Thursday, December 30, 2010

On Beauty

Philosophy is a good endeavor, but it fails to connect with most people. The mass of men are at least vaguely philosophical about life, but it's the sort of late-night, half-baked philosophizing that they do.

Aesthetics is one of those areas that garners less and less attention in genuine philosophical circles while, compliments of shows like Project Runway, My Fair Wedding, What Not to Wear et al. This isn't because philosophers are losing interest in it, but since aesthetics is a judgment of an internal nature, it's slowly being absorbed into neuroscience and the study of mind. These are experimental sciences.

This isn't entirely surprising. Philosophy has a grand history of having areas hijacked by experimental science, which is a good thing. But when most people talk about aesthetics, they're not discussing experiments involving control groups and finely tuned experimental elements. For most people, beauty is actually a thing. Some things have it, while others don't.

How philosophy as an industry has managed to fail engaging a world so engrossed with beauty in some substantial way is beyond me. The subject has been thrust upon us. All we have to do is produce the books. A deeply complex discussion of fashion throughout the generations, or architecture. One of the only very good examples of this sort of writing is The Architecture of Happiness, which was an excellent look at architecture and what it means. But one book does not a genre make. Moreover, it wasn't a very accessible book. It was loaded to the brim with flowery language and longer-than-necessary sentences. Basically, it was interesting to me because I already had an interest in the subject. It had no effect on outsiders.

Compare this with the monstrous success of The Secret. A wannabe philosophical book entirely composed of pseudo-spiritual drivel. Yet it sold. Holy shit did it sell. It sold because it tapped into what people wanted. They want meaning, power, and answers. It makes the world seem less scary and more understandable. That's the fucking point of philosophy! We should have a monopoly on this stuff! Yet, we don't. We continue to write for journals read only other philosophers.

Beauty is the most obvious example of something that is generally accepted by the population, enjoyed and consumed in large amounts, and is a legitimate philosophical concept.

No comments: