The Psychological Capacity for Beauty

Beauty and emotion are so well tied up together, it is natural that we must possess a particular way to experience it. When we witness beauty, be it a particularly beautiful person, a perfect toccata, or a well drawn image, we certainly experience a reaction to it. However, the state of experiencing this beauty must go beyond the limbic system and the chemicals that drive us to act out of evolutionary nature. After all, stopping to gaze lovingly at a beautiful painting is hardly beneficial for the continuation of the species!

So what is this experience? What does it involve? I propose that it uses the kind of soul that I mentioned in a previous post: when we encounter beauty – music, for instance – we hear it through our aural senses, it is transformed into chemistry in the brain; in that neurobiological way, we are aware of it. Then comes the question of whether it permeates through to our mind or our soul.

Our soul is a receptacle in that it wholly receives music and the psychological capacity to hold it, even if we possess no conscious will to do so; because music bears an intrinsic, transitive state, it itself seeks out the ‘interest’ part of the soul to permeate through.

If it enters our thoughts and mental capacities, it makes sense that it is able to reach our souls, too. But this is not the sort of conscious awareness that comes from the enabling of a mind; it is a sudden feeling that occurs in the proximity of such beauty. This automatic reaction to the enjoyment of beauty may be transmitted from our minds to our souls naturally.

In the same way does love attach to us.

There is no way to define what feelings rise from our soul when they do. It is experience with no applicable name, as the experience of doing the action one associates with enjoyment does. We do not really know why we enjoy looking at great works of art, but for the fact that we know we do. Naturally, we enjoy that beauty and it is an experience in and of itself for the sake of enjoyment.

This experience of beauty could be defined as a mechanism for enhancing the survival attributes of the humankind. Certainly, physical beauty is the greatest indicator is physical fitness and health; but, beyond that, the human capacity for noticing beauty might well indicate something more. Let us diverge from the ecological view for a moment, to see that humanity can be developed by this enhancement to recognise beauty in the sense that a human’s experience and emotions may be altered by beauty.[1]

As for presupposing psychological capacities… Evidently, we must, as humans, have the ability to distinguish between different types of experiences, and, through that, different types of enjoyable experiences; whilst we must possess a knowledge – perhaps learnt through the safe and unsafe, or pleasurable and painful, experiences, or perhaps through a more cognizant route of recognising beauty when it is present – of the good and the bad, we must also have a way to discern beauty from other beautiful things.

Is this chemical, is it psychological? Without knowing full studies, this question is difficult. Humans possess some inner capacity for discovering beauty, but what is unclear is what said capacity truly is, whether it is even purely psychological.

Of course, it is necessary for one to argue beauty from a realist point of view of its always existing, with or without the human condition. If beauty only existed idealistically, that is ‘in the eye of the beholder’, the capacity for creating (as opposed to recognising) beauty would have to come from within the soul instead. In this way, one could add in a cognitive element that, like ideology, beauty is ‘all in the mind’; we have created it for our own aesthetic purposes. True, beauty is enjoyed through enjoyment (as opposed to being enjoyed by its existing. One could argue that pleasure is, as predicate, enjoyable).

But, for now, I propose that beauty does exist – it is the way we take it into our senses that causes arguments over what is beautiful (for instance, a fan of popular music may not see a symphony as beautiful, but the flautist playing it may be alert to the obvious beauty). After all, individual differences must rule the world.


[1] See the following Third Music Theory

The End

8 comments about this work Feed