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Beauty As a Reaction -- How to Dually See It (Short Article)

Updated: Apr 6

A man walking in a crystal cavern.

Beauty is a result of having a specific feeling that's known as awe. Awe is "A feeling of great respect sometimes mixed with fear or surprise". Witnessing something like the Niagra Falls can make you feel awe due to its immense beauty, for example.

In Hebrew, the word "beauty" comes from the action of being "beautified." This action, as a noun, is also an emotion. The Hebrew connection between awe-ness and beauty indicates how beauty is related to ideas we won't necessarily be aware of completely, such as respect. Even being called pretty or beautiful is considered a mark of respect and a compliment, while being hideous and being called out for it, is considered disrespectful. As such, beauty has to do with virtue ethics, for it is a virtue itself.

So, everything that is beautiful must make you feel "beautified" or awed. There isn't something that is beautiful that cannot make you feel awed or anyone else. If it fails making anyone awed, it cannot be beautiful.

We can compare this to the word "disgusting." Disgusting simply means something or someone that makes someone else, or even themselves, disgusted, or repulsed. That as well has to do with ethics, because a morally depraved person can repulse like a significantly disgusting one.

And while beauty attracts, disgusts repulses. Attractive people as such may receive more interest from the world, while the hideous will face rejection far more for their verdict of being. That is true not only visually but in their behavior as well.

Normality is "beautiful" because normal behavior is viewed as desired, while eccentricity makes others keep their distance. The same normality applies literally in the form of looks. Beauty can be also associated with familiarity and common affiliation, while the "overly" unique might not make us feel psychologically safe (think of monsters as example, who are usually ugly).

Therefore, technically, beauty is an action, or more specifically, a reaction. It is a trait that leads someone to a specific reaction, either in their behavior, feelings, or thoughts. And that reaction has to do not only with our specific taste, but also our own ethics and biases, conscious or not.

Because different things and beings make different people react differently, beauty is indeed subjective. However, there are also things that we can agree on a collective level that are indeed beautiful, just as there are things that many of us find disgusting.

I disagree with the association of objectivity with collective agreement. Just because a group of people agree on something does not make it true or false. This is how democracy works -- through intersubjectivity, but not how logic works, through objectivity. If we all agree that there is a tomato behind a locked door, but there is not, will a tomato suddenly appear in the room just because we are all convinced that it is there?

Collective agreement cannot cancel the fact that some would find the odd, and even the ugly, as having beauty of their own. And thus, even the unattractive can attract.

Mr. Nathan Lasher's Feedback

Take the example of a security guard at the Empire State Building. That building might have been beautiful when they first started but as time passes it loses some of its awe. So, the guard might not see it as quite so beautiful anymore yet a tourist might be amazed the first time they see it.
This is also proof that all actual reality only interacts subjectively with each other. Take a plant growing under a tree. Perhaps when the tree is younger the plant doesn’t notice it at all. Wait till the tree grows up and blocks all the sunlight from the plant. What happens to that plant? Is the tree not subjectively interacting with it?

That is the thing about being beautiful or handsome, it really doesn’t matter if you are or aren’t on a superficial external level. That isn’t going to be what people remember for very long. They will remember the beauty of who you are as a person on the inside.
People will be more attracted to who you are rather than what you look like. Always seek to be greater than the stereotypes which accompany you. Prove people that they are not true of every kind of person. You know, internal beauty.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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