A Little Question Goes A Long Way.

A friend posed a striking philosophical question: can something be beautiful if it isn’t seen? Obviously the answer is no which made me think that maybe there was more to the question so I started rambling about whether a tree that falls in the forest with no one to hear it makes a sound. And there obviously the answer is no, although the tree falling does create the potential for sound–that is, it vibrates the air in a way that would be perceived as sound if anyone were around to hear it, unless the tree falls in a vacuum. That’s all a matter of physics, though, whereas the question of beauty is a matter of metaphysics. And it is an interesting question, one that brings to mind the heavy philosophy of Roland Barthes who, in his essay The Death Of The Author, considered the role of the reader, or, in the case of art, the role of the spectator, in creating the work. It’s a cooperative process, and in the case of graffiti it becomes multilayered. The utilitarian object, mass-produced, is repurposed as a canvas and made unique. And what is beauty, anyway? Clearly it’s subjective, neither universal nor measurable, with no specific standard.

That was probably a longer answer than he wanted.

Source: Qwantz.com

 

10 Comments

  1. Kristine @MumRevised

    Your friends would except that beauty answer from you. I doubt they ask you a question if they are busting to pee, or just about to walk down some aisle.
    I prefer the negative numbers of the Celcius scale because it mimics how I feel about cold.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Sometimes my wife just stops me with, “You’re babbling.” Most of the time, though, I do have a point. It’s just the proverbial needle in the proverbial haystack.
      And I also prefer the negative numbers of the Celsius scale. It’s why I hope we never switch to Kelvin.

      Reply
  2. mydangblog

    Interesting. Would our definition of beauty change if we were all blind and could only feel things? Would certain textures or shapes then be more beautiful than others?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Now you’re getting into the story of four blind philosophers describing an elephant by feel. How would we see the world differently if we could see the ultraviolet or infrared segments of the spectrum, or, for that matter, if we perceived other wavelengths as visible light? I don’t know if we can even imagine such a thing, beyond saying that it’d be damn hard to sleep.

      Reply
  3. Ann Koplow

    Very classy, Chris.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thank you for another classy comment.

      Reply
  4. BarbaraM

    You always make me think when I don’t want to! So what was the answer to the champagne/caviar ratio? And do you have any left over? Pre-boiling/freezing I mean.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Now I want to make up a business card and put “Making people think when they don’t want to” on it. Obviously thinking is contagious.
      And I’m afraid all questions regarding the champagne/caviar ratio will need to be directed to Jay North who draws the dinosaur comics.

      Reply
  5. Gilly Maddison

    My brain hurts now. I mean if the tree falling doesn’t make a sound because no one is there to hear it we have to ask it it really exists if no one is there to SEE it and if it catches fire, does the smoke smell if no one is there to sniff it? But what is REALLY bugging me now is this – I am upstairs in bed – there is no one downstairs looking at ANYTHING so does any of the ground floor exist? See why my brain hurts?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Take a deep breath, and maybe some aspirin, and remember Samuel Johnson’s refutation of Bishop Berkeley. And if you’re still concerned you can always reenact Samuel Johnson’s refutation of Bishop Berkeley and then your foot hurting will take your mind off your brain hurting.

      Reply

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