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Dressing Room General The power of beauty! What is it and why does it affect us so?
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The power of beauty! What is it and why does it affect us so?
There have been (at least) 3 major discussions here on beauty:
1. Does objective beauty exist?
2. What do we want from beauty?
3. What do you get from beauty?

But what none of these explain to us is what’s the power of beauty and where does it come from.
Beauty has such an enormous power over us. For example, to make a good movie it is almost enough to have a pretty woman filmed throughout. If the director is good in filming her you don’t need much else (but it’s not an easy as it sounds). Obviously pornography accounts for a significant amount of time, energy, and money people spend, but more significantly it is the catalyst of advances in technology, which says something.

Of course beauty doesn’t have to be of people but it can be a beautiful watch, a sofa, but there’s usually a big difference between their power and that of a beautiful person. One possible exception is a beautiful viewpoint, where it is known that a beautiful view can get people to want to jump and commit suicide there. But perhaps it’s better to focus about people here.

Why does beauty affect us so? We literally can’t breathe when encountering it.
Where does its power come from?
What an extremely hard question Chris! A riveting question though.
It's connected to the Why is it so exhausting to encounter bad art? discussion.

I don't have a great response, but I think it has to do with a certain energy encountering beauty demands. I remember Socrates having a long discussion on the difference between the beauty of art and of people.
This demand of energy from us is then converted to energizing ourselves. For example, seeing beauty there is definitely some urge of possession, but this urge can be converted to many different kinds of urges.

It's interesting how beauty is a kind of battery for operating us.

In response to George Browning
George, I'd say it's both similar to the "bad art" discussion and different. Ted in that discussion mentions art's connections to ethics, and I'd add its connection to truth; I think there's a different color, although of course beauty and truth are not so easily separated. Remember the one about:

I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly, why I failed?

For beauty, I replied.
And I for truth -- the two are one;
We brethren are, he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a night,

We talked between the room,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.

It's relevant to what you say, too, about the "battery". The encounter gives us an almost inexhaustible source of energy, as the poem shows. The impulse to speak about one's encounter with beauty transcends even death.
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Latest Post: February 23, 2011 at 1:16 PM
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