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The Case Against Pure Beauty -- Why Beauty Isn't Enough

Updated: Feb 18

A beautiful girl in a royal outfit

A Look Beyond the Surface

Interior decorating, might seem like a purposeless pursuit to some, a mere exercise in aesthetics. Yet, it flourishes as a whole profession, taught in esteemed institutions. Even the ancient Far East birthed the intricate art of Feng Shui, which whispers of decorations influencing our very essence, their placement a silent symphony shaping our lives... in theory, at the very least. Whether this holds truth, I leave to your own pondering.

Either way, consider this: when familiarity numbs our senses, rendering objects and beings mere "wall bricks" in our lives, does not the same fate applies to our beloved decorations with the power of the granted? Pictures, toys, ornaments – once objects of fascination, can easily fade into the background noise of our daily existence. What stories do they whisper, these silent witnesses to our lives, when our minds are inclined to live in a flawed reality?

Perhaps, in the deliberate act of decorating, lies a rebellion against the tyranny of the mundane. A conscious effort to enhance our surroundings with meaning, to create a collection of memories and aspirations into the very fabric of our homes. A way to remind ourselves that even the seemingly insignificant holds much beauty, waiting to be rediscovered through the bare esential of meditation.

So, the next time you glance at a forgotten trinket or gaze upon a familiar painting, take a moment to listen, to experience the world beyond your mind. What echoes from its depths? What forgotten joy might it spark? In the rediscovery of these hidden narratives, perhaps we rediscover a sliver of ourselves....

But beyond additional value, beauty holds the value of a mere candy for our eyes to feast on.

The Fading Glow of Familiarity

There she was, once my own cat, walking through rooms with eyes like emeralds. Years, though, turned that spark into a a mundane fact, her presence as comforting as an old sweater, and predictable as the morning sun. Now, belonging to my mother, her visits are but reminders of a past, and I confess, sometimes I forget her entirely. Time, it seems, plays cruel tricks with habit. Such problematic is time that it can lead to a logical fallacy of its own.

Don't get me wrong, my love for her hasn't dimmed, just merged with the landscape of my solitary life. It's the same, I suspect, with shiny decorations people may bring home to adorn our rooms -- pride of the rich and sources for jealousy for the materalistically thirsty. But the mind, an unsatisfied beast for desire, has a knack for turning even the brightest stars into background noise. Slowly, subtly, the magic fades, the newness blending into the regard of the everyday.

Food and drink, those fleeting pleasures, suffer the same fate when we prioritize appetite over hunger. Indulgences once electrifying become mere fuel, as unremarkable contents of our fridge. Even fancy restaurants, for those who frequent them, can morph into glorified cafeterias – the thrill of a fresh plate just another tick on the daily to-do list.

I, in my hermitage, possess but one ornament: a canvas picture with symbol of my personal philosophy, bought online. Perhaps not the wisest purchase, but now it hangs there, a silent observer in the living room. I rarely glance its way, for its message holds no spark, no surge of emotion. My life would be unchanged were it not there.

This, then, is the bittersweet melody of familiarity. It grants comfort, yes, but at the cost of dimming the vibrant feature of our human experience. Perhaps, then, the true challenge lies not in acquiring new trinkets (for that is the fruitlessness of financial materialism), but in rediscovering the "magic" that already surrounds us.

A Philosopher's Critique of the Ornamental

A well-crafted vase or chair offers undeniable utility, but are such items truly more valuable than those objects that enhance the very operation of our lives? When you can pick a cheaper chair, why not do it and spare yourself the waste of money? Hence the "Same Result Problem".

Consider the need for entertainment. It's one that greatly shapes the way we think. Why purchase a static, yet elegant, picture, when there are greater needs at hand, such as self-actualization? Function, not mere aesthetics, should shape our relationship with inanimate objects. For it is then when they serve us, and not the other way around.

A former adversary, never to be mentioned by myself in public, once critiqued my reliance on technology. To them, life transcended the cold steel of machinery. But tell me, which holds greater long-term value, and greater contribution to others as well? A computer capable of making sites such as Philosocom great, or an afternoon spent hanging out?

Aesthetics, the mere "eye candy" as they essentially are, are short-term respites from the work we're capable of doing to the world and to ourselves. We consume, forget, and move on, as we're caught in a loop of useless acquisitions we might as well never purchase initially. In the realm of style, self-awareness suffice before we can get back to work. Why succumb to the pressures of "styling" when function reigns supreme, when function is capable of greater benefit to humanity?

Of course, guests may find decoration intriguing, and serve as topics for small talks. But do we, in this world of digital bombardment, of "contentism", truly see the world beyond the superficial? For it is through depth, and not through shallowness, that we're capable of finding purposefulness, and liberate ourseles from at least some of our loneliness.

The battle for our attention, not as individuals, but as demographic cogs, rages on, with no victor in sight, for our lifetime is someone else's resource. By creating within our minds unnecessary dependencies, we become not only customers of the unnecessary but also addicts.

This is the crux of the ornamental fallacy. Beyond beauty lies uselessness, and within many pieces of art, nonesense. A drain on resources and attention for something you'll likely overlook in a few years. And do bear in mind that we must survive, first above all, in a world dictated by capitalism at large.

Why, then, waste hard-earned currency on such things? Shelter, sustenance, endurance, and hope – these are but the few pillars of existence, which far exceed the superficial concerns of "Which trend should I follow?" The pursuit of beauty, a relentless siren song, is a good way to capitalize on our insecurities. As such, I despise the mainstream traps of Instagram and TikTok, using social media mainly to attain a powerbase, share my articles, and little else.

To glance at your face, I need not worship an image on my wall. A simple online search suffices. To remember you, I do not need countless pictures sent to my inbox. One is enough. That is how necessity works -- through logic.

It is astonishing how easily we celebrate our purchases and achievements, only to send them to memory and negate their former subjective value. Much value is prone to perception. Due to how easily our perception can be bend, a stylist, whose craft is less important than a writer's centuries' old insights, would earn a greater living.

Such are much of humanity. Embedded within short-term wonders, like children. Far rarely masterminds.

This critique's a philosophical lament. Why do interior designers, stylists, and all the peddlers of beauty bask in wealth seemingly undeserved? Why should mature adults require assistance with clothing choices when they can do it themselves? These are tasks of elementary simplicity, yet we surrender them to external guidance.

Survival, not superficial harmony, is my primary concern, for survival is the framework of all other activities. Prioritize the fundamentals, the "kli" over the "tochen", the very elements that sustain your existence. Then, you may become addicted, less, and manage your finances, better.

Where Beauty Brings Benefit Greater than Necessity

If your calling demands a tie, wear it with grace. Beyond that, let practicality reign. Beauty is a fleeting mirage, but one that may bring some degree of benefit that may be worthier to consider than to discard in the name of asceticism.

As for the art that grace my articles, consider them not mere decorations, but "handshakes" extended to my readers' desire for beauty. In this crowded marketplace of ideas, a captivating image serves as an introduction, a nod to the human need for engagement to read something. It's well deserved to spend time on having art the same as it is to maintain the art of writing a philosophy article.

Even in this quiet corner of philosophy, competition roars, for very few resources are infinite. First impressions, alas, hold sway in the minds of some, a fleeting glimpse outweighing the weight of the words themselves. In the name of laziness we may even prefer them over the truth. Yet, I trust that those who seek wisdom will not be swayed by superficial allure, but delve into the depths of many discourses with a disciplined attitude.

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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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