Beauty and the Mind: a Study about Beauty

"The contemplation of beauty causes the soul to grow wings."-Plato

The concept of beauty has been a puzzle for philosophers, poets, and artists for a long time. Beauty is ever so a masterpiece that we seek in everything. It arouses, triggers, and stimulates reactions in the soul and mind of the human being that brings pleasure never felt before. To define beauty is to abstract it in one thought, and beauty cannot be abstracted. It is far wide as the world can hold feelings in the heart of its individuals. Beauty is not as simple as what the eyes can see, it is an experience far deeper. It is not just the smile of the Mona Lisa or the sunsets on the shore, it is a dilemma that took the western philosophers long enough to wonder about. So what exactly is "beauty"?


To understand beauty, on one hand, Plato's aesthetics philosophy must be understood. Plato's view on beauty is objective, he adopts the theory of forms, in which he says that the physical world that we live in is not the real world, but instead, there exists another realm that he calls the realm of forms. The physical world is only a shadow of this realm, which is true and unchangeable. Thus, the concept of beauty is somewhat untouched, perfect, and does not depend on the observer of it.


The aesthetic analysis is a careful investigation of the qualities which belong to objects and events that evoke an aesthetic response. The aesthetic response is the thoughts and feelings initiated because of the character of these qualities and the particular ways they are organized and experienced perceptually (Silverman).


“The activity of art is based on the capacity of people to infect others with their own emotions and to be infected by the emotions of others. Strong emotions, weak emotions, important emotions or irrelevant emotions, good emotions or bad emotions – if they contaminate the reader, the spectator, or the listener – it attains the function of art.” -Leo Tolstoy


The classical conception, on the other hand, differs from Plato's. Aristotle has linked beauty with art, with something that can be touched and found on earth. He did not see that beauty was superior to us, but that it was somehow related to the good. He focused on studying existing forms of art, coming up with theories, to define beauty. In his words, “to be beautiful, a living creature, and every whole made up of parts, must … present a certain order in its arrangement of parts” (Aristotle, volume 2, 2322 [1450b34]). this means that Aristotle focuses on proportion, harmony, symmetry, and other aspects to draw out beauty.


Philosophers argued that beauty is not only objective, it is also subjective. It depends on the viewer, his thoughts, and his feelings. The viewer influences the concept of beauty with what he has in his mind of pre-understanding. But what happens to the mind when it sees beauty, and what part of it responds to beauty?


Peker, R. (n.d.). Broken beauty [Canvas]. https://www.pinterest.fr/pin/702561610617496861


According to brain expert Professor Semir Zeki, when people look at something they find beautiful, a portion in the front of your brain "lights up", and it is called the medial orbitofrontal cortex. Blood flows increasingly in that area, which is associated with pleasure and reward. Thus, Zeki meant to say that seeking beauty is in fact, seeking pleasure. What is new in Zeki's study is that beauty received through the ears does not differ from that received through the eyes. So when you listen to music, it is the same as when you observe the Mona Lisa, you are rewarded with the same pleasure. Not only that, but he additionally explains that "The extent of activity in the medial frontal cortex is directly proportional to the declared intensity of beauty. So if you experience something as very beautiful on a scale of 1 to 10 and you give it a 10, then the activity is going to be stronger than if you experience it as a 1 out of 10."


By contrast, another portion of the mind is stimulated when they find out something ugly. Zeki said it is called the amygdala, also active with fear and anger, as if the body is prepared to avoid what he finds ugly. However, this study deprives people of emotional privacy.


Yet, nobody paused to think that what's beautiful for someone, maybe ugly for others, and what's ugly for someone, maybe beautiful for others. Norms differ, and trying to subjugate beauty, is only a philosophical work. Take into consideration the cultural difference also, do we all love the Monalisa?


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