supposes that the Houyhnhnms are able to perform marvels by flexing the last joint of their front legs, between hoof and first joint, so as to manipulate things: "The houyhnhnms use the hollow Part between the Pastern and the Hoof of their Fore-feet, as we do our Hands, and this with greater Dexterity, than I could at first imagine. I have seen a white Mare of our Family thread a Needle (which I lent her on Purpose) with that Joynt. They milk their Cows, reap their Oats, and do all the Work which requires Hands, in the same Manner. They have a kind of hard Flints, which by grinding against other Stones, they form into Instruments, that serve instead of Wedges, Axes, and Hammers. With Tools made of these Flints, they likewise cut their Hay, and reap their Oats."

All this may be highly improbable but it fits in nicely with what I had in mind when I spoke of forms suggestive of higher cultural capacities. If horses could do these things would their form be as suggestive of culture as the human form? And more generally, how do the best looking horses stand to the best looking humans in overall beauty of appearance? This comparison may help to test how impartial we can be about beauty of appearance if we really try.


(No artist that I know of has tried to depict the huoyhnhnms threading needles or chopping wood or milking cows. Obviously their lower legs do not have any such capability, and no picture has shown a modification sufficient for the purpose, or for the purpose of writing. So their reasonings have to be carried on by speech alone. Here are two images intended to depict them. More images at: )

The illustration below shows the huoyhnhnms driving the humans (yahoos) to the barn.

Obviously the artist's depiction of the humans is meant to be unflattering, in accordance with Swift's scornful attitude. If humans really looked like this, we would be justified in placing the horses above them.


2.7.4 Gulliver's issue addressed, Pt. 1.

Gulliver developed an acute inferiority complex from his experience in the country of the Houyhnhnms. That leads to the question of how we humans compare humans with horses and other nonhuman species in beauty? First consider bodily appearance alone. A moment's reflection will convince us that the question is answerable only if we specify the conditions of the contest. Are we to take humans without clothes? What about grooming, especially the cutting or shaving of hair, of nails or hooves? Are we to judge humans at all ages compared with horses at all ages, or each at its peak of physical beauty? It seems clear that the competitive situation will change radically depending on such choices.

If it is strictly bodily beauty we are judging, clothes would seem inappropriate. So let us suppose we require entire nakedness. That will increase the impact of our choices in the next two variables. Suppose we allow brushing, binding, or braiding of the hair on the head but exclude shaving or removal of hair on other body parts? We also allow nail-paring but no painting or glossing. These stipulations would be matched by limitations on the nonhuman animals in the contest, where applicable. The third question is the most momentous of all. Human bodily beauty, male and female, declines with the middle and elder years more than that of most species. If the beauty of our champions has to be their net beauty over a long life it seems certain that the leading animal species will come out more beautiful overall. It's embarrassing even to dwell on the outcome. Gulliver would be right to feel inferior on this basis.

But there are other, more human-friendly competitions that deserve to be considered. One confines judgment to several beauty peaks, one in childhood, one in adolescence and one in young adulthood. Under these more human-favorable conditions how will our species fare? We cannot draw on the views of the experts because so far as I know no expert literature exists. So I offer you my intuitions, to get the discussion going.

1. Highly beautiful human children of, say, 4 to 9 years, compete evenly with highly beautiful kittens and win the competition with foals, which are cute but awkward.
2. Highly beautiful adolescent females compete evenly with highly beautiful adolescent cats and colts/fillies. The three are all pretty much on a par, I think.
3. Highly beautiful adolescent males begin to have a problem because of the growth of their genitalia, which are silly becoming grotesque compared with the more inboard male genitalia of the other two species.
4. This disadvantage increases markedly in the young adult male human. The penis is exceptionally large for the size of the body. This may have all sorts of good effects on culture (see the excerpt on mate selection, Beauty Add-ons #9) but it does not improve the outward appearance of the male human. Also the growth of body hair is a considerable beauty deficit, especially in the more hirsute human ethnicities, as is evident from the pains taken to control or hide it.
5. Young adult females also suffer from body hair, which is not distributed in a very attractive way, but the most beautiful females outscore the most beautiful males in this department, and do so also by a wider margin in respect to genitalia (not because the female pudenda are more beautiful, but only because they are not so conspicuous).

Overall, my conclusion is that Gulliver should not be so appalled at the likely outcome of this second competition as at that of the first. Do you agree with that, and with the assessments that went into it? Keep in mind that these are just two of a large number of competitions. It says nothing about the comparative beauty of human movement or emotional responsiveness, or comparative beauty in clothes or other forms of decoration. But it strongly suggests that our claim to beauty does not rest on our merely natural bodily appearance at rest. If we come out ahead overall, it must be because we gain through these other beauty competitions.


2.7.5 Gulliver's problem, Pt. 2.

Suppose now that we consider the beauty of humans in respect of mental and emotional responsiveness, which was also a major concern of Gulliver's. What rough sketch will result? Clearly humans are wonderfully responsive in these ways, compared with horses, cats and other animals. They excel in diversity and subtlety. Consider their moral life. It is vastly more sophisticated than that of animals. So the most moral human is more beautifully moral than the most moral animal. However, Gulliver is tortured by the depths of depravity which are an inevitable by-product of the human moral endowment. No animal comes close to humans in the capacity or reality of wickedness. So the outcome of a contest will be very different if we focus on a moral champion than if we judge humans at large compared with animals at large, or moral potentiality compared with moral attainment.

Gulliver's depression was much affected by the endless depravities of people in his home culture (18th century England) compared with the perfectly socialized houyhnhnms. Those horses lived a considerably less complexly cultured life than Europeans did. They lacked the competitiveness for wealth, power and sexual extravagance that are so much a feature of high cultures in our world. Lacking religious feelings they were free of doctrinal and sectarian rancor and violence. Lacking romantic passions they were affectionate to their kind without being desolated by loss. Needless to say this is an idealized picture of horses (even without considering the superior rationality Swift confers on them). So the proper comparison for us to consider is not humans versus houyhnhnms but humans versus horses as they actually are. Even on this basis humans at large come off with a mixed rating, with pluses to be sure but also with a lot of demerits, whereas horses have a somewhat narrower range of both (little if anything deserving to be called crime in equine culture, for instance).

Having said this much, I leave the rest of the topic to you. Obviously I have only scratched a tip or two of a very large iceberg.

Anyone keenly interested in natural ugliness may want to read the article posted on my website under that title.

2.8 Architectural beauty

2.8.1 Modes of architecture (in reference to Apollonian v. Dionysian beauty)

2.8.2 Classical Greek temple design

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2.8.3 Two arguably Dionysian modes, Gothic cathedrals and Hindu temples

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2.8.4. An intermediate case, cool modernism, National Gallery East Wing

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2.8.5 Frank Gehry's complexly flowing architecture. Where do these works fit on the Apollonian-Dionysian scale? How are its beauties to be described?

Here are, in order, a conceptual sketch, a north and a west elevations, and the finished building seen from the north. The building is discussed briefly in Item 8 in the Discussions folder. Descriptions given after the pictures are culled from Kurt W. Forster, Frank O. Gehry: Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa, Stuttgart and London: Edition Axel Menges, 1998. The photograph here and those shown in class are from the same volume, and are by Ralph Richter.

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Forster's description of the building (excerpts). "...the museum has been anchored in the cityscape of Bilbao [Portugal] like a vast circus tent surrounded by a congerie[s] of caravans, for the variety of events anticipated to take place there requires large and ever varying venues. Subsidiary spaces are clustered together, squeezed through the bottleneck between river and embankment, made to duck under bridges, and finally allowed to soar over the building's core in a spectacular canopy. All this implies motion induced by internal tension and external compression and gives rise to the towering and seemingly revolving space of the central hall.." And later, "...the Bilbao Guggenheim must be reckoned overweight, overdone, and overwhelming. Its excessive qualities are precisely those that enable it to assume several different roles at once. It is an immovable pile in the city and a sinuous creature draping its body along a narrow ledge above the river. As a luminous cave on the inside, and a metallic mountain from without, the museum appears to be both a perfect fit and a perfect stranger in its site. Excess designates the state of the building, exuberance its true nature." And, "From the very start, the sketches for Bilbao seemed to have the capacity to soar. They expanded energy as if it were free, and this freedom not only generated forms previously thought to be impossible, but also unfit for integration into a complicated site." Forster also emphasizes how Gehry thinks of the complexly curvilinear elements of his buildings as bodies which he " motion as a choreographer does his or her dancers."

Following-up the class discussion of the order in Gehry's design, here are two simplifications of Gehry's design, intended to test whether people prefer a comparatively simpler order in a building of this type. Of course I concede that my simplification may produce aesthetic disharmony, since I have altered things using only the forms I could copy and paste in Photoshop. There is also the unknown impact on the interior space, but let us suppose that is essentially like the effect on the exterior. Compare the modified designs with the original shown above. Also ask yourself whether Forster's description applies equally to these simplifications.

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2.8.6 Landscape architecture in the classical 18th century English manner: Stourhead.

Below, on the left, the lake and the Pantheon. On the right, the temple of Apollo. The text that follows in the Wikipedia article cites authors Barry Bergdol and Kenneth Woodbridge.


The lake at Stourhead is artificially created. Following a path around the lake is meant to evoke a journey similar to that of Aeneas's descent in to the underworld.[14] In addition to Greek mythology, the layout is evocative of the "genius of the place", a concept made famous by Alexander Pope. Buildings and monuments are erected in remembrance of family and local history. Henry Hoare was a collector of art– one of his pieces was Claude Lorrain's Aeneas at Delos, which is thought to have inspired the pictorial design of the gardens.[14] Passages telling of Aeneas's journey are quoted in the temples surrounding the lake.

Monuments are used to frame one another; for example the Pantheon designed by Flitcroft entices the visitor over, but once reached, views from the opposite shore of the lake beckon.[15] The use of the sunken path allows the landscape to continue on into neighbouring landscapes, allowing the viewer to contemplate all the surrounding panorama. The Pantheon was thought to be the most important visual feature of the gardens. It appears in many pieces of artwork owned by Hoare, depicting Aeneas's travels.[16] The plantings in the garden were arranged in a manner that would evoke different moods, drawing visitors through realms of thought.[15] According to Henry Hoare, 'The greens should be ranged together in large masses as the shades are in painting: to contrast the dark masses with the light ones, and to relieve each dark mass itself with little sprinklings of lighter greens here and there.'[17]


2.9.1 Simple beauty, several examples.



2.9.2 How simple are these simple beauties? TBA


3. Beauty and Sexual Attraction

3.1 URL for Mauritanian nomad culture of female obesity. ; also a three-part article: .

3.2 Sexual attractiveness and beauty (1)

Much has been made of the connection between aesthetic preferences in the case of potential sexual partners and sexual allure. There is no reasonable doubt that beauty of appearance and behavior may enhance sexual attraction. However, it is not plausible to think that all sexual attraction is aesthetic (let alone that all aesthetic attraction is sexual). I want to suggest a criterion which distinguishes sexual and aesthetic attraction. It may or may not succeed but at least it should focus your minds on the issue.

The idea is simple. Any genuinely aesthetic attraction that contributes to sexual attractiveness must continue to be attractive when the sexual component is absent. That is, when sexual desire is not a factor. What does that amount to? Since sexual attraction is definable in terms of the effect of the thing in question on the erogenous zones, since they are the locus of sexual desire, the attraction will be aesthetic only if it persists when the erogenous zones are not stirred by contemplating the object, the face or figure that is at issue. But, you may say, how can we test that if our erogenous zones are always stirred? Perhaps you can't, if that's true of you. You have to wait a while, maybe a long while! Or you have to look to persons of a different sexual orientation to see whether the features that allure you allure them without awakening sexual desire.

But perhaps there is another way. Do the kinds of analysis of the relations of lines and forms within the face or figure explain its beauty? Compare these reasons with ones that apply to sexually neutral beauties. If the reasons turn out to be much the same, then isn't there good reason to believe that the face and figure you find beautiful would continue to seem beautiful and would continue to give aesthetic pleasure even though the sexual connection lapsed?

If that is generally the case, then isn't aesthetic attractiveness in and of itself distinct from sexual attractiveness and the relation between them one of causality and not identity (in whole or in part)? In that case we could say that a thing may be sexually attractive because it's beautiful but it can't be beautiful merely because it's sexually attractive. Note that mate preference is not the same as sexual attraction because the latter isn't the only factor in selecting a mate, is it?

3.3 Sexual attractiveness and beauty (2)

I. Preliminary thoughts

A common belief nowadays is that personal beauty is what people find sexually attractive. I think this is a gross oversimplification. What is the real connection? For surely there is some. Sexiness plays too large a part in art, personal adornment, and mate choice for the two to be entirely separate. Let's list some plausible connections.

Perceived ugliness of face or form seems a sexual turn off, other things being equal. If this is so then not being grossly unbeautiful is a necessary condition for sexual attractiveness. But clearly being at least OK-looking is not a sufficient condition – again, other things being equal. Let's call persons who aren't ugly but aren't beautiful either, plain. Then we can say that many plain persons are sexually unattractive. At the same time many plain folk can be tolerably sexually appealing given other attractants, such as the right pheromones or wealth, power, style or charm.

On the other hand beauty of face or form of an adult tends to be a sexual turn-on in normal circumstances -- depending of course on one's sexual orientation. Often it is sufficient.


The sexual attractiveness I have in mind at the moment is what one can appreciate without knowing about wealth, power, style of behavior, personality – and out of range of pheromones – and one's view restricted to face, head, stature and figure seen in simple fitted but not skin tight clothing. (There are lots of factors, once one gets down to specifics.) Of course in life we usually have more data than that to respond to. But sometimes considerably less. Sometimes we see only the face. Discussions of beauty and sexiness are seriously vague and prone to misunderstanding when the conditions are unspecified. There is not just one question about the connection between beauty and sexual attractiveness. There are a hundred.

What sort of personal beauty (of face, figure, skin and hair) if any is sexually neutral? The cuteness of a child, especially an infant, is almost always neutral except for pedophiles – though if we were hooked up to electrodes there might be preconscious sexual leanings in the rest of us – we can't rule that out just because we don't feel them. What is clear is that if there are any sexual undercurrents they are overridden by our conscious selves, blocked before they cause sexual sensations. The quality of skin that would be deliciously erotic in an adult sexual partner is just delicious to see and touch in a child – the way a flavor is delicious to taste. It is sensuously attractive without being erotically so. The difference comes down to absence of effect upon our erogenous zones and our minds not being turned toward that erotic effect.

There are also strong sexually off-putting aspects in our experience of children – roughly, the childishness of the child, which suggests lack of sexual susceptibility and capability. The child's lack of adult sexual attributes reinforces this appearance of sexual innocence. The child's beauty is in this way mostly free of suggestions of the erotic, notwithstanding the fact that even babies are capable of erotic pleasure.

There is also something liberating about sex not getting in the way of simple affection, i.e. desire for and enjoyment of the well-being of the child. The child offers an ideal arena for enjoyment of this sentiment (except of course for pedophiles). And it harmonizes with our sense of ourselves as nurturers of the child.

The post-pubescent human with well developed secondary sexual attributes brings new bodily properties into the picture – females especially whose breasts and pelvis are foci of erotic interest (of reasonable erotic interest, I mean). For men it is mainly the pubes that play this role. Males appeal sexually to (heterosexual) women largely by looking old enough to perform sexually. But also the male role as protector seems important. Hence the premium placed on muscular development. A number of other traits count as secondary male characteristics: face and body hair, enlargement of Adam's apple, deepening of voice, greater mass of thigh muscles in front of the femur, etc. Some seem sexually attractive, others are questionable. Perhaps some are not themselves sexually appealing but only signs of sexual capability. To be sexually appealing I think they have to intensify the pleasure of actual sexual engagement in coitus or its preliminaries or aftermath: kissing, embracing, caressing, fond gazing, etc.

Since I feel less qualified to discuss the allure of males either to heterosexual females or to homosexual males, I'll concentrate on the appeal of females to heterosexual males. The curves of the body are an obvious source of allure. What might be called slender voluptuousness is highly attractive. Why? Because it suits a variety of comfortable and stimulating sexual positions and movements. Corpulence is unattractive because heaviness, sluggishness, and pendulous fleshiness is sexually limiting. Even ponderousness may be erotically stimulating in some postures but it lacks the variety of erotically pleasing aspects found in slender, agile voluptuousness and therefore typically comes off as low grade. Normally it will not be chosen if a non-ponderous option is available. The existence of fat sex internet sites does not prove otherwise.


Our sex life is a mixture of pleasing sensations of orgasms and the non-orgasmic sensuality that extends and prepares the renewal of orgasmic sensations. That latter sensuality consists of milder sensations induced by caresses, embraces, kisses, aromas and warmth of close presence, feelings of hair in one's face, etc., these and muscular stretchings and compressions. And of course the exchange of feelings, the sense of the other opening herself, striving and relaxing. All this. Ideally there is much harmony within and between partners and, since harmony is a species of beauty, much beauty.

There is also a lot of fantasy sexuality that runs the gamut of courtship, foreplay, coitus, aftermath, and sex partner interpersonal behavior, narratives of rivalry, deception, jealousy, etc. This involves much imagined beauty.

Physical and behavior attributes that are seen as lending themselves to this aspect of our lives will be sexually attractive. They may support our sexuality in various ways, not just by arousing sexual desire. For example a pattern of behavior may extend the satisfaction of coitus instead of arousing fresh desire. Such an ‘afterglow' pattern contrasts with one that interrupts the aftermath too soon or continues caresses beyond their useful term. In sexual attractiveness it is not just what invites us to coitus that matters. Retrospection is also significant. We want not only for love-making to go well but also for the loving after-time and the on-going engagement with the lover doing a whole host of things to be given full scope. This figures importantly in the sexual attractiveness of a person, especially to one who thinks things through.

Sexually attractive styles of clothing, the plunging neckline, the bare back, the flaring skirt that could easily be flipped up, etc., contrast with the shapeless gym suit or figure-concealing nun's habit or burkha. (Should one distinguish between sexually attractive and sexually provocative?)

Can well-formed female bodies whose good form includes secondary sexual attributes ever be sexually neutral? Perhaps not. Well-formed breasts and buttocks, an hour-glass torso, a neck that lifts the head well above the clavicle, legs long enough for the torso, straight enough and curvaceous enough (swelling calf, narrow ankle), and feet of moderate size seem necessarily attractive. The face is more variable since its expressions make so much difference. There is no such complication with the rest (without behavior entering into the picture).

II. An attempt at summation

1. Modes of sexiness. We can classify sexiness in various ways, including these:
1. First-sight sexiness at a distance (charm not displayed)
2. Close-up sexy appearance (charm not displayed)
3. Public behavioral sexiness (public behavioral repertoire displayed)
One-on-one behavioral sexiness (personal behavioral repertoire displayed)
5. Intimate sexy appearance (charm not included)
6. Intimate sexiness (intimate behavioral repertoire included -- the full Monty))

These are rough rather than sharply defined modes of sexiness. Often at a distance outward form carries suggestions of charm in the way the person carries herself. But because these suggestions can be demolished by more exposure to the behavioral repertoire (even the public behavior one) they do not entitle one to presume charm. Similar remarks apply to the other modes. In general, a person may be sexy in one mode and not in various of the others. Intimate sexiness may be abundant without the person having much public behavior sexiness. The reverse is also true.

In the behavior component in 4 and 6 I include the signs of sexual interest in the person toward whom the behavior is directed. This is a major contributor to overall sexiness, especially when the interest is informed by knowledge of what good sex is.

2. Degrees of sexiness are roughly fixed by how many of the modes a person exemplifies and how fully they are exemplified. How precise the comparisons can be made is uncertain. This applies even within modes but especially among different ensembles of modes. Still, many well-founded comparisons can be made based on normal (non-pathological) human responses. Sexiness in general will be the capability of a person to arouse, by appearance and behavior, sexual desire in others for engagement with him/her. Since there are many pathological erotic responses of varying degrees, giving an exact account of normality is a challenging task. But some limitations can be justified. For example behavior that is submissive is not always welcoming, as genuine sexiness is. Lukewarm submissiveness may be enough to turn a predator on, but it is not sexy behavior. Even less is sincerely prudish behavior sexy even if it poses a challenge that a predator finds exciting.


How can we understand the seductive effect of wealth and power on a person's sexual allure? I suggest they only serve to increase the desirability of a personal relation with the person without actually increasing the person's sexiness. The gain in these other attractions may allow whatever sexiness the person has to be more easily appreciated. But the sexiness itself must be independently evaluated. Of course the lover may be motivated to fantasize more sexiness than exists in order to enjoy the benefits. Another twist is that the lover may focus on the sensuous pleasures that luxury will bring (perhaps with some extra-curricular sexual flings thrown in).

3. Beautiful sexiness . If we follow the general pattern for other domains of beauty, we will understand beautiful sexiness as intense, non-defective sexiness. Clearly the task of vindicating this criterion centers upon the concept of non-defectiveness. Here's where controversy will rage. The non-defectiveness in question should be judged by the impact of sexiness on the quality of life attainable under reasonable social conditions. Obviously social conditions can distort the impact. In puritanical societies sexiness might be harmful to the possessor. But so also in permissive societies the possessor of beauty of this sort may be a target of predators or the envious hostility of rivals. So a criterion of non-defective (non-prejudicial) social conditions will be needed to make the criterion work. Naturally that will be a subject of intense controversy. But any defender of beautiful sexiness must address it.

The criterion implies that intense sexiness can be defective even under reasonable social conditions in a well-ordered society. Because of the presence of normative criteria in sexiness itself, showing that this is a genuine possibility can be ticklish. What sort of ‘internal' defects can there be in sexiness? One is indiscriminately or indiscreetly displaying one's sexy features too fully or frequently. That's a defect in the behavior repertoire. That doesn't make the physical features any less beautifully sexy. Can physical features be intensely but defectively sexy? Perhaps they can if one part of the body, say the bosom, is too sexy for the rest of the body. Imagine a large, well molded bosom on a body that is well shaped in a slender mode. This disproportion (disharmony) may make the virtues of each part hard to appreciate. Even more suspect is the case of oversized sexual attributes which looms large in popular macho culture. That deserves a separate section.

4. The problem of oversized attributes. Oversized breasts are the chief example. Are grossly overlarge breasts sexier than more proportionate ones? Visiting any of the many big breast internet sites will provide a cascade of images that put this to the test. Many of the breasts on such sites are grotesquely large, unmanageable, and ill-fated. It doesn't do to think of them after aging sends them south. Surely most of them aren't beautiful even when in their prime. Still they tend to turn normally sexed males on even when the males are fully aware of the downside. How do we explain this sexy-lookingness? And what relation to beauty can it have?

I suggest, first, that in certain positions most are sexy-looking. Especially when the model is on her back their size seems lessened, their pendulousness doesn't show at all, and their broad curves may be beautiful to stroke and nuzzle. This means that in certain limited respects (in some positions, from some angles) some of them have some beauty. They don't make it overall, however. Their negative points are too great. From many angles and in many positions they are typically absurd, ridiculous, appalling. Not only are they not beautiful overall. They aren't even sexually attractive when their totality is realistically reviewed. (In bed is one thing, on the beach another.)


But still, the male erotic response tends to override the negatives. That seems linked to what is called a “peak shift” in the animal world. A manifestation of this is shown in the following illustration of an oystercatcher trying to move an absurdly large (fake) egg into its nest in preference to any it could actually brood.
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Our Pleistocene inheritance is one likely source. At some level the male sex drive seems to have been left without a sensible upper limit regarding sexual attributes. But there is another likely factor, namely the restraints that social living places on this drive. Most men live lives of continuous sexual frustration, which predisposes their eyes to be bigger than their stomachs, as the saying goes. As starving people have outsized appetites (at least at the beginning of a meal), so sexually undernourished males at some level desire outsized erotic attributes. Big breast arousal plausibly results in part from this.

The same syndrome produces male fantasies of oversized penises, as in Japanese erotic art. Examples are displayed at: and at the various other sites that Google lists under "Japanese shunga prints."

What this means is that the spontaneous responses of normally sexed men do not provide an entirely reliable criterion of beautiful sexiness. They (or their sexual systems) are prone to a kind of illusion. However this bias can be overcome by ‘top-down' self-management. This is true both for our assessment of the intensity of sexiness and its degree of beauty or unbeauty.

Website for oversized female attributes:
For an all-around, non-porn site on women's breasts, there is the Female Intelligence Agency: . It has lots of comments by women readers about self-image and male-relationship problems.


3.4 Labrets in tribal societies: are they considered beautiful? If not, why wear them?

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The Mursi peoples of southern Ethiopia offer examples of what seems like grotesque body deformation, as shown below. A recent study provides evidence of the way lip plates, which run up to 5 inches in diameter) are viewed by tribespeople. Shauna LeTrosky, "Reflections on the lip-plates of Mursi woman as a source of stigma and self-esteem" (2006) LeTosky’s conversations with the Mursi clearly bring out five sources of attraction of the lip plates.

The grounds revealed are these. (1) Labrets are an emblem signifying sexual maturity and, when married, fidelity to one’s husband. (2) Labrets are a sign that the wearer is not lazy or negligent: this may have a direct effect on the bride price a suitor is willing to pay. (3) Labrets aid a woman in adopting a dignified and calm manner of conducting herself, avoiding girlish haste. This and the preceding consideration enhance the woman’s self-esteem. (4) Labrets are money makers because they attract tourists who pay for photographing wearers. (5) Labrets are a sign of respect for one’s cultural identity as a Mursi.
The down side of labrets, aside from the pain associated with stretching the lip and inconvenience of keeping it stretched, is that drooling is unavoidable. Many young Mursi, male and female, object to this.
All in all, the field evidence gives no support to the idea that labrets are regarded by the Mursi as enhancing the appearance of the face, as opposed to the value of the decoration, if any, on the lip plate itself. The closest thing to this is the beautiful behavior, the serene and confident manner that is induced by wearing the labret. But this is only an effect of the labret. It does not make the wearer's face beautiful in and of itself.
Websites showing lip plates of various sorts, how they are removed, how one drinks when one has then in both upper and lower lips, etc. may be found at:
Claims are made about the beauty of the practice by outsiders but not (so far as I have been able to discover) by the tribe members themselves. I don't find these outsider claims credible regarding the effect on the face. Do you?
The Amazonian Kayapo lip disk shown above, some 2 1/2 inches in diameter, is worn by Raoni Metuktiri, a Kayapo chief and activist in the effort to preserve tribal lands, most recently from inundation by the Belo Monte dam complex. He is a locally renowned orator who has attracted worldwide support for his struggles. Whether his labret makes his presence when speaking more commanding is an interesting question which I lack the data to consider. But it is hard to find any beauty in the appearance produced when the face is shown in photographs.


4. Love and Beauty

4.1 Forms of love, good and not so good. The outline for Lecture 5 proposes the core relation that defines interpersonal love, viz. taking joy in the other person's joy...While subsequent lines in the outline refer to the diversity of forms of interpersonal love, individual forms were mentioned only in the lecture, not in the outline itself. Hence the uptake by the class was poor on them. Here are some of the points relevant to this matter.

Jealous love. On the proposed definition. jealous love is love, but the joy in the beloved's joy is limited to joy that the lover causes or at least isn't apt to lead the beloved to be attracted to a rival. Such love is often not ideal, but it's certainly love. Love doesn't have to be selfless or disinterested! And in fact most lovers feel jealousy when they feel their beloved in being attracted to another person. To be sure, love can be selfless but that's both rare but for most people, undesirable: most of us don't expect or want our love relations to be entirely selfless. On the other hand when jealousy is extreme the love is certainly defective (for one thing, it's mixed with, or easily turns into hate).

Foolish love. Similarly, love can be wise or foolish, it can be well-placed or misplaced. These are cases of joy taken in another person's joy under the mistaken impression that the other person is receptive to that love, or ones where the basis is wrong beliefs about the character of the other. Any reasonable definition of love has to allow for these and many other sorts of misguided love.

Not real love. If the above is correct, where does love end? According to the proposal, it ends when the person doesn't take any joy in the other person's joy or feel any distress in the other person's distress. If one wants to be with a person only for the sex, or only because of pride, and not at all because of the joy the other feels, then one doesn't love the person. At most one loves the sexual experience or the pride of having such great shoulder candy, or whatever. Those are cases of loving a situation, not loving a person

4.2 On love: lessons we can learn from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre

I hope some of you have read Brontë's signature novel. Even if you haven't I think you can form a pretty good idea of the emotions the author describes. As Jane falls in love with Mr Rochester a number of feelings and circumstances connect with our reflections about love. Here is a passage from Ch. 17 that begins with the obnoxious commonplace about beauty that this course undertakes to challenge:

Most true it is that ‘beauty is in the eye of the gazer.' My master's colourless, olive face, square massive brow, firm, grim mouth – All energy, decision, will – were not beautiful, according to rule; but they were more than beautiful to me: they were full of an interest, an influence that quite mastered me – that took my feelings from my own power and fettered them in his. I had not intended to love him: the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate from my soul the germs of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view of him, they spontaneously revived, green and strong! He made me love him without looking at me.
[Most observers] would pronounce Mr Rochester at once harsh-featured and melancholy-looking…[but]…I saw Mr Rochester smile: his stern features softened; his eye grew both brilliant and gentle, its ray both searching and sweet…I feel akin to him – I understand the language of his countenance and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him…Every good, true, vigorous feeling I have gathers impulsively round him…while I breathe and think I must love him.


And later, in Ch. 18 we find a passage concerning love's blindness to faults. Jane observes Rochester talking to a young woman of fashion who is trying to charm him.

…I was growing very lenient to my master: I was forgetting all his faults, for which I had once kept a sharp look-out. It had formerly been my endeavour to study all sides of his character: to take the bad with the good: and from the just weighing of both, to form an equitable judgement. Now I saw no bad. The sarcasm that had repelled, the harshness that had startled me once, were only like keen condiments in a choice dish: their presence was pungent, but their absence would be felt as comparatively insipid. And as for the vague something – was it a sinister or a sorrowful, a designing or a desponding expression? – that opened upon a careful observer, now and then, in his eye, and closed again before one could fathom the strange depth partially disclosed; that something which used to make me fear and shrink, as if I had been wandering among volcanic-looking hills, and had suddenly felt the ground quiver, and seen it gape: that something, I, at intervals, beheld still: and with a throbbing heart, but not with palsied nerves. Instead of wishing to shun, I longed only to dare – to divine it; and I thought Miss Ingram happy, because one day she might look into the abyss at her leisure, explore its secrets and analyse their nature.

Fortunately for Jane, Rochester sees through Miss Ingram and ends up with the one who really loves him. Perhaps Rochester in his prime looked something like Beethoven. Let's hope he looked more like the figure at the left than the one on the right.

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4.3 Commentary on Jane Eyre's description of Rochester.

1. Rochester does not have beautiful facial features. But his features are well unified under a common property. They go together. To that extent they have some beauty. Further and more importantly, Rochester 's facial expressions have considerable beauty: some are commanding (beautifully masterful, energetic, even vivacious) and others are beautifully soft and gentle. They are governed by intelligence and human understanding. In the context of life, they have considerable merit. For the rest, Jane's own character is such that they suit her. His and hers make a beautiful match . Being with him will make her more beautiful. These are no small aesthetic merits.

2. This passage points up essential features of love, especially the distinction between the beauty a person possesses and the way that person is perceived through the eyes of love. Jane's inner state is divided between these two. On the one hand, the love aroused by the attractive qualities causes her not to notice the defects. But also, the context of Rochester 's whole personality and behavior shows some of the initially repellent features and manners to be better than they first seemed, in fact to be in some way beautiful. She says they are beautifully “pungent,” which implies liveliness, energy, keenness of thought, candor. This gives him a richer character than is possessed by the milder, more decorous species of conventional beauty. There is no reason not to call Rochester 's character beautifully rich, a beautiful mixture of forcefulness and gentleness. But though his character is in this way beautiful, his facial features are still not beautiful and some of his behavior or character may be unbeautiful.

3. Regarding Jane's last reflection about Rochester 's interesting mysteriousness, we need not take it to be a beauty-claim about him but only a claim about his being fascinating to her. Yet perhaps there is something beautiful that attracts her in his mysteriousness, namely the adventure she imagines would develop if and when he shared his secret. She is wrong about this. The revelation will turn out to be dreadful. Happiness will emerge only after considerable suffering and even then will be amid ruins. Her error about all this would not keep the fantasy from being beautiful. But it would undermine the idea of Rochester gaining any beauty-points from providing a basis for her romantic fantasy.

4.4 More from Jane Eyre: an example of a near relative of love of a person, one that is often wrongly called love.

In the late chapters of the novel after the public exposure of Rochester 's mad wife in the attic and Jane's precipitous flight from his estate, she is rescued from her wanderings by a brother and two sisters living far away. The brother, named St. John, is an aspiring missionary of the sternly puritanical sort who develops the conviction that Jane is the perfect companion for bringing Christianity to the “heathen” Hindus in India . He asks her to marry him so they can do God's work together. Jane is vulnerable because she respects his religious devotion and energy and she can't see any other clear path to a sustainable career for herself. Yet she also has qualms. Here is how she describes St. John . (Ch. 34)

…I looked at his features, beautiful in their harmony, but strangely formidable in their still severity; at his brow, commanding but not open; at his eyes, bright and deep, and searching, but never soft; at his tall, imposing figure; and fancied myself in idea his wife. Oh! It would never do! his wife – at his side always, and always restrained, and always checked – forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low, to compel it to burn inwardly and never utter a cry, though the imprisoned flame consumed vital after vital – this would be unendurable.

Part of the problem is that St. John's love is only for certain of her aspects and capabilities. The rest of her nature he imagines he can suppress. In my book this is too narrow an affection to be called love of her, or love of her person -- however intense his feeling for those selected aspects may be. In short he will not enjoy enough of her joys and commiserate with enough of her distresses; the distribution of his affection over her attributes is too limited. He is also far more ardent about his religious vocation than he can be toward any person. As a husband he would be a monster (my term, not Jane's).

In terms of beauty too, he cannot be said to find her character beautiful overall. By the same token her admiration for his qualities is not aesthetic appreciation of his person overall. There are too many negatives.


5. Color

5.1 Diagram of the dispositional concept of sensory color.
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5.2 The Munsell Color Solid. Sensory color is analyzable into three dimensions, hue, chroma (saturation), and lightness (or brightness). Here are three diagrams showing the color space found in the Wikipedia article on the Munsell color solid. The whole article is worth reading to fix in your minds the essential structure of perceived color.

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5.3 Color exhibits re. sense of beauty theory (supplementing Beauty Additions 17). Caution: I have no way of knowing whether your computer will display exactly the same colors. I have had to give up on the projector in the classroom, which ruins them.

Color spectrum




5.4 Hue, saturation and lightness compared.

Below, left, jumbled color chips from two nearby hues. On the right, the chips sorted in their right relations to each other by saturation and lightness.

5.5 Color blindness illustrated (1)

Full color vision contrasted with anomalous color vision, showing reduction of perceived differences (these are from the website:

Top row: an exceptional case where anomalous vision beats normal vision.


Bottom row: the normal case (as in driver's license tests of color blindness).



5.6 Colorblindness illustrated 2.
The illustration at II.22.3 below is doubtfully accurate for the difference between green and red colorblineness, and I can't find the exhibit on the website where it used to be. So I offer the following simpler illustration of two-cone color vision -- from a different website. On the left is a red braeburn apple which looks dirty yellow to a two-cone viewer, and a green Granny Smith apple that looks a lighter yellow to a two-cone viewer.


5.7 Exhibit showing interaction of colors


Additional references
*An interactive exhibit on the interaction of colors is available on the site given in Lecture 9.

*A highly instructive series of 1984 BBC videos, "Colorful Notions" is available for anyone with enough time and interest to take them in: Needless to say I do not approve of the "entirely subjective" in both the URL and the text of the videos, for reasons I try to make clear in lectures. But the information provided by the program is solid and quite fascinating. The images are fuzzy because it's a copy. The BBC program itself is only available through library CDs, apparently. The series is also available at:!

*Anyone really hooked on color will be delighted by the demonstration on this site:

*Sites for the color interaction file shown in class are:


5.8 Harmonious and disharmonious colors





5.9 Color temperature literal and aesthetic. Colors famously are seen as hot or cool and a number of other things. The first thing to be clear about in the aesthetic appearance of color is not to confuse it, say hotness of certain pinks, with actual temperature as measured scientifically. The real and the aesthetic hotness are in fact almost completely inverted. Here is the scientific story about color temperature. Go to the Wikipedia "color temperature" site for explanation.

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Colors that are hot in aesthetic terms (hot-looking) are physically the coolest, and those that are coolest-looking are physically the hottest. So please, never, never confuse the aesthetic hotness-appearances with physical hotness. Yet the look of colors is virtually universal among fully color-sighted human percipients, so it counts as an intersubjectively valid aesthetic appearance. In the chart above the scale of physical temperature runs from 1000K to 10,000K in the arc across the colors.

5.10 Trichromatic and tetrachromatic color vision: what does this tell us about sensory color? Bryan Rezende has referred me to a fascinating website on people who have four color cone-types: red, blue, green, and yellow.

The fourth color cone gives them the capacity to see differences between color samples that trichromats cannot distinguish. For example one tetrachromat can see pinks around clouds in a blue sky. This enhanced discrimination responds to differences in wave-lengths, so the tetrachromat is seeing a real color within her field of vision that trichromats can't see. That means she is seeing the color field more accurately than trichromats.By extension, if a person had yet more types of cones he or she likely would see yet more color-differences -- where the light actually differed in wave-length, i.e., where the mixture of wave-lengths was different. Presumably the incidence of metamerism would diminish.

The criterion of the optimal color-discriminator would still apply, as far as I can see. And sensory color would still be a real (psychophysical dispositional) property. It would not be merely a subjective response. Indeed the example of superchromats, as they could be called, fits the general criterion perfectly. Color perception still reveals actual states of affairs -- but more or less precisely, depending on how precise one's color vision is.

It's also noteworthy that no tetrachromat experiences phenomenal colors (sense-data, qualia) that trichromats don't also experience. They just experience more varied qualia than trichromats do from a given scene.


5.11 Extraordinary color vision in the wider animal kingdom.The Mantis Shrimp has eyes on mobile stalks equipped with 12 photoreceptors for color perception, 4 for color filtering. It is able to respond to both polarised and to ultraviolet light, as well as colors perceptible by humans. Many birds, notably pigeons, respond to UV light and some have coloration that reflects it. Gender is often conveyed by such coloration. What phenomenal experience shrimp or pigeons have is uncertain. And there is no information on what aesthetic experience, if any, they have. If we had eyes like theirs, our phenomenal experience would be interestingly different from what it now is. But there is no evidence that the range of phenomenal qualities would be different; the difference would come in the distribution of qualities in a given color vision event. Since the distribution would correspond to a real distribution of physical color properties, the variation doesn't give reason to reject the reality of such sensory color.

However, one might wonder about the consequences of enhanced color-sensitivity in relation to beauty. Different phenomenal qualities would mean different beauties/unbeauties -- just as the colorblind person's aesthetic experience varies from that of a color-normal person's. A person can respond aesthetically only to the phenomenal qualities that are given to her. Of course! The colorblind person is responding on the basis of different data. Her appreciation may be right on target for those data, even if not appropriate to the object, say, a painting, as it actually is. (Further complication: suppose the painter had the same colorblindness as the viewer...)

5.12 Color symbolism. A third caution about aesthetic properties is this. There are many entirely speculative claims about associations between colors and other properties that are culturally dependent, not stemming directly from the character of the properties themselves. For example a website on colors gives out the following wisdom:

"Blue is the color of the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven...In heraldry, blue is used to symbolize piety and sincerity."

There is likely some faint and indirect connection of some of these symbolic meanings with aesthetic properties of the colors, but for the most part the symbolism is arbitrary and certainly not intersubjectively universal.

5.13 What properties do properties have? The example of sensory color.

A given shade of green, say, will not itself be green (it won't be self-exemplifying) but it will have plenty of properties. It will be related by degrees of similarity to the other colors. It is more similar to blue and yellow than it is to red. It will be complementary to a certain shade of red, and will be either central green or off-center to the blue or yellow side. It is also tri-dimensional, the three dimensions being hue, saturation and lightness. This and more may safely be said about that shade of green as a property. But it is necessary to stick to what applies to the property in contrast to what applies to its instances (grass, say). That poses a problem for Plato.


5.14 Color and its complications. How do we know all normally color-sighted people have the same color experiences? Could two persons have reversed spectral phenomenal colors? This would produce the following comparison between experiencers:

The argument that follows gives reasons why a reversed spectrum would be in principle detectable. Study them carefully. Use the two spectra as an illustration of the case.


Some critics claim that in principle we could have infinitely various color experiences proceeding around the hues as long as all the relations within each person's color-space tallied with everyone else's, and we could never tell the difference. Is this really possible? Is that a coherent scenario?

What about central red, blue, etc. vs. mixed color qualia? If what was for me a central red was for you an orange, we would immediately tell the difference. One and the same color-stimulus would be pure for one of us, mixed for the other. That would immediately reveal the disparity in our experience. To avoid this our color-spaces would have to be coordinated pure to pure, mixed to mixed.

Another question is whether the space between the pures is uniform. I don't know the answer, but if there are more red-toned mixtures than there are yellow-toned ones, there would be another tip-off when we spread out our experiences.

Another question concerns the tonal range of the different hues. Blue is inherently less bright than yellow. So the two hue-ranges can't be switched without there being evidence of the difference.

Finally, there are the associated qualities, especially hotness values. Red is inherently warmer than green, for instance. See the chart of color temperature in #23 above.]]

HOWEVER, even if there could (in principle) be entirely undiscoverable variations in our color experiences, all that the intersubjectivity thesis about color assumes is that the best explanation of our color experience is that the appearance of uniformity is due to the fact of uniformity. The in-principle skeptical possibility is no more a problem here than it is for any other empirical belief. In principle it is possible that the world came into existence five minutes ago and all our memories are an illusion. That doesn't keep it from being objectively true that the world was created billions of years ago.

So I persist in thinking that if beauty could be explained in terms of a sense-like faculty that is as reliable as color-vision is, beauty would be rightly considered a real (intersubjectively real) property of the world.

6. Sensory Modalities

6.0 Density and Repleteness. In class I introduced the ideas of density and repleteness of sensory arrays. Density is a matter of there being no limit to the fineness of detail that is meaningful. Repleteness refers to there being nothing about the array that is not meaningful. Abstract objects don't literally have either property. But the highest form of experience of abstracts shares a certain similarity: it will include awareness of the implications of the abstract, as in the theorems applicable to a geometrical form. It will also have something analogous to the vividness and clarity of a vivid sensory perception -- though of course it cannot have precisely the same qualities. Those favored with such superior conceptual experience will fulfill Plato's idea of the best knowledge possible to humans -- something close to what he imagines the gods having.

Chemical senses

6.1 Properties of taste

Taste, or flavor, is particularly challenging. Much of what is called flavor is scent, as becomes apparent when one's olfactory receptors are masked. When olfaction is excluded there are four traditional flavor properties: sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness. A fifth, introduced into scientific circles only in 1908, is called savoriness or umami.. The description of the last is somewhat puzzling because of the reliance on its effects rather than on its intrinsic properties. The Wikipedia article on it puts the matter this way: "It can be described as a pleasant "brothy" or "meaty" taste with a long lasting, mouthwatering and coating sensation over the tongue...Its effect is to balance taste and round out the overall flavor of a dish." This certainly sets it apart from the other basic flavors, since it isn't intrinsic to them that the flavor be pleasant or unpleasant. But perhaps umami can be recognized apart from its being pleasing or displeasing -- the reference to the hedonic effect may just be a convenience in pointing it out, not essential to its basic character. The biochemistry of umami is partly known."The sensation of umami is due to the detection of the carboxylate anion of glutamate in specialized receptor cells present on the human and other animal tongues." (Wikipedia) MSG is a popular additive that actuates these receptors.


The five basic flavors interact in countless ways with each other and with aromas and textures. But like aromas, they are not organized into well-ordered relations comparable to sounds or sights (forms and colors). This lack severely limits the possibility of compositions analogous to those in the visual and musical arts.

There are other sensations produced by chemical reactions to food: spiciness (hotness),coolness, numbness, metallicness, astringency, and heartiness. These certainly enter into our gustatory experience even if they are not technically tastes -- because not registered by taste buds.

6.2 Properties of scent

Odors are enormously various. Humans with their 12,000,000 receptor neurons can discriminate at least 10,000 of them, far more than the most refined machine can distinguish. One percent of the human genome supports our olfaction. Of course humans fall far short of the really big sniffers. Their quantity of receptors comes nowhere near the bloodhound's 220 million! (Figures from Rawson 260 and Glaser 96.) Olfactory stimuli are complex, setting off different neurons that the brain reads as this or that odor. But the mechanisms and the code are not yet known.

Molecules of odorants (things that smell) adhere to the mucus surface of a membrane several square centimeters in size in the two sides of our nasal passages. The receptors connect with the olfactory bulb that relays messages to the brain. Only from 5 to 10% of the air we breathe comes in contact with the membrane if our breathing is at its normal rate, and only a fraction of the molecules carried by the air will get stuck on the membrane. The central processing of the stimulations is not yet well located or understood, but it is known that olfactory bulb sends signals directly to the limbic system, the area that controls emotions and moods. (King, in Van Toller et al 155)

There are many complications in odor perception. For instance short-term adaptation (de-sensitization) occurs quite rapidly – within a minute of initial exposure in the receptors. Long-term adaptation, presumably in central processing, lasts hours or even weeks. On the other hand long exposure may heighten sensitivity even after removal of the odorant. Cross-adaptation occurs when one odorant decreases sensitivity to another. False positives are easily produced: subjects told a disagreeable odor is being released suffer an odor-hallucination although no (additional) scent is diffused. Odors are sometimes confused with nasal irritations caused by some substances. Aging and various other bodily conditions also affect sensitivity negatively or positively. Genetic differences are thought to underlie some variations in sensitivity. The extreme state of overall desensitivity is called anosmia. No generally accepted threshold determining test exists at present, different researchers using different procedures.

Odor differentiation tests exist in which subjects assess odors for magnitude (intensity) and for sameness or difference of character. In the fragrance industry expert "noses" identify specific "notes" in a compound odor, the best noses distinguishing thousands of "odorant qualities" (by which I think is meant compounds). (Rawson, 267)

Odors famously affect salivation, sexual arousal and emotional states. Odors are also potent aids to memory, especially when the memory is emotionally charged. In the other direction odors described as dangerous were judged more intense than the same when not so described. The intimate connection of odor-perception and emotion makes for greater variations of judgment of intensity, character and hedonic quality (pleasantness/unpleasantness) of odors than one finds with colors or sounds. There is also a more intimate connection between odor-perceptions and bodily states, as in the case of odors making one nauseous.


Although ability to discriminate odors varies only slightly between humans, the capacity to identify a variety of odors is much improved by long training (years in duration). Without such training even everyday odors are frequently misidentified, chocolate taken to be coffee, cherry to be strawberry, even soy sauce for strawberry. The "tip of the nose" phenomenon of not being able to identify a very familiar odor is also common. Subjects generally score only about 50% on first trials. On the other hand, correction after a failure produced 90% correct identifications the second time around. To some extent the difficulty seems connected with the weakness of the odor-to-language brain system: as if perception of odors interfered with linguistic activation. But there are other interferences: a red candy with apricot flavoring is apt to be judged cherry-flavored. (Schab and Cain, 231).

Training in labeling scents produces somewhat heightened discrimination as well as far better identification performances, a circumstance that does not occur with, say, colors. Women are better identifiers than are men. The blind outperform the sighted even when their measured olfactory sensitivity is inferior. Elders seventy years old suffer marked decline in both sensitivity and the power to identify or remember odors. (Schab and Cain)

The descriptive teminology for scent is heavily source-referential, that is, a given scent is described in terms of the substances that produce it (one or other of such objects, that is). There is nothing comparable to the source-free color-hue terms, blue, green, yellow. Thus smells are described as the (odor of) cinnamon, violet, jasmine, etc. However, descriptions include a variety of more or less source-independent predicates: warm, light, bright, sweet, classic, romantic, feminine, harmonious, sensitive, sporty. Some of these terms seem to refer partly to degrees of intensity, as when a quality is said to be forceful (sharp) or mild, or zingy as opposed to bland (or perhaps well-blended). Perhaps these are like degrees of saturation or lightness of colors. Scents are also experienced as having more or less "body," being large or thin, analogously to the spatial quality of sounds. The source-independent terms which are most analogous to color hues are sweet and bitter. Many of the terms seem based on analogies with qualities in other modalities, color, sound, taste, touch, and bodily sensation, with emotions or moods often serving as a link.

Scent-perception has an important temporal dimension, so that the source-referring descriptions may apply in a timed way to "notes:" a "top note" comes across early, a "middle note" after a moment and a "dry-out" note last, like an aftertaste.

6.3 Odor descriptions of fragrant oils. From Rüdiger Hall, Dieter Klemme, Dr. Jürgen Nienhaus, The H & R Guide to Fragrance Ingredients, 1985, (London, Johnson Publications Ltd.)

Here is the first section of the alphabetically arranged list of odor qualities (I omit the synthetic oils).

Ambergris: various nuances of woody, dry balsamic, somewhat tobacco-like notes.
Angelic root oil: earthy, somewhat musk-like, peppery, aromatic odor with a green, spicy top note.
Anise oil: very powerful, sweet, herbaceous and lively.
Artemisia oil: very bright, lively, somewhat herbaceous, spicy odor.
Asafoetida resinoid: very intense onion, garlic-like odor.


Basil oil: very bright, lively, somewhat herbaceous, spicy odor.
Bay oil: very powerful, spicy, sweet odor with a distinct clove note.
Beeswax: mild, oily, sweet, honey-like odor with herbaceous notes.
Benzoin Siam resinoid: sweet balsamic, chocolate-like odor of great tenacity.
Benzoin Sumatra resinoid: warm, sweet, powdery, balsamic odor.
Bergamot oil: fresh, clear, lively odor, somewhat fruity and sweet which displays great originality.
Birch tar oil: woody, tarry, smoky odor with pleasantly sweet, oily, leather-like notes.
Boronia absolute: fruity, spicy-herbaceous odor with sweet, rose-like and floral undertones.
Broom absolute: sweet, floral, hay-like fragrance with bitter undertones and great originality.
Bruyère absolute: mild, balsamic, spicy-herbaceous odor with dry woody notes.
Buchu leaf oil: very strong, minty-camphoraceous odor very reminiscent of black currants.
Cabreuva Oil: warm, woody, fatty odor.
Cade oil (Jupiter tar oil): lend strength and originality iin small quantities to leather bases...
Cajuput oil: very powerful, herbaceous, eucalyptus-like odor.
Calamus oil: heavy, earthy, slightly sweet and aromatic root-like odor with bitter undertones.
Calendula absolute: typical, very intense, bitter, herbaceous odor.
Cananga oil: warm sweet, floral and narcotic odor.

6.4 Odor classification

Classification is a major problem with odors. There is no secure correlation of chemical sources with perceived odors: "it has not even been possible to pin down the physiochemical attribute that serves as a basis for differentiating between compounds that do and do not activate this sense, let alone finer discrimination between such categories as goaty and minty odors." (Engen 45) In 1756 Linnaeus proposed the following types:

ambrosial (musky)
alliaceous (garlicky)
hircine (goaty)
repulsive or foul

Amoore in 1970 divided odors as follows:

Another list was offered by Boelens in 1974:
rancid (fatty)
burnt (pyrotic)
aromatic (spicy)
floral (fragrant)

(Incidentally a good source for wine-tasting terms is:


6.5 A code for smell

In Evan Brown and Kenneth Deffenbacher's Perception and the Senses, pp. 124ff. we are given recent thinking about the peculiarities of odor perception as opposed to, say, color perception. This bears on the question of why there is no perceived structure of scent comparable to the structure of color, or of tone, for that matter.

Lord Adrian (1950) proposed three different mechanisms whereby the brain could distinguish among odors. Evidence for the existence of each of these mechanisms has been reviewed recently by Mozell (1977). We shall discuss each means of olfactory discrimination in turn - concluding, with Mozell, that our nervous systems probably use all three mechanisms, given the many discriminations we must make.

1. Selective Sensitivity of Individual Receptors. This mechanism seems an obvious one. A given receptor cell type would be maximally sensitive to a particular odor or group of odors and would show little if any sensitivity to others. Certainly there is precedence for such specialization in the animal kingdom. The male silkworm moth (Bombyx mori) can detect only one kind of odorant - Bombykol, the female sex attractant. His olfactory receptor cells may be limited in what they can detect but they do their detection job well, detecting a female upwind when as little as one molecule of Bombykol per receptor is present (Schneider, 1969).

In vertebrates, on the other hand, there little evidence of highly selective receptor a types. At least, it seems that receptors responding to a single class of chemicals are only a small minority. Consider the data of Figure 4-13. Mathews (1972) recorded the electrical response of nineteen different olfactory receptor cells in the tortoise to twenty-seven different chemicals. Only three of the nineteen cells respond to just one class of chemicals. Unit 1 responds just to cineole (camphoraceous smell for humans); unit 2

Description: U:\newwebsite\BtyAdds\Scent1.jpgFigure 4-13

responds only to benzylamine (putrid); unit 5 responds to three chemicals with an odor of almonds: o-tolualdehyde, benzaldehyde, and chlorobenzene. The remaining cells respond to two or more classes of chemicals. Note, moreover, that no two cells in this sample respond to the same group or groups of chemicals. Thus, they cannot be categorized into receptor cell types. Of course, these receptors do show some selectivity. They do not respond to all odorants, only a subset of them.


So, there do not appear to be specific receptor types dividing up the odor spectrum, one receptor category corresponding to each class of detectable odors. However, a set of cells such as those in Figure 4-13 could, nevertheless, encode a wide variety of chemical stimuli. Thus the similar-smelling almond odors of o-tolualdehyde and benzaldehyde could be discriminated since they elicit different firing patterns from olfactory receptor cells. Units 5, 12, and 13 fire in the presence of the former chemical, while units 5, 13, and 16 fire in the presence of the latter. Discrimination of a different odor class would be potentially much easier, inasmuch as these odors elicit even more distinctive firing patterns. The floral or flowery odor of anisole, for instance, is encoded by the firing of receptor units 9, 11, 13, 16, 17, 18, and 19. Such a theory of coding of perceptible qualities has been around for approximately twenty-five years as a theory of taste. Gustatory researchers call it cross-fiber patterning theory, since the firing pattern across a set of nerve fibers is said to be the physiological code. Also, note the similarity of this and the spatio-temporal patterning theory of skin sense qualities, discussed in Chapter 2.

In light of our earlier discussion of Amoore's specificity theory, you may wonder how such a notion can be reconciled with the apparent lack of specificity shown by the receptors of Figure 4-13. Compromise is possible if we suppose that the receptor sites on an olfactory cell's cilia are not all the same type. Any given cell might possess two or more varieties of receptor site. Assuming cells might also differ in the particular of types of sites they possess and in the relative numbers of each site type, we could well have a set of receptors with an apparently asystematic set of sensitivities.

But even if the receptor sites are specific to molecules of particular size and shape, how can the shape and size of the entire molecule change the electrical potential of the receptor membrane at a site? Clearly, some property or properties of the stimulating molecules cause sufficient electrical changes such that the receptor cell may send an impulse along its axon and into the olfactory bulb. Amoore (1970) proposes that what is true for sweet and bitter tastes is true for smell. Recall that sweet-sensitive and bitter-sensitive protein molecules have been found that bind chemicals to themselves in proportion to their sweetness or bitterness. At least one olfactory receptor protein has been found as well. Ash (1968) extracted one from the olfactory epithelium of the rabbit that binds with chemicals exhibiting a flowery odor, especially with one yielding an intense smell of lavender. Amoore goes on to argue that each receptor site on an olfactory cell consists of a distinctive protein molecule. The groove in the protein's surface into which the stimulus molecule fits is somewhat flexible and may have a hinged lid that assesses the shape of the upper surface of the stimulating molecule. These two characteristics would certainly account for the apparent relevance of the shape of the entire stimulating molecule. Perhaps the intermolecular forces set up by such a binding process and/or the heat energy liberated by it change the electrical potential of the adjacent membrane sufficiently that the receptor cell may be induced to fire.


2. Differential Distribution of Odorant Molecules. After a sniff, different odorants may vary in the rate at which they migrate across olfactory mucous membranes. Thus, they may differ at any point in time in their spatial distribution across these membranes. That is, those odorant molecules that are less readily absorbed should travel more readily across mucous membranes and should therefore be distributed more evenly than odorant molecules that are more readily adsorbed. If each receptor signals the extent to which stimulating molecules have reached its position along the olfactory epithelium, then it is possible that each odorant or class of odorants would establish its own spatiotemporal pattern of activity in the olfactory nerve. Indeed, Mozell and his colleagues (e.g., Hornung and Mozell, 1977; Mozell & Jagodowica, 1073) have shown that various odorants do have different spatiotemporal distributions across the olfactory membranes.

3. Regional Differences in Receptor Sensitivity. Another way of producing spatiotemporal patterns of activity that vary with qualitative differences in stimulating odorants is to have receptors of similar sensitivity grouped together. Thus, for example, Kauer and Moulton (1974) found that sensitivity to pinene (camphoraceous or resinous) and camphor was confined to a local region of olfactory membrance, while sensitivity to amyl acetate (bananalike smell) was distributed more evenly across the membrane.

As indicated previously, the olfactory brain probably relies on all three of these mechanisms to encode qualitative differences in odor. In any event, all three coding procedures involve differential patterns of activity in the olfactory nerve. Spatiotemporal patterns of neural impulses would appear to be the code in the olfactory tract and olfactory cortex, too (Devor, 1977).

6.6 Creative development of perfumes of a given type

Top perfumers who have spent years memorizing scents have at ready command a huge quantity of different odors. A Connoisseur article on a new star perfumer in Paris, Annick Goutal, shows her array of almost 1000 scents to use as ingredients. Individual creations may have a great many components. One is mentioned in the article as having thirty-seven. And amid all this complexity may be the perfumer's signature tone: Goutal's signature is a scent of a tomato leaf: "Young, fresh, a little acid. Completely tonic."

As the following excerpt from the article by Dodd in van Toller et al makes evident, invention of synthetic ingredients is an essential part of creative perfumery today. "Chypre" incidentally refers to Cyprus, the island of the classical goddess of love, Aphrodite.


By the end of the last century the gamut of perfumistic themes available from natural oils was fully explored. The development of the new families of perfumes which characterize the present century, such as the green family commencing with 'Vent Vert' (Balmain, in 1945) and the aldehydic floral family starting with 'Chanel No. 5' (1921), required the invention of new synthetic odorants. Our example of a classical chypre formulation (Table 2.1) helps us to understand the evolution of a perfume family (Table 2.2). The classic chypre was invented by Francois Cory in 1917. The mood appeal of this perfume, originally based on the types of natural oil shown in the formula, could not easily be extended in a novel direction without the help of the perfumery chemist.


An important advance for chypre perfumes was the incorporation of the synthetic peach-smelling gamma-undecalactone. This was a milestone in technical perfumery; it was one of the first powerful synthetic odorants to be blended with natural oils. Like other such impact odorants (for examples see Morris, 1977), this lactone requires a skilful, empirical blending into the oils lest it 'ride high' and so dominate the odour complex that the intended subtle, gentle effect is ruined. (This perhaps would be equivalent to Rossetti spoiling his Proserpine by re-painting the pomegranate with a vivid vermilion synthetic pigment.) The resulting perfume, Guerlain's Mitsouko, created in 1919, is a masterpiece among classical perfumes. This was the first member of a subdivision of the chypre family - the fruity chypres. Mitsouko and the other members of this family have a distinct appeal (see Mensing in Chapter 10). This perfume was interesting in terms of the psychology of perfumery.

Description: U:\newwebsite\BtyAdds\Scent2.jpgThe soft, caressing fruitiness blends with the main chypre theme and captures the heart. Like other such developments of perfume psychology, it relies on subtle molecular interactions in the blend - interactions which have yet to be elucidated. The softness of this perfume contrasts with the aggressive, quasi-trigeminal qualities of some current American perfumes.


'Femme' (Rochas, 1942) accentuated the peach note and emphasized the distinctiveness of the subgroup. By incorporating a bouquet of aliphatic aldehydes into the basic chypre formulation 'Crepe de Chine' (Millot, 1925) was created and formed another distinct grouping of the chypre family. 'Miss Dior' (Dior, 1947) was created by using a characteristic perky green top note using galbanum oil, an oil in which the key impact pyrazines play the leading role. Finally, we will mention 'Carbochard' (Gres, 1958) in which styrallyl acetate and the difficult to use isobutylquinoline play a key role in the formation of an erogenic perfume.

The generation of a perfume's 'psychological appeal' is still largely an intuitive action of the artist in the perfume studio. It is the perfumer who is called upon to realize the ambitions of the marketing manager. The most fragile or nebulous marketing idea must be expressed concretely in a collection of chemicals and oils. It falls to the perfumer, alone with his or her collection of favourite ingredients, and with a nose and brain sensitive to the expression of feeling in odours, to create the beautiful perfume which satisfies the marketer's dream. Diane Von Furstenberg asked the perfume company Route Bertrand Dupont for 'a perfume that smells divine'. The result was the exquisite perfume 'Tatiana'. The perfumer can explore new domains in the psychology of fragrance only if there are new odorants.

Given all this, there can be no doubt that there is a flourishing art of scent in contemporary culture. In remarks in class, I contrasted the domains of the visible and aural with those of scent, flavor and touch in relation to high art. I don't need to take any of that back in order to acknowledge how artful and how beautiful the best creations are in those comparatively limited fields.

Next we turn to the negative side of scent (for humans, at least). Engen (13) remarks that "Only one-fifth of the nearly half-million odorous compounds we know of are judged pleasant," citing a 1969 study. Unfamiliarity tends to make an odor unpleasant -- as if putting the subject on the alert for danger. Belief in actual danger, as from polluted air, increases the judgment of unpleasantness of the smell. Conversely workers whose livelihood depends upon a smelly industry may find the odor pleasant. (Engen, 128) And judgments of intensity are very much affected by the pleasure or displeasure of the perception.

Another author makes negativity the principle of an imaginary garden.

6.7 The Malororous garden

Nelson Coon's Fragrance and Fragrant Plants for House and Garden, 1967, the main part of which is about pleasant-smelling plants, supplies us with a chapter on wicked-smelling flowers which is exactly relevant to our discussion of the lilies I brought to class. Some of entries are listed below. In my view he is to be commended for acknowledging the negative side of floral odor.

Stinking Mayweed (rank-smelling), Feverfew ("Strong scented and extremely disagreeable to most people but there are some who like its ‘nose-twisting' odor."), Stink grass (evil smelling), Iris foetidissima ("strong fetid odor"), Skunk Cabbage (smells like "carrion, garlic and the animal for which it is named"), Corsican mint (nauseating odor emitted when leaves are touched). Narcissi close up can be putrid even though at a distance are OK. The Arum Lily is described as "perhaps the world's largest and foulest smelling flower. Some hawthorn trees have flowers with a "fish-house smell." The Christmas rose is "most unpleasant" to smell. Poison sumac has a "sulphurous odor." The Wafer ash has "a vile skunky odor." Apparently there is no end of plants to include in this misanthropic garden.


None of this proves anything about the lilies I brought to class, since they aren't specifically mentioned. Also it should be noted that the foul smelling flowers are highly attractive to some species. Carrion flies love the plants with a carrion smell, which is hardly to be wondered at.



6.8 An image, provided by NASA, I'm told, was just sent to me by a colleague. It makes the point that our perception is riddled with unbreakable illusions (just what Plato objected to in it).

a. The original image

Description: U:\newwebsite\BtyAdds\greyillusion_wikipedia_big.jpg

b. Proof of the illusion

Description: U:\newwebsite\BtyAdds\samecolor_wikipedia_connected.jpg


7. Platonic Matters

7.1 Images re. Apollonian vs. Dionysian

Description: U:\newwebsite\mondriansbalance\ASA02Fig19.jpg

Description: U:\newwebsite\Btynotes\GhirlGiac.jpg
Left. Domenico Ghirlandaio, Portrait of a Lady. Right. Alberto Giacometti, Portrait of a Man


Description: U:\newwebsite\Btynotes\Giot-Egt.jpgAbove. Giotto, Flight into Egypt. c. 1305 (this image has had the colors partly restored, since the original is now in an advanced state of deterioration).
Here is a glimpse of the original:
Description: U:\newwebsite\Btynotes\Giot-EgyptSm.jpg

Vittore Carpaccio. Flight into Egypt. 1500. (scroll down to number 20)

Domenico Feti, Flight into Egypt, 1621-23. (way farther down opposite "For use in Times of Natural Disaster")

Norman Rockwell, Swimming Hole, 1943. (Click New Prints and enter Simming Hole in selection space.)

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Flight into Egypt, 1308-11. (# 3 on the list)

Radically Dionysian painting: Wassily Kandinsky, Improvisation 1911:

See also Van Gogh's Starry Night and Alberto Giacometti's Portrait of a Manin Beauty Notes 24, "Apollonian and Dionysian."

Incontestably Dionysian music. Led Zepplin, "Whole Lotta Love"

Possibly a fusion of Apollonian and Dionysian music. Beethoven.


b. Apollonian color preferences: Clear, well-differentiated color as in Ghirlandaio's portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni (above, p. ).

Dionysian color preference: Soft, atmospheric color as in Domienico Feti, Flight into Egypt, 1621-23.

Description: U:\newwebsite\BtyAdds\FetiEgypt.jpg

7.2 Thoughts about the Apollonian/Dionysian classification.
a. Art works have different aspects. Songs have music and words, novels have style, narratives, and themes. Clearly each of these aspects can be classified as Apollonian or Dionysian. Apollonian lyrics can be set to Dionysian music; more often the lyrics can be more or less Apollonian (or Dionysian) than the music. Obviously this complicates the classification of works. One might think that in general it's better to have all aspects Apollonian or Dionysian to the same degree -- or the same mixture throughout. But I'm skeptical that things are that simple and I suggest we keep an open mind until we collect much more evidence than we now have.
b. The application of these categories to lives raises lots of questions too. Is a predominantly Apollonian life better than a predominantly Dionysian one? More fundamentally, what exactly do such lives look like given the variety of occupations? Could an Apollonian go in for extreme sports? Perhaps not. Could a Dionysian be a surgeon? Probably she'd do better as a trader on Wall Street.

7.3 Basic ontological points to remember

1. For the beauty of a thing to be real = for statements about its beauty to be literally true or literally false.   Most false claims are either overestimations or underestimations of the thing’s beauty, not claims in behalf of hopelessly ugly things.
        This is the only reality requirement that beauty needs to meet in order to be real.
        But note: the “thing” can be an object or event or state of affairs as a whole, or some part or aspect or property of an object, event, or state of affairs.
        Great confusion comes from not being clear about exactly what the subject of a beauty claim is.

        Beauty claims when fully specified are timeless and placeless.
        A thing is beautiful to is worthy of admiring contemplation (G.E. Moore) – this assumes optimal conditions externally and internally.

7.4 Plato's dialogue Hippias Major, which concerns the definition of beauty.

The one surviving Platonic dialogue that discusses the definition of beauty (or 'fineness') has been downplayed in TOB, relegated to a mere footnote. This is mainly because it is so inconclusive and also because it offers nothing that is not included in the other dialogues. Still, if anyone is curious about it, I recommend that you go to the Wikipedia site for it where there is good summary.


7.5 Cicero's notion of the idea in the artist's mind

Ask yourself to imagine the most beautiful face or horse or anything else. Specifically ask yourself to imagine one more beautiful than any actual instance you have ever seen. Can you do it? Cicero thinks you can and that artists commonly do just that when they are trying to sculpt or paint a perfect paragon of humanity, say. Supposedly they form that idea and paint using it as a guide. I am suspicious of this claim. I think it harbors a conceptual confusion. Of course when we say we have imagined our ideal person we have done something, but is it really to have imagined a person whose face, as imagined, is more beautiful than any we have seen -- even for ourselves? What do you think? It's a topic we must discuss in class.

7.6 The Neoplatonic impulse to ascend to Beauty Itself as inherent to aesthetic experience and Kirwan's phenomenological version of this.

Plotinus takes over Plato's notion of the great chain of beauty, as it might be called, the ranking of realities from the least to the greatest in beauty, culminating in Beauty Itself. As has already been pointed out, there are terrific difficulties in working out the details of such a picture. It's hard enough to imagine ranking everything in relation to everything else even within particular domains, the animal kingdom, for instance, let alone nature as a whole, let alone nature as opposed to culture, etc. But it seems clear that Plato and Plotinus were not all that interested in the details. Their eye was mainly fixed on the transcendent, off-the-scale destination – as well as on a few big steps, such as from individuals to properties, from physical beauties to intellectual beauties. With this orientation, the lofty end-state of contemplating Beauty Itself (in Plotinus the "One") trumps any experience, however impressive, of the myriad details like the ones we have been sampling. And Plotinus makes the process of rising up to that level sound quite wonderful, doesn't he? If only we believed in ourselves, in our capacity to prune away the squalor and triviality in our souls, his account of lifting ourselves up to grasp the unspeakable brilliance of Pure Beauty would be enthralling, wouldn't it? Like the religious mystic's account of seeing, or dwelling within the presence of, the unspeakable majesty of God.

Actually, the accounts of experiencing the primal realities (God, Beauty Itself) are conspicuously spare, uninformative. Most of the descriptive content concerns the object, the remainder being how wonderful, blissful, rewarding, breath-taking the experience is. There's nothing specific about what that experience is like, nothing sensory or conceptual. A common theme in all the accounts is the ineffability of the experience, which means the impossibility of putting it into words. In this respect the mystical experiences are quite unique. Other things called inexpressible are not really inexpressible: love, sexual ecstasy, beauty-rapture, drug highs, and their negative counterparts, and so forth. They just take analytic effort, sustained noticing of features, and then semantic invention to find descriptions that fit.


Informative or not, the Neoplatonists' accounts are apt to seem somehow right, at least in pointing toward an ideal. They have seemed so to countless people over the ages, so we should try to understand their appeal. Let's see what momentum the great chain of beauty generates and how that might lead us on to the apex. The key attribute of the top level is that it is abstract. So if we can understand the appeal of the abstract we will make progress. Since the process of abstraction begins at the second level of the chain, let's concentrate on that. As we move from the beauty of particulars to the beauty of properties, what happens? The object of the experience changes. It was a particular face (or a particular sounding of a chord, or a particular rose). Then it is a face-plan, a schema, a type, an arrangement of features, something abstract in that many particulars can share it. What is involved in experiencing the beauty of this abstract thing? It's not all that easy to say. One thing we can say it must involve is finding each fully compliant instance beautiful, that is, each face that complies with the face-plan. Like admiring slim legs or a slender but curvaceous silhouette wherever it appears. Strictly this is admiring a class of instances as opposed to a single one. To admire a class is to admire each and every member of that class as it comes into view in the flesh or in memory. But what is it like to admire the very idea of that sort of face or figure? This is like relishing the thought of that face-plan without reference to any full-fledged particulars. It's abstract in that the mental envisagement of the plan lacks the sensory clarity and detail of any particular face. It's an idea, not a concrete image. Platonists say that it is purer because of its abstractness. What can this mean? Do your ideas seem purer than your visual, that is, your perceptual images? In a way they do. One's ideas come without any of the complications of a perceptual image. That is, the perceptual image is of things that look different when you come up close, whereas your ideas finesse all of that. They don't contain the possibility of closer inspection. So it's as if all the close-up grotesqueness is purged away, the sticky ridges on the lips, the pores and hairs and jelly in the corners of the eyes just don't exist in the idea. The skin and everything else seems immaculate just because all those things are lost in the abstraction.

(Yet if the face-plan is going to be highly, richly beautiful it's going to have to be highly specific, not just a schema for placing the main features. All the contours must be included, so the idea is a quite complicated one. It won't be easy to think the thought of all those being just so. This is why designers have to depend so heavily on drawings, that is, on their visual perception, in order to create a beautiful face-plan. A consequence of this is that it's not easy to conjure up a really beautiful abstraction of something as complex as a human face. More on this in a moment in connection with Cicero's statement about the artist's idea.)

Another way in which abstractions seem purer is when they concern only a few features, as when the law of gravity applies to everything that has mass but only specifies it in respect of its weight and what follows from that, given its other characteristics. So the law seems purer than the phenomena it governs. Does this kind of comparative purity, which boils down to simplicity, make the law more beautiful than its instances?

This is not an easy question, since the phenomena are much more complex but perhaps have more beauty-dimensions than the law has. The answer seemed obvious to Plato, but then he had a strong bias in favor of the abstract. If we give the perceptible world its due, it isn't at all clear that the enormous variety and vivacity of sensory beauties fails to match, in overall beauty, the sparer beauties of things abstract, such as mathematical and physical laws. And if the phenomena turn out to be as beautiful as the laws, then we are left not with an ascent toward Beauty Itself but to a much more level field of beauty. There would still be rankings within categories, but not a "segmented" ranking in which physical things occupy the lower and abstract things the upper rank. And if that's right then the drive toward the unattainable loftiness of Beauty Itself seems to rest on a misunderstanding.

Kirwan might reply to these criticisms in either of two ways: (1) He might say that the impulse toward better and better beauty isn't denied by what was just said. The answer, however, is that this impulse may be as well satisfied by ascending to higher beauty within each category: more beautiful music, gardens, theories, and so forth. There can still be plenty of impossible dreams of super-beauties of all these kinds, as well as of superabundant cumulative beauty. Beauty Itself need not be involved at all.


(2) Or he might say that the allure of the abstract persists, whatever may be said about the equal beauty of particulars. People want to get away from particulars. They want to lose the sense of time, to come to a state of fulfillment so encompassing that neither future nor past matters. That state of timelessness can only be accomplished by focusing on something as abstract as hyperkalon, Beauty Itself. Since this is the completest fulfillment we can imagine, it must also be the most beautiful. (Mystical religions have called it Nirvana.) And, he might conclude, our thirst for beauty contains the seed of it from the start, a yearning for a beauty "that no object could satisfy." Such may be his final defense of our "unappeasable yearning" for beauty.

Kirwan, Beauty, Ch. 3, "Beauty/God," leading ideas summarized and pp. 36-38 excerpted.

In the first chapter, when he is setting forth his basic theoretical beliefs, Kirwan cites Neoplatonism as the most suggestive of the theories of beauty as to the inner nature of our experience of beauty precisely because it stresses how mysterious ("impenetrable") Beauty Itself seems, how utterly beyond analysis. This mystical tradition, which runs through Plotinus and Christian mystics inspired by him, treats Beauty Itself as a mystical reality which is a "beauty beyond beauty," not just kalon but hyperkalon. Kirwan's distinctive angle on this is to translate the metaphysical descriptions into descriptions of the experience of beauty -- that is, he gives a phenomenological spin to the older, metaphysical doctrine. He disavows any literally metaphysical intentions, aiming only at explaining how such ideas spring naturally from the "structure" of our experience. (He also repeatedly insists that "beauty" applies only to experience, not to a property of anything -- thus our beauty-experience is not literally the experience of beauty. I will ignore this since it is not strictly necessary to the present point. But it's worth saying in passing that I think it is a confusion of categories that stifles practical aesthetics. The historical Neo-platonists at least stood clear of this muddle.)

In Plotinus, as we have already seen from the selections in the core text, Beauty Itself comes across as more than a property, as some kind of active being – in that respect being like a god with the power to create, only as abstract a god as could be, with nothing at all in the way of personality (no anger or love or expectations). More like a radiant force, like light, but having nothing physical about it. Beauty so conceived (if such mystical thinking can be called conceiving) is understood in terms of a special class of analogies. The analogies used are understood not to be literally descriptive. Thinking with them was not analogical in the ordinary sense precisely because they couldn't be fully grasped (by our "finite" intelligences). When the theologians of the Christian era spoke of God as being Beauty itself they told us to think of his beauty as transcending ordinary beauties infinitely in the direction of superiority. By such superlatives they counseled us to give up all hope of forming a coherent concept of it and accept its utter and absolute incomprehensibility.


To be sure hope is held out that after death the blessed in Paradise will be less baffled, more enlightened, will understand better. But the sort of intellect this blessedness implies is as incomprehensible as the object of its adoration.

Aside from the metaphysics the ancient texts contain descriptions of the experience the Neoplatonic devotee has, which involves the following elements.

1.     a sense of earthly beauty being a distant sign of the divine perfection.

2.     a sense of Beauty Itself being incomparably more beautiful than sensible beauty of any sort. Nothing sensible can be beautiful in all of its properties. There is bound to be unbeauty in it. Beauty Itself is purely beautiful.

3.     a sense of Beauty itself being far more beautiful than any invisible beauty that we can conceive of, as in mathematics or other abstract domains of knowledge.

4.     an emotional tone of distress or melancholy at the vast distance between the beauties we can conceive of and Beauty itself.

5.     a yearning to transcend the limitations of our natures

Kirwan's argument is that something like the Neo-platonic experience of beauty is latent even in our ordinary experience of beauty. If we probe it deeply enough we will find within our delight in the beauty of a person or flower or theorem, lying at a deep level, a sense of an unattainable, ungraspable beauty which the beautiful particular only dimly reflects. Here is how he puts it.

Part of the phenomenality/psychology of that it is always incomplete. This incompleteness is something reflected in what might be called the ‘Ideal' theory of Neoplatonism, is, indeed, perhaps its very origin. It is expressed by Plotinus in the idea that matter can never be wholly mastered by the pattern which is the Idea – for it would then be that Idea – and so can never be wholly beautiful, and in what Ficino [a 15th century Florentine Neo-platonist] calls the rule of Necessity, that phenomenal beauty exists in matter, place, time, and form, and is thus less perfect than that beauty which is bound by none of these...It is the feeling is as much a token as a presence, which expresses itself in the ascription of timelessness to moments of beauty.

But beauty is also time in the midst of timelessness. The notion of the hyperkalon, for the sake of which Plotinus even asserts we should forego beauty, begins with the phenomenon/act itself...The notion of a beauty beyond time or Necessity, of beauty as, paradoxically, in being phenomenal, in itself incomplete in itself, is part of the perception of beauty. That is, we experience beauty not as a consummation but as an intimation. Hence it is that to describe this perception as simply a form of pleasure or delight seems absurdly reductive, for it is experienced as both a transcendence and a falling short... This is the peculiar nature of beauty which has led its [Neoplatonic] theorists, assert that our pleasure is not simply one pleasure among others...[but rather is] a yearning for the ultimate beatitude. What I wish to assert now, abandoning any commitment to the transcendental in a theological sense, is that beauty is a yearning without object...[Such] Yearning differs from simple desire in that it posits a degree of desirability in the object that it would seem that no object could ever satisfy. It differs from simple dejection insofar as this impossibility of being satisfied does not lead it to relinquish its fundamental orientation towards the object – it is an ecstasy of despair. For these reasons yearning seems the best characterization of the kind of pleasure we feel in beauty; a pleasure, pervasive and intense, that is a combination of delight, regret, desire, and resignation.


Kirwan connects this unappeasable yearning with the metaphysical longing for ultimate explanations that philosophers have tried to provide, always with less than full success.

Reviews or discussions of James Kirwan: Jennifer A. McMahon, web (Google, Kirwan - Beauty/p.1 Jenny's Home Page; Crispin Sartwell, web (Google, Kirwan – Beauty/p.1 by Crispin Sartwell.

7.7 Great chain of being (Christian version) illustrated.

Description: U:\newwebsite\BtyAdds\ChainBeing.jpg

For further description of the ideas reflected in this illustration, consult the Wikipedia article at:

7.8 George Bernard Shaw on the pleasures of heaven and hell, Man and Superman, Act III. Shaw suggests a more robust sort of ideal existence than Kirwan's, in the instructor's opinion.


The following passage comes from the dream interlude in Act III where Don Juan in hell meets Dona Ana, a woman he tried to seduce and whose father he killed in the course of that attempt. Shaw's hell is a place where pleasure reigns, heaven being a place for creative spirits and Platonic philosophers. A discussion develops between Don Juan, Dona Ana's father (in the form of a commemorative statue) and the Devil. In describing hell Don Juan describes the things in life that feed the wish to escape into something higher. The connection with the Neoplatonic desire to rise above concrete particulars should be obvious even if here the final destination is somewhat different, in that the activities of the creative spirits in heaven span the arts and the sciences, which deal with concrete particulars as well as abstract forms.

The earth is a nursery in which men and women play at being heroes and heroines, saints and sinners; but they are dragged down from their fool's paradise by their bodies: hunger and cold, age and decay and disease, death above all, make them slaves of reality: thrice a day meals must be eaten and digested: thrice a century a new generation must be engendered: ages of faith, of romance, and of science are all driven at last to have but one prayer "Make me a healthy animal." But here [in hell] you escape this tyranny of the flesh; for here you are not an animal at all: you are a ghost, an appearance, an illusion, a convention, deathless, ageless: in a word, bodiless. There are no social questions here, no political questions, no religious questions, best of all, perhaps, no sanitary questions. Here you call your appearance beauty, your emotions love, your sentiments heroism, your aspirations virtue, just as you did on earth; but here there are no hard facts to contradict you, no ironic contrast of your needs with your pretensions, no human comedy, nothing but a perpetual romance, a universal melodrama....

Don Juan proceeds to describe the other place, which would certainly be nearer to Plato's ideal, even if not precisely the same. Presumably its denizens are also bodiless.

In heaven, as I picture it, dear lady, you live and work instead of playing and pretending. You face things as they are; you escape nothing but glamor; and your steadfastness and your peril are your glory. If the play still goes on here and on earth, and all the world is a stage, heaven is at least behind the scenes. But heaven cannot be described by meraphor. Thither I shall go presently, because there I hope to escape at last from lies and from the tedious, vulgar pursuit of happiness, to spend my eons in contemplation --


8. Sense of Beauty Matters

8.1 Hutcheson's application of the criterion of uniformity and variety to geometrical and astronomical examples.

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8.2 Diagram of the dispositional concept of beauty.

Description: U:\newwebsite\Btynotes\332SOB1.jpg

8.3 The concept of a disposition puzzles students needlessly. Here are some reminders of key points, which are really quite familiar from our ordinary experience. They are non-controversial once we think clearly about them.
**Dispositional properties are very common in the physical world (powers, potentialities, capacities). For instance:
Solubility, Magnetism, Gravity, Hardness, Reflectance, Poisonousness, Nutritiousness, etc. They are part and parcel of oureveryday and scientific reality.
**These properties are possessed (are real) even when the disposition is not activated – even if the disposition is never activated. The salt is soluble in water even if it will never be put in water -- i.e. even if its solubility is never manifested.
**Many dispositional properties have highly complex activation-conditions. Complexity is a fact of the world, not a reason to doubt the reality of the disposition.
**The fact that no one would know salt was soluble if they had never seen it dissolve doesn't change the fact that it is soluble without relation to anyone's knowledge.
**A disposition isn't exclusively "in" an object; neither is it exclusively "in" the manifestation. It's a state of affairs involving both. The state of affairs is a hypothetical one.
**Response-dependent sensory properties (color, odor) are a special class of dispositional properties. They too are real even when the disposition is not activated, and even if the activating conditions are complex.
**The salty flavor of salt is a response-dependent sensory property. It is not exclusively in the salt (it's not an inherent property of the salt), and not exclusively in the experience of the taster; but in the hypothetical state of affairs of the salt causing the flavor sensation when and if the experiencer tastes it. This hypothetical state exists even when the salt is never tasted.

8.4 Short statement of the updated Response-dependent theory of beauty:

Beauty is the capacity of an “object” to elicit a viewer’s disinterested, non-defective pleasure in the non-verdictive (or descriptive) aesthetic properties of the object when the object is perceived accurately (in accordance with the consensus of maximal discriminators operating under optimum conditions) in respect of its sensory properties and, where relevant, conceptual properties, and also in respect of the non-verdictive aesthetic properties that emerge from the sensory and/or conceptual properties; and where the pleasure is the pleasure that maximal, non-defective hedonic discriminators, operating under optimal conditions, experience over time.


8.5 Sense of beauty, essential points:

On the sense of beauty theory beauty is defined in terms of a reliable sense, hence a consensus of optimal respondents under optimal conditions is an essential condition of beauty existing. This consequence breaks down into a number of parts, formulated in terms of beauty questions:
1. If there is never a consensus among those meeting Hume’s optimizing conditions, even when operating under ideal circumstances, about any beauty question, then there is no reason to believe there is real beauty.
2. If there is a consensus under optimal conditions for a restricted class of beauty questions (e.g. easy beauties and unbeauties) then that part of the beauty ranking is real enough.
3. For beauty questions on which no consensus under optimal conditions exists, the candidates for a given rank are reasonably judged on a level.
4. We can conceive abstractly of creatures who meet higher optimizing conditions than the best humans do reaching a consensus and thus satisfying the sense of beauty idea, and coming to different rank-ordering than ours. But absent some reason to think that the possibility is real, this gives no reason for doubt about our best beauty judgments. It is more plausible to expect any such super-ideal judges to just make finer distinctions than we can.

This is a further development of the ideas put forward by Hutcheson and Hume. They never pursued the topic far enough to reach this point.


8.6 Sense of beauty criteria of accuracy: three levels

A beauty-perception is accurate if and only if it represents the following:
1. Agreement with the consensus of maximal discriminators of sensory properties (or of non-sensory ones re. math et al) of the object, operating under optimal conditions;
2. Given 1, agreement with the consensus of maximal discriminators of aesthetic properties of the kind relevant to the object;
3. Given 1 and 2, agreement with the consensus of maximal discriminators of (nondefective) aesthetic pleasure or satisfaction derived from the aesthetic properties of the object.

Note that by "object" is meant anything perceived as beautiful (or unbeautiful), whether a single object (or event) or a part, aspect, or stage of a whole object. "Object" in this sense applies to things of any magnitude, a phrase in a poem, the whole poem, the poet's whole body of work, the entire earth, the solar system, etc. It can also apply to mental states and to appearances of things.

Note also that the term objectivity is probably best avoided, or at least used with discretion, since it tends to produce confusion when one is talking about beauty. It’s enough to speak of beauty as a reality.

8.7 Sundry questions about the USOB theory (Updated Sense of Beauty theory)

1. If sensory properties turned out not to be real properties, would that refute the USOB theory?
Short answer: No, but it would complicate the application of the theory to things.

2. Can pleasure or any other hedonic state be a valid indication of a real property?
Short answer: Not of inherent properties; but arguably of response-dependent aesthetic and moral properties; also arguably of the truth of theories.

3. What is the role of ostension (ostensive definition) in conveying aesthetic concepts including beauty?
Short answer: Very extensive! Crossmodal similarities can be conveyed only ostensively; beauty also, due to its heavy dependence on descriptive aesthetic properties – regardless of how many concepts figure in its full definition.


9. Aesthetic Properties, verdictive and descriptive

9.1 A vocabulary for beauty

9.1.1 High-value beauty-terms beyond “beauty” and “beautiful.”
            a. Slightly more pointed:
lovely, elegant, gorgeous, good-looking, handsome, stylish, exquisite, harmonious, sublime, fabulous, glorious, brilliant, radiant…
            b. Compounds with well-: well-proportioned, well-balanced, well-composed, well-shaped, etc.
            c. Adverbial compounds: beautifully clear/bright/sparkling/luminous, beautifully smooth/soft/delicate, beautifully vivid/fresh/bold, beautifully subtle/precise/intricate, beautifully regular/coordinated/spaced, and so on ad infinitum.

9.1.2 Intensifiers of the above
            Re. beautiful. very, highly, sublimely, exquisitely, radiantly, unsurpassingly, unmatchably,… (in constructions of the …is beautiful form)      
Re. a. very elegant/good-looking/handsome/stylish/ (not with the others)  
            Re. b. very well-x.
Other intensifiers replace well-: superbly x, perfectly x, exquisitely x, and of course beautifully x …
            Re. c. intensifiers selectively replace beautifully, e.g. exquisitely delicate, superbly bold, perfectly coordinated,…But many in many cases there is no  intensifier. Very added on top of beautifully is merely redundant.

9.1.3. Moderators of the above
            Re. beautiful.
Perhaps somewhat b and almost b are examples, but not fully idiomatic. Clearly idiomatic moderators replace b: pretty, good-looking, nice-looking, attractive, cute, sweet, pleasant, neat… We also speak of things having a modest degree of beauty.
            Re. a. sort of elegant/good-looking/handsome/stylish (not with the others)
         Re. b. pretty well-x, fairly well-x, reasonably well-x,…
Re. c. Moderators selectively replace beautifully: reasonably clear, somewhat subtle, fairly regular/precise/vivid.
But the aesthetic value implication of these is often questionable.

9.1.4 Terms for the middle range
            Re. beautiful. plain, ordinary, commonplace, unremarkable, middling, OK, not really bad, average…
            Re. a.-c. I don’t think there are any idiomatic counterparts for the middle range.

9.1.5 Qualifierers for the middle range
very/extremely/utterly plain/ordinary/unremarkable…
The only moderators I can think of are: a bit plain, somewhat ordinary
9.1.6. Terms for unbeauty of various sorts
Note that there is no idiomatic negative counterpart for beautifully-p. Unbeautifully-p is artificial.
            General: unattractive, grotesque, ugly, hideous, monstrous...
            More pointed: dowdy, dumpy, frumpy, kitschy, inelegant, messy, sloppy
            Structure: ill-formed, poorly formed, badly formed, misshapen, deformed, disproportioned, distorted, distended, lumpish,...
            Movement: awkward, clumsy, ungainly, ungraceful, sluggish, gawky...
            Appearance: ill-favored, unsightly, peculiar-looking/sounding, weird-looking/sounding, horrible-looking/sounding, awful-looking…
            Intellectual quality: slow, unintelligent, dense, stupid, unperceptive, unobservant, insensitive, undiscriminating, illogical, irrational, unreasonable, confused, thoughtless, bigoted, prejudiced, narrow-minded, silly...

            There are many more categories and terms. Context considerably affects which terms apply. Note the absence of terms for psychological effect: pleasant, delightful, disgusting, etc. To the extent that these denote mere causal effects without any implication of their being appropriate, they can't designate values of the things that cause them. But if one uses them with the understanding that the delight, say, is justified (that one ought to feel it toward this object), then the term designiates an aesthetic value. Delightful used this way is like desirable in its proper sense of ought to be desired, a positive value term, not just a term of psychological effect.


9.2 Descriptive aesthetic properties: the Kikki-Bubba, Ping-Pong and Mil-Mal crossmodal resemblances (shown in class ppt. presentation).

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Which of A and B is Kikki? Which is Bubba? Which is Ping? Which is Pong?
Which of C and D is Mil? Which is Mal?
Have we any difficulty whatever saying?

Note that these examples come from experimental psychology, where very considerable uniformity of response has been found.

9. 3 Faster or slower lines (subtly) illustrated. Here's the contrast I mentioned in class between two of the greatest draughtsmen of the 20th century, Matisse and Picasso. It's not the strongest contrast that one can find in the works of the two, but its subtlety makes another point of importance.

You can access lots of these artists' line drawings by Googling "Matisse line drawings" and "Picasso line drawings."


9.4 Synesthesia. Another mistake to avoid is confusing aesthetic appearances, commonly called "crossmodal" perceptual effects, with the experiences of synesthesia. Synesthesia is a deviant condition whereby subjects see things in one modality as having properties in another without there being any crossmodal resemblance between them. Synesthetic perceptual linkages are in that sense arbitrary. Synesthetes vary enormously as to the linkages they experience. Numbers are seen to be colored, often in "another space," and colors are experienced sonically as well as visually. Psychologists are busily investigating the neurological factors producing these illusions. Since they aren't based on crossmodal resemblance they do not play any role in the theory of beauty. The following diagram illustrates the phenomenon of numeral-color synaesthesia.

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Can you instantly find the triangular pattern of numerals in the display on the left? In a time test you will lose to a synaesthesiac who sees the black and white display in the fashion shown on the right.

Seeing numerals or letters as differentially colored is typical of synaesthesiacs. Their ability to outperform normals in tasks facilitated by illusory color differentiation is proof of their being synaesthesiacs. But the differentiated colors they see have an entirely arbitrary relation to the shapes. Normals are not deficient in being unable so quickly to discern pattern-differences that depend on such illusions. Hence there is no reason to confuse synaesthesiac phenomena with cross-modal resemblances.

Synaesthesia, like color-blindness, obviously will affect the aesthetic experience of those who suffer from it. But this fact in no way challenges the objectivity of aesthetic value.


9.5 Harmony/disharmony of color -- see above, in Sensory Color, p. 60.

9.6 Aesthetic Property Exercises. Test your intuitions about the properties listed in the questionnaire concerning the following three paintings against the intuitions of the instructor. View using full screen setting. Record your impressions concerning them. If your intuitions suggest other relevant terms list them in your comments.

9.6.1. Raphael's School of Athens, 1512.

Description: U:\newwebsite\Btynotes\Raphael4.jpgWhich of the following paired terms applies?
1. Agitated___No_____ Calm___Yes_____
2. Confident__Yes____ Uncertain__No____
3. Weak_____No_____ Strong__Yes_____
4. Balanced___Yes____ Insecure___No______
5. Clearly ordered____Yes____ Confused____No______ 
The figures in particular are:
6. Robust____Yes____ Frail____No______
7. Purposeful___Yes___ Hesitant___No______
8. Affected___Mostly not*____ Natural___Mostly yes*___
The architecture (see the whole painting) is:
9. Apollonian___Yes___ Dionysian__No____
10. Pompous___No*___ Modest____No_____
The colors (in the detail) are:
11. Bold__No* ___ Tame____No_____
12. Harmonious___Yes___Gaudy__No_____
Comments. 8. Figures strike poses that to our eyes are somewhat artificial. But they are vigorous. The total effect is that of some momentous occasion. 10. Architecture is imposing but it lifts us up rather than intimidates. (The full height (not the full width) of the painting is posted below, showing the architecture.) 11. Colors are strong enough to set each figure off but none is really bold. Restrained is a better overall description than timid. The overall effect is also certainly harmonious, not gaudy (not dull either).


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9.6.2 Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night.
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Some of the forms in the painting:
1. Writhe manically_Yes_ Remain at rest_ No__
2. Writhe joyously__?__ Writhe in distress__?__
3. Move majestically_No_ Move nervously_Yes_
4. Heave like waves _Yes_ Shoot like lightning_No__
5. Quiver/tremble_Yes­­__Jerk/jump/zigzag__No__ 
6. Flicker__Not likely_ Glow/ burn___Yes_____
The painting as a whole is:
7. Exultant__Maybe___ Depressed__No_____
8. Ecstatic__Yes______ Meditative__No_____
9. Impulsive__Yes____ Measured___No____
10. Balanced__Yes____ Tottering, insecure__No___
The brush strokes are mostly:
11. Sinuous, graceful_No__ Stubby, awkward_Yes___
12. Careful__No?__ Hasty, urgent_ Yes____
Comments: 2. The emotional  tone isn’t clear enough to justify joy or distress. Perhaps some of each.
6. The stars/planets certainly glow and pulsate. Flicker goes too far. 7. Ecstasy of some sort seems certain, exultation may be too positive.10. A fine example of asymmetric balance. 11. The sinuous lines are made up of stubby, inelegant dabs. 12. Not careless, certainly, but not clearly careful either.

Interposed: Cezanne's Still Life (discussed in the article on the home page)

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9.6.3 Matisse, The Egyptian Curtain, 1948.

Re. Matisse's colors and forms
1. Are his colors hot, cool or neither?__The hot are very hot, the cool for contrast_
2. Are they harmonious or garish?___Overall vibrant, bold, rather than garish___
            Esp. the pink and the orange. __Saved from being garish by black________
3. Is the light bright, dim or somewhere in between?__Incoming light bright against inky darks___
4. Are the textures in the table soft, hard, or what?__Soft, cushy, cottony (but unreal)_____
5. What shapes are given to the fruit?__Awkwardly angular, stiff_________
6. Is the palm expansive or contractive or neither?__strongly expansive_______
7. What terms describe the marks on the palm fronds?__stubby, staccato,____
            Do they look lively or leaden? Bristly (Yes) or limp?_No: lively though heavy_______
            Try comparing the strokes with music.  Staccato, dry, percussive
Re. the painting as a whole
8. Is the painting overall tight or loose?_Loose in detail but tight and bold overall_________
            Does it suggest thought or sensuous feeling?__sensuous feeling_________
            Sharply focused or somewhat unfocused vision?__Unfocused immersion______
Comments: 3. Sparkle effect in palm from white areas. Similarly on edge of fruit and bowl.
8. Flattened, sketchy renderings suggest diffuse vision that doesn’t pick up details.


9.7 Matisse's Joy of Life (1905) as a prime example of expressive line and color celebrating sensuality.

This will be referred to now and then in connection with Scruton. Since all aesthetic matters turn on comparisons (including contrasts) the image needs to be juxtaposed by one that is strikingly similar in theme but different in line and color.

9.8 A model of dry painting technique, in itself inexpressive but in context suggesting a sardonic intellectual attitude toward sensuality.

 Mel Ramos, Manet's Olympia, 1974. Lithograph.


9.9 Visual balance: Mondrian options re. balance, from the ppt. presentation in lecture, plus a complication where gravity is a factor in the design.

Description: U:\newwebsite\Btynotes\Mondrian4.jpg

Which of the four is best balanced? How are the others off-balance? To which side or direction?

Description: U:\newwebsite\Btynotes\Albers.jpg

9.9 Sample lists of descriptive aesthetic properties for color and other domains: note that most of these apply to color desigs, not to simple color chips and that all of them are to be understood as crossmodal,

vivid, tart, tangy, spicy, sugary, fiery, glowing, scintillating, garish
warm, hot, robust, vigorous, rich, bold,
cool, cold, icy, fresh, naive, deep, pure
pale, delicate, anemic, washed-out, timid
soft, loud, shrill, plaintive,
glassy, hard, metallic, misty
earthy, celestial, ethereal, dark, mysterious
moist, dry, dusty, dirty
heavy, light, sparkling, joyous, sad, gloomy...

Check Ruskin's description of Alpine sights in pp, 2-3 above for more examples of descriptive aesthetic expressions.

10. Aesthetic Experience and aesthetic pleasure

10.1 Edward Bullough, "Psychical Distance as a Factor in Art and an Aesthetic Principle," British Journal of Psychology, V (1912), excerpt.

...a fog at sea can be a source of intense relish and enjoyment. Abstract from the experience of the sea fog, for the moment, its danger and practical unpleasantness, just as everyone in the enjoyment of a mountain-climb disregards its physical labor and its danger (though, it is not denied that these may incidentally enter into the enjoyment and enhance it); direct the attention to the features "objectively" constituting the phenomenon -- the veil surrounding you with an opaqueness as of transparent milk, blurring the outline of things and distorting their shapes into weird grotesqueness; observe the carrying-power of the air, producing the impression as if you could touch some far-off siren by merely putting out your hand and letting it lose itself behind that white wall; note the curious creamy smoothness of the water, hypocritically denying as it were any suggestion of danger; and, above all, the strange solitude and remoteness from the world, as it can be found only on the highest mountain tops; and the experience may acquire, in its uncanny mingling of repose and terror, a flavor of such concentrated poignancy and delight as to contrast sharply with the blind and distempered anxiety of its other aspects...

Bullough proceeds to describe this experience as one in which a "Distance seems to lie between our own self and its affections..." This distance puts the scene before us "out of gear with our practical, actual self," enabling that scene "to stand outside the context of our personal needs and ends..." The suspension of practical interests also supposedly enables us to see the foggy scene in terms of imaginative perceptions of the sort figuring in Bullough's description.

The ideal "psychical distance" to attain for aesthetic purposes is then specified as "utmost decrease of Distance without its disappearance." That is, one should be just on the verge of anxiety without actually submitting to it, so as to be highly aroused without one's arousal leading into actual fear and therefore practical action.


My view of this is that Bullough actually needs two dimensions of nearness/distance to obtain the result he describes. One is the practical concern dimension. Along that dimension the contemplative viewer should be near the pole of complete unconcern. The other is the imaginative arousal dimension. Here the viewer should stand near the upper end of high arousal where both imagination and emotion go into high gear. In this respect one is highly engaged.

10.2 Perception of architectural regularity and irregularity. Temple of Poseidon at Paestum, the properly geometrical original and various distortions (perhaps not so easy to see as they should be). Shows the difference between beauty and the appearance of beauty. A homework assignment presented but not required for the current class.

Description: U:\newwebsite\BtyAdds\greek-temples-9.jpgTake-home assignment based on the preceding images: This is a test of your sensitivity to appearances vs. realities, both of actual (depicted) form and of beauty of form.
a. Can you see the differences of depicted form in images A-D? Which deformations of architectural form do you see? Be specific -- and careful.

b. Can you see any differences of beauty among A-D? Try to rank the four versions of the temple in point of beauty.
Best________ 2nd best_______ 3rd best________ Worst ___________
Explain as best you can why you believe this ranking is justified.

c. When you detect an objective irregularity does your impression of its beauty tank either immediately or after a short time? Be specific. Comment below or on back of page.

If you don't detect any objective difference or difference of beauty, why do you think that is? And what does that difficulty imply about the objectivity or subjectivity of our perceptions of beauty?

After the homework is handed in we will exchange impressions.


10.3 Comments on Scruton re. disinterested pleasure being "intentional pleasure," and a proposed alternative.

Background: “Intentionality” refers to the content of a mental state. Diogenes looked for an honest man. But this doesn’t imply there was an honest man.
      *Similarly believing the world will end tomorrow doesn’t entail that the world will end
           then (or ever).
      *These contents of thought don’t have to be real for the thought (or mental state) to occur.
          They are only “intentional.”
Scruton's application: Scruton says disinterested pleasure differs from simple sensory pleasure in having intentional content. This would make intentionality a distinguishing feature of disinterested pleasure.

However, I (JB) doubt intentionality can be what distinguishes disinterested from interested pleasure. For me the key differentia is whether the pleasure in taken in the person profiting somehow from the object. It can't be that interested pleasure has no intentional content, since being pleased by winning the lottery certainly has the content 'I won the lottery.' I can have that pleasure even if I'm mistaken and I didn't win the lottery. So that interested pleasure certainly has intentional content. And in fact Scruton and others seem to have something else in mind, namely that aesthetic pleasure is taken in the thing that pleases having aesthetic properties. So it seems that it's really the particular intentional content that matters when the chips are down.

As to whether a seemingly simple sensory pleasure, e.g. the pleasure of a hot bath, is aesthetic or not depends, I think, on whether the pleasure is taken partly in a cross-modal resemblance, e.g. the bath being experienced as “friendly,” “cordial,” “kindly,” “ministering to my needs.” People don't consciously think of much of their sensory pleasure this way. But baths do offer possibilities of aesthetic pleasure (of a middling grade, at least) and probably a lot more such pleasure is preconsciously experienced as aesthetically enriched. In any case my notion of disinterested pleasure doesn't rule out simple sensory pleasure from being disinterested. It keeps it from being aesthetic only if it's not taken in descriptive aesthetic properties.

11. Aesthetic judgment

11.1 Ideal versus ordinary aesthetic appreciation and judgment. Ideal appreciation and authoritative judgment concerning each and every example are clearly beyond the capacity of any single person and almost certainly beyond that of humanity collectively in real time. But this is in no way a difficulty for the theory of beauty. Specialization is a practical necessity for ambitious aesthetic appreciators -- ones who are keen to appreciate according to the precise degree of aesthetic merit of the subject. They have to be connoisseurs in that particular aesthetic domain. Anyone who has tried to become one knows how demanding the practice is. There's no time or energy to cover many specializations. So a reasonable person will be satisfied to be an inexpert appreciator for the greater part of the sprawling aesthetic landscape.

Further, anyone concerned about the quality of her life will have to balance aesthetic interests with a number of other interests. Some forms of beauty will fit into one's life better than others, so it is essential to give prominence to them and keep others at arm's length. There is nothing irrational or anti-aesthetic about this, which is fundamental to the formation of taste publics. What can be hoped of such focused aesthetic interests is that they acknowledge their limitation. Their dislikes of other tastes won't be justified. But as things are we can expect partisans to be biased, which is to say unfair to other taste publics. Doubtless some taste publics are crude and unenlightened, but mere difference does not imply inferiority.

One consequence is that a theory of real beauty not only doesn't assert that beauty is equally accessible to all persons or that in the fullness of time actual taste will be empirically universal, but that the contrary will be the case and should not be regretted.

11.2 The Possibility of Altruism. Here's a URL of a helpful article on the ticklish subject of altruism, as a corrective to the thoughtless notion that our motives are always self-regarding, never disinterested or other-directed. I hope it will clarify the thinking of anyone attracted by that idea. The article is by a former member of the Maryland Philosophy Department, Judith Lichtenberg, now at Georgetown U.

11.3 Beauty and goodness

I think there is much to be said for the idea that any sort of goodness at a high enough level should count as beautiful. Admittedly this is a minority view within the community of philosophical aestheticians today. Still, I think it deserves a fair hearing. On the one hand we want to draw distinctions and keep separate things separate. On the other hand we want those distinctions not to obscure real connections. So each distinction needs careful consideration. Consider the case of the moral and the beautiful. How separate are they?

The examples of moral goodness that seem most natural to call beautiful are those that are of unusual moral excellence, such as extraordinary courage under fire, extraordinary dedication to good causes, extraordinary fairness in dealing with friends and adversaries alike, extraordinary kindness to those who deserve it even when it they are unlikeable, and so forth. People who are beautifully moral are those who act above and beyond the call of (ordinary) duty – the term for this is "supererogation." Add to that the excellence of the moral inclinations being so well ingrained as to come naturally, and don't you have a picture of a beautifully moral person? This idea has been put forward by Guy Sircello in A New Theory of Beauty (1975) and I think it has a lot of plausibility. My own further thought about it is that our experience of contemplating such a person (as of acts which flow naturally from such a person) is not ultimately distinguishable from paradigm cases of aesthetic admiration, such as admiring the beautiful faces we have been studying. Both kinds of case involve conspicuous harmonies. Dwelling on them brings us joy if we are not turned off by something like envy or small-mindedness. Think of the pleasure we get from fictional portrayals of authentic supererogation. By "authentic" I mean to exclude the stereotypical cases where the personality is a caricature, not a possible reality.1


Just how far this connection goes is a big, big question. The most serious apparent discrepancy between the morally good and the beautiful (or the aesthetic in general) is the rule-governed character of morality. Typically morality aims at compliance with good rules of conduct. Aesthetic goodness, on the other hand, does not seem typically to be a matter of compliance with rules. On the other side, pleasure seems to be more determinative of aesthetic excellence than it is of moral excellence. I do not think we can hope to solve this problem in this course.

11.4 Sublimity.The original meaning of sublimity, dating from the late classical period, was that of literature that was "high, lofty, elevated" and was naturally interpreted as "the echo of greatness of spirit." The most authoritative manuscript, by an unknown author, is known conventionally as "On the Sublime" by "Longinus," an evidently inaccurate attribution. Sublime discourses are marked by "great thought, noble feeling, lofty figures (of speech), (elevated) diction, and superior arrangement (composition)." Greatness in the composition is like "a spark that leaps from the soul of the writer to the soul of the reader" regardless of any rules. [Quotations from the manuscript and from the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Proetics.]
A 18th century translation into French reintroduced the text which then had enormous influence. The sublime was applied not just to literature but to nature and to visual art and music. It was pushed in the direction of romanticism which celebrated awesome and even frightening phenomena providing they somehow raised the spirit of the observer to a level of noble exaltation. Feeling was emphasized, but it had to be feeling that was appropriate to the phenomena. Further, the phenomena had to be positive: vampires and ghosts need not apply. The British aestheticians and Immanuel Kant did much to establish the sublime as in important aesthetic category.

12. Art problems

12.1 Thoughts about the capacity of the different sensory modalities to provide artistic media.

(a) The volume of a sound is parallel to the brightness (or lightness) of a color. Pitch, timbre, and volume make up a set of sonic dimensions parallel to the three color dimensions (hue, saturation, lightness).

(b) What in visual fields is comparable to noise in sonic ones? Interesting question. Is graininess? And how is that related to texture? Texture can be very sharp and regular whereas graininess is usually assumed to be irregular -- and thus more like noise.

(c) Bats' echolocation capacity was brought up by one student as enabling them to perceive shape. Good point. But notice, it works only by a running stream of sonar clicks. Vision presents simultaneous as well as sequential shape information. That's a significant difference that makes vision far more informative. Also echolocation in bats is limited to single objects. Vision takes in a whole field, admittedly with selective focus but with the periphery also contributing significantly.

(d) The three-dimensional structure of color and tone is essential to the possibility of sonic and color composition. The lack of comparable structure in olfactory and gustatory elements seriously limits their composability (even apart from their other deficiencies). They have neither harmonic structure nor a single well-ordered spectrum. See #11 for information about the properties of scent.

(e) Visual fields also have geometrical properties, which in turn enable pictorial representation and its counterpart in film, cinematic representation. Auditory fields lack geometry. But auditory fields (flows) are conspicuously rich in rhythm and dynamic properties. These help to give them the power to suggest spatial movement, muscular dynamism, and qualities of speech and thereby emotions, which serves them well in music. The latter is recognized by Plato in the Republic Bk.3.

Thus the full story of the powers and limitations of sensory modes in relation to art is interestingly complicated.

12.2 Fine art as opposed to vernacular or outsider art. A fine example of vernacular/outsider art (visionary subdivision) is the The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly by James Hamilton, who also invented the version of Christianity which this construction celebrated. View it at: and read the account given on the related page of the creation and preservation of the work.
For a museum devoted exclusively to such art, access the internet pages of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. Here is an example from their collection:

13. Evolutionary explanations of beauty

13.1 Amazingly resiliant creature, the tardigrade:
13.2 Jeffrey F. Miller on the influence of sexual selection on evolution.


14. General theoretical methodology

14.1 Causes versus reasons. A key ambiguity in "the reason why Mary finds that beautiful." The phrase can refer to (1) the causal background that led to Mary's aesthetic liking, say, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. But it can also refer to (2) Mary's reasons. These are the things that Mary finds likable about the piece. Mary's reasons will always be properties of the piece that she enjoys aesthetically. That is, it will be what Mary finds beautiful in the piece -- the quiet melody, the stately rhythm, etc. This need not be at all the same as the causal background. Suppose she has recently received a hearing aid that allows her to hear the music more clearly than before. This is part of the causal background but is no part of her reason for liking the piece. Similarly Mary may have been taught that Barber's Adagio is a great work. But that will not be what she likes about it, hence not part of her reason for liking it. (It will not be a musical liking, so to speak.)

15. Miscellaneous

15.1 The Nature of Happiness. And here's an article in the same blog which is relevant to the topic of a beautiful life.

15.2 How is the material we have dealt with related?
Here's a diagram that shows the relations between the material we will discuss concerning beauty. Of course it doesn't answer the hard questions concerning beauty. It only aims to organize the sprawling domain of beauty.

Description: U:\newwebsite\Btynotes\332Dia.jpg

No diagram can contain all aspects of what we have discussed without all sorts of overlays, which would be too confusing. But you should note in the margins the important things not mentioned above. For instance the difference between the beauty of things and actions, and between outer things and our experiences. I think it will be useful to come back to the diagram from time to time to fit in the things we have been dealing with.


15.3 A further thought on bad reasons for subjectivism (or nihilism) about beauty. Another reason that sometimes leads people to deny the reality of beauty is that agreement about beauty is seldom all that important. Compare beauty with justice or other moral values. We believe it is highly important to develop a basis for correct moral judgments because social stability and harmony depend on agreement. Hence moral philosophers agonize over hard cases: should we allow late term abortions, should we feed ourselves by killing animals, and so forth. Questions about beauty aren't matters of life, death, guilt and remorse. Is this a reason to deny the objectivity of beauty and other aesthetic values? I don't see any logic in the idea that it is. Practical importance is no test of truth. What do you think?

15.4 Scruton on truth, goodness, and beauty further analyzed.
Scruton’s formulations don’t always bring out the complications in the relations among these three.
1. Beauty is an intrinsic value, whether or not it is an inherent property, as opposed to a response-dependent one. It is important not to conflate those two ideas:
<Intrinsic vs. instrumental [value]> and <Inherent vs. relational: esp. response-dependent [property]>
2. Beautiful but not true and beautiful but not good are both possible where the beautiful thing has propositional content (poem, play, novel, or designated portrait or landscape). There is no contradiction in these contrasts.
3. Pursuit of beauty, truth, or goodness is quite different from the existence of the same. Similarly enjoyment of the same is logically independent of existence.
Similarly belief in the beauty of the content of a proposition differs from belief in its truth.
Similarly belief in the moral goodness of an action or person differs from belief in its beauty.
4. a. Rationality requires us to believe what we have reason to believe is true (not just what is true).
b. Similarly rationality requires us to desire what we have reason to think good (not just what is good.)
c. Similarly rationality requires us to enjoy what we have reason to think beautiful (not just what is so).
c’. Rationality only requires us to hope that what we enjoy is beautiful.
            “          “          “          “          “          “          “          “ not unbeautiful.
5. Optimistic rationalism (optimistic about our cognitive powers) will hold that in the main these contrasts can be resolved. Thus in the main:
d. Cognitive rationalism requires us in the main to believe the true (in accordance with our reason for belief).
Even if d is true, to get the same brief principle for goodness we must adopt a stronger rationalism, one that supposes dedication to goodness. Then:
e. Good will rationalism requires us in the main to pursue the good…
Even assuming the preceding, to get an aesthetic counterpart we must suppose beauty-perceptiveness and beauty-preference. Then:
f. Aesthetic rationalism requires us in the main to enjoy the beautiful.
The above is as close to Scruton’s simple principles of rationality (Beauty is a reason for enjoying a thing, etc.) as we can get.
            Scruton is also concerned about cross-over cases in which aesthetic attraction leads one into moral or intellectual error, or where concern for the good does the same – or the other way around, in which an intellectual concern leads to an aesthetic or moral error. Those cases don’t invalidate any of the above principles of rationality.


15.5 Checklist of terms, phrases, and ideas having a role in the updated SOB theory.
1. Response-dependent property
2. Phenomenal quality (quale/qualia, sense-datum/-a)
3. Inherent property
4. State of affairs
5. Activation of a disposition (manifested disposition)
6. Apparent color
7. Ostensive definition
8. Non-verdictive aesthetic property
9. Crossmodal similarity
10. Expressive/-ness
11. Adversive beauty
12. Defective/deficient emotional state/response
13. Optimal discriminator/-tion of ____
14. Optimal conditions for discrimination of _____
15. Aesthetic specialization
16. Beauty inaccessible to humans
17. Aesthetic knowledge
18. Personal preference among beauties
19. Love of unbeautiful things
20. Unbeautiful states of mind
21. Beautiful visual illusions
22. Easy (vs. difficult) beauties
23. Taste publics
24. Suitability for a taste public
25. Unbeautiful/ugly aesthetic properties
26. Functional beauty (not = practicality)
27. Formal beauty
28. Attributive (vs. predicative) use of “beautiful”
29. Adverbial beauty ascriptions: “beautifully____”
30. Beautiful properties/aspects
31. The object of one’s pleasure
32. Interested/disinterested pleasure
33.  Defective/nondefective pleasures
34. Acceptable vs. optimal pleasures
35. Divergences defeating real beauty
36. Divergences defeating real color
37. Divergences confirming real color
38. Divergences confirming real beauty
39. Synaesthesia (vs. aesthetic perception)
40. The test of time
41. Good enough aesthetic responses/judgments


15.6 Normal and natural responses to beauty (based on Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just).

1. Primal experience: I see a beautiful young girl (Nausicaa, say, in the Odyssey) and am enraptured by her beauty.
2. First derivative: I want to go on looking at her, to see the beauty more fully and for a longer time.
3. Second derivative: (a) I want to celebrate her beauty by expressing my delight, and (b) I want to share the delight in her beauty with friends who can appreciate it.
3. Third derivative: If the setting is deficient, I want to improve it to set off her beauty better.
4. Fourth derivative: If it or the experience is fugitive, I want to replicate the beauty in those of the various ways that will best preserve or enhance my pleasure in her beauty.
5. Fifth derivative: I want to dwell upon the beauty so as to see what features make the beauty so great, in the hope of increasing my delight and gaining as intimate a knowledge of the beauty as I can.
6. Sixth derivative: I want to make myself as beautiful as I can to make myself as worthy a companion of her beauty as is possible.
7. Seventh derivative: I want to experience other beauties equal to and even superior to her beauty, in the same and in different categories.

(JB) Of course not all of these desires will grab everyone who is enthralled by the beauty of a person. All that need be claimed is that there is a natural tendency in their direction which in favorable circumstances will produce the desire. The working out of the facilitating and inhibiting conditions for these derivative desires will add up to a psychology of beauty. Not surprisingly the whole story will be quite complex.
From another angle the study of the derivatives helps us formulate a theory of aesthetic rationality. For insofar as the experience of Nausicaa's beauty provides a reason for seeking the things sought by our derivative desires, it shows how, and under what conditions, it is rational to seek these things.

15.7 "Everyday Beauty" and the category of Design or Applied Arts

            High-grade artifacts fit paradigmatically into the now well-established category of Design. Some production models fit there too because the design is superior. Some design is just, or mainly, for aesthetic enjoyment. Some is mainly non-aesthetically functional, such as racing yacht design (Reliance). Many designs of artifacts don’t make it into the cultural category because they aren’t good enough, but industrious cultural entrepreneurs can get away with elevating them – this is what drives “everyday aesthetics.” Similar populist sentiments motivate commentators who promote “vernacular” arts and design (art brut, untrained art, visionary art) to the elite level. We can consider this later in connection with Scruton’s views on art.
            The standard categories of notable design include: mechanical design, naval architecture, jewelry, fine furniture, high fashion, urban design, advertising design, game design (e.g. video game design). Museums of fine art now often have departments dedicated to some of the most fine art-like examples. The line between fine art and design is now rather fluid. The term "applied arts" like the earlier term "decorative art" has historically been closer to "fine art," as is shown by the profusion of museums of applied or decorative art. See the link given below. Many examples of decorative art are so finely made that they have long been honored as a species of fine art, for example Faberge eggs. Here is a link to a display that bowls one over:

A video on Faberge's activity in Russia of c. 1900 makes the point that ceremonies of royal coronations, etc.:


Design disciplines (from Wikipedia)
Applied arts     Architecture     Automotive design      Benchmarking design     Communication design
Configuration design     Engineering design    Environmental graphic design    Experiential graphic design
Fashion design    Game design    Graphic design    Information architecture    Industrial design
Instructional design    Interaction design    Interior design    Landscape architecture    Lighting design
Military design methodology[29]    Modular design    Motion graphic design   Product design
Process design    Service design    Software design    Sound design    Systems architecture
Systems design    Systems modeling    Transition design    Urban design    User experience design    Visual design      Web design    Biological design
One has to look up many of these categories to find out what they are. For each there is a literature, an association, training programs, competitions, and so forth.

            In a sense, performances are also designs, but are more commonly (idiomatically) referred to as performances (or actions). Chess or poker games, the telling of a joke…. The list is endless. This may seem to cheapen beauty but doesn’t because the grade of beauty may be low compared to the beauty we take to be paradigmatic. But exceptional performances of complex sorts may be highly beautiful. A superb basketball player and exceptional athletes of many other sorts are examples. Aesthetic analysis of any and all of them is quite possible.

In The Sciences of the Artificial by polymath Herbert A. Simon the author asserts design to be a meta-discipline of all professions. "Engineers are not the only professional designers. Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones. The intellectual activity that produces material artifacts is no different fundamentally from the one that prescribes remedies for a sick patient or the one that devises a new sales plan for a company or a social welfare policy for a state. Design, so construed, is the core of all professional training; it is the principal mark that distinguishes the professions from the sciences. Schools of engineering, as well as schools of architecture, business, education, law, and medicine, are all centrally concerned with the process of design."[32]


Essential references for a quick orientation:
1. Applied arts:
2. Design museums:
3. Art-like furniture:
4. Furniture classics:
5. Automotive design: world’s fastest production model.
Inside Koenigsegg provides for the first time, a look behind the scenes at Koenigsegg and examines how innovation within the highest echelon of sports car manufacturers will affect the broader automotive world. Company founder and principal, Christian Von Koenigsegg, hosts this nine-part series, which was produced at Koenigsegg headquarters in Angelholm, Sweden.

In the fourth episode, Christian Von Koenigsegg explains why the interior details of the Agera R gives it a million dollar feel. For an extended video of a Car and Driver reporter putting it through its paces, see:

6. An example of design competition winners: from the International Journal of Design. Modern culture has institutionalized all of these categories.

7. Fashion design. An up to the minute display of high fashion (not any streetware at all, I think).
Another area of high fashion is minimalism. Here's a site with curious examples and text.

8. Historical note: how did highborn Romans wear a toga? Here's the account given on:

drawing of toga

The toga was the national garment of Rome; in the Aeneid, Virgil has the god Jupiter characterize the Romans as “masters of the earth, the race that wears the toga” (1.282). Only male citizens were allowed to wear the toga. It was made of a large woolen cloth cut with both straight and rounded edges; it was not sewn or pinned but rather draped carefully over the body on top of the tunic. Over time, the size and manner of draping the toga became more elaborate; compare this bronze statue from the beginning of the first century BCE with this statue of a Roman senator or this statue of the emperor Augustus, which clearly illustrate the toga as worn during the late Republic and first centuries of the Empire. As shown in the drawing at left, the cloth was folded lengthwise and partly pleated at the fold, which was then draped over the left side of the body, over the left shoulder, under the right arm, and back up over the left arm and shoulder. It was held in place partly by the weight of the material and partly by keeping the left arm pressed against the body. The large overfold in the front of the body was called a sinus, and part of the material under this was pulled up and draped over the sinus to form the umbo. The back of the toga was pulled over the head for religious ceremonies, as in this statue of Augustus as chief priest (pontifex maximus). It was difficult to put the toga on properly by oneself, and prominent Romans had slaves who were specially trained to perform this function. Togas were costly, heavy, and cumbersome to wear; the wearer looked dignified and stately but would have found it difficult to do anything very active. Citizens were supposed to wear togas for all public occasions (here, for example, is a man being married in a toga), but by the beginning of the Empire Augustus had to require citizens to wear the toga in the Forum.

9. Beauty in sports is a HUGE topic which is divisible into many subcategories drawing on different skills and strengths. It has highly sophisticated and wholly commonplace varieties with different species and gradations of beauty.

10. Table settings. Scruton's citing these has produced a scatter of commentary. Here is an internet site that discusses variations in table settings over several centuries in the West:
It turns out that the variations are relatively minor. There are, in my opinion, good reasons for having the fork to the left and the knife to the right. See what you think.

11. Body art -- tattoos. Here is a site with a zillion Polynesian tattoo designs to peruse:

15.8 Arthur Schopenhauer on the sublime. Pererga and Paralipomena, II, 599-600.

The  will, as the  thing-in-itself,  is the  common  substance  of all beings,  the  universal element of  things.  Accordingly, we have it in common with everyone else even with the animals and with still lower forms of existence:...
...the will, as that we all have, is precisely what is common; and so every violent manifestation thereof is common, that  is, it reduces us to a mere sample  of the  species; for  we  then  reveal merely  the  character  thereof. Hence all anger is common, boisterous hilarity, all hatred, all fear, in  short,  every  emotion,  that  is, every  movement  of the will, when it becomes so strong that in consciousness it decidedly outweighs knowledge,  and  causes  one  to  appear more  as  a willing than a  knowing   being.  In giving way to such   an emotion, the greatest genius becomes like the commonest son of earth. On the other hand, whoever wishes to be positively uncommon and therefore great, must never let the predominant movements of the will take complete possession of his consciousness, however much he may be solicited to do so. For instance, he must be capable of perceiving the spiteful and malicious attitude of others without feeling his own provoked thereby. Indeed, there  is no surer  sign of greatness than  when  a man refuses to take any notice of offensive or insulting  remarks,  in that he simply  attributes them,  as  he  does countless  other errors,  to  the poor knowledge of the speaker and, therefore, merely perceives them  without  feeling them.  Gracian's words can also be explained from this:  'Nothing lowers a man so much as when he shows himself  to be simply  a human being (el mayor desdoro de un hombre es dar muestras  de que es hombre). According to the foregoing, a man has to conceal his will as he does his genitals, although both are the very root of our true nature. We should merely display knowledge, just as we should only our faces, on pain of becoming common.


Even in the drama, where passions and   emotions are it special and peculiar theme, these nevertheless readily appear common and vulgar.  This  is  particularly  noticeable in  the French tragedians who  have  aimed  at  nothing higher  than  a description of the passions and attempt to conceal the vulgarity of their subject first behind  a fatuous  and ridiculous  pathos  and then behind  epigrammatic witticisms. The famous Mademoiselle Rachel, as Mary Stuart in her outburst against Elizabeth, reminded me of a Billingsgate woman, although she played the part superbly. In her  performance, the  last  scene  of farewell also lost everything sublime,  that  is, everything truly  tragic,  of which  the  French   have  not  the  least  conception. The  same part was  played  incomparably better   by  the  Italian  actress Ristori; for,  in  spite  of  great  differences  in  many   respects, Italians  and   Germans  nevertheless   agree   as  regards  their feelings for  what  in  art  is profound, serious,  and  true,  and  are thus opposed  to the French who everywhere  betray  their  want of such  feelings.  What is noble, i.e. what is uncommon and indeed sublime, is brought into the drama primarily through knowing as opposed to willing. For the sublime element hovers freely over all those movements of the will and makes them even the material of its contemplation. Shakespeare, in particular, shows this everywhere, especially in Hamlet. Now if knowledge! reaches  the  point  where  the  vanity  of all  willing and  striving­ dawns  on  it  and  the  will  consequently abolishes  itself,  it  is then  that   the drama   becomes  really  tragic  and  hence  truly sublime  and attains its supreme purpose.

16. Further questions about the updated theory of beauty

16.1 Questions and answers regarding descriptive aesthetic properties.

As the class discussions have shown, there is a lot of confusion about these properties and resistance to the idea of intrinsic cross-modal resemblances. In particular people want to regard them not as intrinsic but as circumstantial associations. They also want to know how to tell whether they have the one or the other sort of connection. The root of much of this befuddlement is that any really cross-modal resemblance will produce, in the normal course of things, a cultural association that will be conveyed to the young. Thus the warmth of red as opposed to blue or green will cause red things that are literally warm to be showcased. They will be thought of as more typical than they actually are and thus as the source of the impression of color-warmth. People typically do not try to distinguish circumstantial associations from intrinsic resemblances, nor do they keep in mind that in describing red as warm one is using language figuratively, not literally.

When doing theory, such blurring of distinctions is fatal. One does have to be analytical rather than buying into the "common wisdom," which is not wise at all. Yes, you may say, but how do I tell which is a bona fide intrinsic resemblance? The practical answer is to contrast true resemblances with obviously circumstantial associations. Red is often used for danger signs, for signs that demand you stop, and so forth. But clearly, there is no resemblance whatever between the color and danger or legal warning. There is only a conventional association. One has to ask, why is red chosen for fire extinguishers and stop signs. The answer is that it is very noticeable, hard to ignore. Bright yellow is also conspicuous. These are not cross-modal relations but literal. Also one can contemplate examples where a posited metaphor is inapplicable, as if a person called a color "suspicious," or "sarcastic." A simple color doesn't have the necessary structure to be expressive of suspicion or sarcasm. Then one looks at red for its warmth and the intrinsic character of the resemblance is more obvious than it was before one made those comparisons.