I wrote last night on the nature of beauty, but I was talking today to a well-known Christian apologist who is in my area who I haven’t seen in a long time and we started talking about philosophy classes seeing as I’m about to start another one. Somehow, we started talking first about the modern period and I had to confess I like the ancient period better. It seems the ancients have more to say for us today than the modern writers do.
In fact, it seems modern thought has killed our souls.
When I read the ancients, I see the writers who thought of the strangest objections and often because people had the strangest ideas. They wanted to answer every question that they thought imaginable to ask. Also, while they did not want to have the supernatural often in their writings, they weren’t dominated by science either. I actually consider science a lesser branch of knowledge than philosophy. If I put them in order, I would say the theological categories, then the philosophical ones, and then the scientific ones at the bottom.
Yet we seem to have that reversed today so much so that some people think that if something cannot be shown to be true in science, then it is not true. The idea of any study in metaphysics to some is absolutely nonsensical. As for the question of God, it would be best shown by the movement of logical positivism that would imply that all talk of God is meaningless.
What we had left was a world where everything was explained by purely physical terminology.
Please note I am not saying nothing is explained by physical terminology. I am simply wanting to avoid reductionism and say that everything is merely physical. I am typing out this sentence right now. That is a physical action, yet I do believe there is something else going on. There is an interaction taking place I believe between my soul and my body. I can think about typing while sitting here all I want to, but somehow, I will myself to type at one point and I could not even tell you how I do it. If you don’t believe me, try to imagine how you would tell someone how to walk. Just try.
In such a world, I believe beauty is a difficult concept. (Among other concepts like morality.)
In such a world, we have a hard time grasping an idea of beauty. We simply think that it is in the eye of the beholder because no such idea can exist. However, is that accurate? When we see something and call it beautiful, we are thinking of some idea of beauty. It is as if intuitively, we all know what beauty is even if we cannot explain it.
Could it be also that we cannot explain it because we have been raised for so long in a reductionistic world where everything is explained in terms of physicality? Now please keep in mind that I am not denying a physical aspect to beauty. However, is that beauty purely physical or is it the case that like my hands typing on the keyboard, there is an immaterial aspect behind the material reality?
Any reader of my blog regularly should know my beliefs on physical beauty, particularly since I write often of the beauty of the lady. Alright guys. Time to consider. Let’s suppose you like a girl with an hourglass figure. Let’s suppose you like one with long hair. Let’s suppose you like one with their eyes having a certain complexion. Let’s suppose another says being fair-skinned.
Now you can list a number of physical traits in a lady you find attractive. I find many of them attractive as well. Now though, I get to the hard question of, “Why do we find such things beautiful?” You can tell the lady all day long that you find her long hair incredibly attractive. You can talk about how you want to kiss her luscious lips. The question is, “Why?” What is attractive about both of those?
Now my answer has been that in some way, the female form represents life. All about her body is geared towards life, including the bringing of new life into the world. There is something beautiful in the nature of life because God is beautiful by his nature and God is life as well. It would then follow that life must be something beautiful.
Please note something. In saying beauty is objective, I am not saying I am 100% certain on what beauty is. This is common in the philosophers though in dialogues of Plato like Laches or Meno among others where the nature of what one thing is was questioned. The most famous is the Republic that attempts to answer the question of what justice is.
However, it seems odd to say “Because we are not absolutely sure what beauty is, we should think there’s nothing objective to it.” I would instead think that since we all seem to have this idea of beauty, maybe there is something to it and it can only be a benefit to the human race if we work and try to figure out just what that is. Consider that it would be hard for us to define what is essential to a human being, but do we deny there is something about a human being that makes them a human being?
I contend that I would like to see us return to a world where science is not the final authority. Science is great and has given us many great things, but it has too often had a role that is not meant to have. We need to realize there are greater truths out there than those that can be put in a test tube and maybe when we do that, we can get even more benefits from science as well.
And if we can learn more about beauty, I’m all for it.