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what is beauty

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What is beauty The very concept is rejected by many contemporary artists and estheticians. This essay is an attempt at an advocacy of beauty; it will show how beauty is at the very core of science, clarify the creative and innovative aspects of beauty, and demonstrate its cultural universality, biological foundations, and human necessity. Finally it will show that beauty is the source of our deepest knowledge of the world, and the foundation of effective and ethical action. Part of our predicament is that the arts have been cut off from the sciences, cut off, I mean, from any coherent and well-founded and surprising conception of the cosmos that we live in and of our own bodies and nervous systems. Thus a scientific answer to the question of beauty has been until recently unavailable to artists and estheticians. At the same time science itself has been until recently--though there are encouraging signs of change--fragmented, disunified, and mortally afraid of value questions. In practice all true scientists prefer beautiful scientific theories to ugly ones. But this aspect of science is a long way from the routine of institutionalized science and has seldom penetrated through to the arts. That "spiritual sense of gravity" is close to what I mean by beauty; but to give this phrase some meaning we must pursue our first question without qualms that analysis will destroy it. ...read more.


Beauty, it seems, has a perfectly satisfactory chemistry of its own, without having to borrow a bit of the pleasure-chemistry of sex. We must reexamine the whole relationship between the beauty that men and women find in each other and sexual desire. Could it not be that the truth is exactly opposite to what Freud thought?--that much of what we think of as sex is actually a relaxed or dissipated form of esthetic excitement; that sexual attraction is not enough by itself to assure the reproductive pair-bond, and that it must borrow- sublimate!--part of the energy of spiritual experience! What might a psychoanalysis based on such ideas look like? Let us return to the question: what is the beauty-experience a reward for? To answer this question we need to know a little about the timing of human evolution, as it is becoming clear from the work of paleoanthropologists, paleolinguists, archeologists, and paleogeneticists.7 The crucial point is that there is a peculiar overlap between the last phases of human biological evolution and the beginnings of human cultural evolution, an overlap of one to five million years, depending on how the terms are defined. In any case, there was a long period during which human culture could exert a powerful, indeed dominant, selective pressure upon the genetic material of the species and thus upon the final form it has taken (if ours is the final form). ...read more.


recite poetry in poetic meter; all over the world the meter has a line-length of about three seconds, tuned to the three-second acoustic information-processing pulse in the human brain. Our acoustic present is three seconds long--we remember echoically and completely three seconds' worth of acoustic information, before it is passed on to a longer-term memory system, where it is drastically edited, organized for significant content, and pushed down to a less immediate level of consciousness. If a natural brain rhythm, like the ten cycle per second alpha rhythm--or the three second audial present--is "driven" or amplified by an external rhythmic stimulus, the result can be large changes in brain state and brain chemistry, and consequently in the amount and kind of information that the brain can absorb, and in the kind of higher-level processing it can put to work. We showed that in addition to these effects, poetic meter contained within the line a regular pulse of syllable-patterns, made of heavy and light, long or short, tone-changing or unchanging, against which significant and expressive variations could be played. For instance, the English iambic pattern consists of a regular pulse of one unstressed and one stressed syllable, thus: -/ . For instance, the English iambic pattern consists of a regular pulse of one unstressed and one stressed syllable, thus: - / . But consider Sonnet 18 by Shakespeare: ...read more.

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