Sunday, April 09, 2006

Mysterious flame

If we choose to define beauty relatively to the object, to which we attribute it, then yes – recognising beauty is learnable. It remains a process of re-cognition though. It fits almost perfectly the definition of R2 – decoding of a message and assessment of the author's mastery. (we do not go further than the decoding of the message at this stage; the reaction to the decoded message is another thing). It is a purely rational process and therefore it is (2) learnable.

In the course of the history we have witnessed more than one change of the concept of beauty. Not only is the current concept learnable, but also concepts of past ages are learnable and reconizable, with the corresponding levels of acceptable deviations, evolutionary or revolutionary changes of acceptance levels and the concept itself. The learnability of the concepts and the reasons behind their establishment and change, is possible, because beauty defined relatively to the object, to which is is attributed, is also (1) socially determined.

Choosing to define beauty relatively to the subject of perception is absolutely and irresistibly alluring to me but is has three major implications.

1) There is no definition. Response of the soul, mysterious flame, physically sensed reaction to things with no physical nature, touch from an extra dimension, R3... Something that provokes delight, joy, pleasure, admiration, astonishment... but also confusion and anxiety or dismay and awe, or dread... There is no apparent logic there – we may sence all of these at the same time or shift from one group to other during time frames varying from several minutes to years when we meet the same object. I admit, no - I would fiercely defend the concept that our reactions are socially determined. This is absolutely and irrefutably true... in the vast sense. There is no and there could not be an individually valid socially determined explanation to the complete shock provoked by just a normal sunset, a simple tree, or a mediocre piece of art, or an innocent remark, a piece of news giving some small detail.

2) It is too easy to leap to the conclusion that the attribute has nothing to do with its bearer. This is a path leading to solipsism – a direction, which is counterproductive and unacceptable. The alternative path leads to theism.

3) Technically, I lose the debate. It is not socially determined and it is unlearnable – you do not learn how to be shocked... but what is this “it”? The attempt of definition is too broad, it can apply and it actually does apply to everything. It seems that I have lost the beauty, the pieces of art and the topic of the conversation somewhere on my way. However I still feel being right. What I am actually saying is, that there is something vaguely definable that may or may not make your soul respond – to anything, pieces of art inclusive. And it is beyond our power to learn it.


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