We determined last night that, YES, beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, and, YES, humans do have souls. I’m not entirely sure about this, but it looks like Aristotle is so far the only philosopher consistent with our results!

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KleinerYou think Aristotle believes beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Sure, he denies that there is a Platonic Form of Beauty. Beauty, like being and goodness, is said in many ways. But that is not to say that it is in the eye of the beholder. While beauty would have a perspectival aspect to it for Aristotle, it is bound up in the object having the an orderly arrangement of parts and the proportion proper to the thing (given what it is). So beauty is to be understood in terms of the nature of the thing, so it has some objective metaphysical content to it.

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SandiAbsolutely beauty has objective metaphysical content that apparently our finer sensiblilities, or as Democritus put it–legitimate senses recognize. And it is then our “bastard” senses which produce the myriad other subjective criteria which are naturally more individualized.

“There are two forms of knowledge: one legitimate, one bastard. To the bastard sort belong all the following: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch. The legitimate is quite distinct from this. When the bastard form cannot see more minutely, nor hear nor smell nor taste nor perceive through the touch, then another finer form must be employed.” Democritus, Fragment 11, The Symmetry of Life

One of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics described beauty as not only objective but THE object!

“The research worker, in his efforts to express the fundamental laws of Nature in mathematical form, should strive mainly for mathematical beauty. He should take simplicity into consideration in a subordinate way to beauty … It often happens that the requirements of simplicity and beauty are the same, but where they clash, the latter must take precedence.” Paul A. M. Dirac

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HuenemannPost authorHmm. I don’t buy the “beauty first” claim for physics. It seems to me what must come first is accuracy in prediction. A theory with bad predictions is just wrong, no matter how beautiful it is. And an ugly theory that gets predictions right is right. There is no obligation on nature’s part to satisfy our notions of beauty.

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HuenemannPost authorI defer to your greater knowledge. (On this matter.) The question is vague enough that I thought Aristotle might well be squeezed into a “Yesser”, and Holberg seemed to agree. The soul question as well, of course, doesn’t specify what a “soul” is. We are making progress, but the oracle, like the one at Delphi, is cagey.

Can Aristotle claim that order can be in an arrangement of parts without committing himself to a platonic form of orderliness?

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Sandi“The oracle at delphi neither reveals nor conceals but rather gives a sign…”

Heralclitus

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SandiActually the fragment reads, “God who speaks through his oracle at Delphi…”

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KleinerBeauty is a matter of judgment, as is morality. Morality is “in the eye of the beholder” insofar as it is the man of practical wisdom who rightly judges what virtue would require in a situation. But this is rather different than what we usually mean when we say “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” (that usually implies an absence of objective truth, a perspectivism, a subjectivism, etc).

Interesting question on what is needed for order. I think Aristotle’s view certainly requires the Unmoved Mover. Is that enough, or do you need some Platonic Form of Oderliness in addition?

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HuenemannPost authorI don’t think an unmoved mover is enough – that brings motion, but not necessarily order, right? I suppose A would say he doesn’t need a platonic form – he’s effectively replacing universals with tropes, as contemporary jargon has it.

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SandiAs I understand it Om in Hindu tradition is a primal vibration which “communicates” all things into existence…and Kabalistic tradition has intellectual communication proceeding affective and material existence in the seifirot.

Perhaps “unmoved” is a relative term and the unmoved mover is merely unmoved in relation to that which it moves? Perhaps Aristotle uses it as a point of reference in a discourse that he does not seem to conceive as linear at all.

Every frequency of energy has particular and various effects on that which it “moves” to action and in a fairly predictable manner so it is not such a stretch to imagine a primary vibration or source of energy that communicates in specific and various ways to bring about (which produces) order.

There is also much to learn from transposons and the way DNA “communicates” in the evolutionary process. All I am saying I guess is perhaps we too narrowly define communication and “its” ability to produce order AND change :)

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Sandi@Huenemann re: beauty first

The history of physics time and again seems to support a beauty first situation although scientists are reluctant to choose beautiful math over physical concepts. Non-Euclidean mathematics is just one example of purely abstract beautiful mathematics that was first conceived by islamic mathematicians as early as the 11th century however it wasn’t until Gauss in the 1800’s that the proofs were sorted out and even then these equations were thought to have no counterpart in reality until Einstein employed them to prove his theory of relativity which redefined our concept of space!

“The mathematician plays a game in which he himself invents the rules while the physicist plays a game in which the rules are provided by nature, but as time goes on it becomes increasingly evident that the rules which the mathematician finds interesting are the same as those which nature has chosen…The steady progress of physics requires for its theoretical formulation a mathematics which get continually more advanced. … it was expected that mathematics would get more and more complicated, but would rest on a permanent basis of axioms and definitions, while actually the modern physical developments have required a mathematics that continually shifts its foundation and gets more abstract. Non-euclidean geometry and noncommutative algebra, which were at one time were considered to be purely fictions of the mind and pastimes of logical thinkers, have now been found to be very necessary for the description of general facts of the physical world. It seems likely that this process of increasing abstraction will continue in the future and the advance in physics is to be associated with continual modification and generalisation of the axioms at the base of mathematics rather than with a logical development of any one mathematical scheme on a fixed foundation.”

P.A.M. Dirac

Modern physics, in my opinion, has come to rely too heavily on experiment and observation, experiments and observations which are grounded in our limited sensory apparatis and biased by blinding paradigms of current understanding and knowledge.

I almost appologize for relying so heavily on Dirac here but…when it comes to having experience with that which lies just beyond physics (metaphysics?) he has no scientific equal. So for anyone remotely interested I include a few more insights from his mind-boggling intellect :)

“I learnt to distrust all physical concepts as the basis for a theory. Instead one should put one’s trust in a mathematical scheme, even if the scheme does not appear at first sight to be connected with physics. One should concentrate on getting interesting mathematics.”

“It is more important to have beauty in one’s equations than to have them fit experiment… It seems that if one is working from the point of view of getting beauty in one’s equations, and if one has really a sound insight, one is on a sure line of progress. If there is not complete agreement between the results of one’s work and experiment, one should not allow oneself to be too discouraged, because the discrepancy may well be due to minor features that are not properly taken into account and that will get cleared up with further developments of the theory.”

“Just by studying mathematics we can hope to make a guess at the kind of mathematics that will come into the physics of the future … If someone can hit on the right lines along which to make this development, it may lead to a future advance in which people will first discover the equations and then, after examining them, gradually learn how to apply them … My own belief is that this is a more likely line of progress than trying to guess at physical pictures.”

“Theoretical physicists accept the need for mathematical beauty as an act of faith… For example, the main reason why the theory of relativity is so universally accepted is its mathematical beauty.”

“There are, at present, fundamental problems in theoretical physics … the solution of which … will presumably require a more drastic revision of our fundmental concepts than any that have gone before. Quite likely, these changes will be so great that it will be beyond the power of human intelligence to get the necessary new ideas by direct attempts to formulate the experimental data in mathematical terms. The theoretical worker in the future will, therefore, have to proceed in a more direct way. The most powerful method of advance that can be suggested at present is to employ all the resources of pure mathematics in attempts to perfect and generalize the mathematical formalism that forms the existing basis of theoretical physics, and after each success in this direction, to try to interpret the new mathematical features in terms of physical entities.”

Much to Dirac’s dismay, theoretical physicists during the 60’s/70’s became impatient (lazy or perhaps overly anxious to apply QM; to make the abstract concrete) and began tweeking his equations to match experiment.

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SandiOh and I absolutely agree with you about nature not being under obligation to comply with “our notions of beauty”. I think our notions of beauty clearly fall under Democritus’ “bastard senses” I think Dirac was experiencing a beauty that was beyond human judgement and could well be synonymous with predictability and unfailing accuracy.

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