Objectivity In order to better



In order to better express this and subsequent posts, it seems I must clarify my definitions, because I think we will find that there is less disagreement when I have made clear what I am saying.

That is objective which admits of no denial, it can be proven or analyzed by innumerable unbiased observers and shown to be true. Facts are objective, opinions, no matter how informed are subjective. Objectively you can show that in any numerical system base 3 and above that 1+1=2. That is objectively undeniable to anyone in his or her right mind.

So too is the statement, "Beauty exists." There may be some controversialists who for the sake of the arguement might deny the statement or "nuance" it out of existence, but everyone, regardless of their notion of beauty, is likely to concur that it exists.

Subjective statements encompass anything not objectively verifiable. "Beauty exists" is objective, "This or that thing is beautiful," is subjective--it admits of no proof other than the opinion of the individual expressing it. Someone says to me, "Beethoven's Symphony Number 9 is the most beautiful piece of music ever composed." I respond, "No, Rachmininoff's Vespers is." Who is correct? Surely you can say which is better crafted according to understandings of musicians (I can't, but there may be experts who can). But can you actually compare the beauty of the two? And if so, is it appropriate to do so?

Thus when I say that a language CANNOT be objectively beautiful, I am not saying that it is not beautiful, I am saying that there is no independent measure that can be placed against it that will tick some meter over into the "beautiful" side of the scale. When I initially wrote concerning Latin and English, it was not the beauty or lack of beauty in Latin that was the matter of contention, but the statement that "Latin is objectively more beautiful than English."

Now I suppose I must back track and wonder if I do believe in objective beauty at all. I suppose in the sense I defined, that the Divine is necessarily beautiful then in the "vault of Heaven" of Plato, beauty can have its ideal and objective form. However, I also know that many people find , Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon hideous and repugnant, and I find it, while not beautiful, endlessly interesting and arresting. My wife cannot stand The Persistance of Memory and I find it transcendant and lovely. I would not say it is objectively beautiful, but I do find it beautiful.

The question comes down to what is beauty?

But that is for another day. For this day, suffice to say that I find myself not in disagreement with much that has been commented on below, but perhaps we are talking past each other and not phrasing the arguments in the same terms.

So, when Kairos Guy says below: "I think Handel is, truly, objectively beautiful, though I cannot tell you why, or more correctly, I cannot tell you precisely what about it makes it beautiful." I have to disagree. Not that I disagree with Handel's music being beautiful, I find it transcendantly so, but that it is objectively so. A person from Singapore, a person raised always with East Asian music in his ears may find Handel abhorrent, they may be moved by it. But how many of us can truly say that we love to listen to the music of a Chinese Opera? Yet, among the Chinese surely this must be recognized as beautiful. Thus, it is not the statement of beauty that is the contention, but the statement that it is objective. Could any number of unbiased observers perform the same analysis and come to the same conclusion?

Now, it is about the second part of the statement above that I am most interested. I do have a thought about what makes it beautiful that ties in nicely with the interchange below about elephant-dung covered madonnas. I believe that beauty stems from the Creator, that which seeks the Creator and seeks to extol His work is beautiful, that which defiles, mocks, and otherwise blasphemes the creator or demeans His creation is not. Now, as with any aesthetic theory, (not philosophical aesthetics), this is preeminently subjective. I can see God's glory in Joan Miro, others do not. Some see God's genius hidden in the works of Webern or Stockhausen (unimaginable to me). So on we go with the consideration.

Why spend so much time? Because I do believe that it is important to hold to things that are Good, True, and Beautiful. In order to do so, we must be able to discern the qualities that make them so. It would be my contention that proximity to Divinity and Divine purpose is what causes something to be beautiful. A sunset over ocean water is beautiful because for a moment we are drawn out of the shell of self and upward into the Divine Melieu (not that I'm coining a phrase here).

This seems important in a world so endlessly involved with itself, so relativist and lost in a post-modernist haze. We need to move away from this and reestablish the bounds to the Good, the True and the Beautiful. And then we need to follow St. Paul's advice, "Whatsoever is good, whatsoever is pure, whatsoever is beautiful, whatsoever is of good report. . .think on these things." Why? Because they are all clues, all signposts to the divine.

More later. Still quelling the (metaphorical) explosions and mopping up.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 10, 2003 4:52 PM.

Additional Advantages of the Latin was the previous entry in this blog.

Is There in Truth No is the next entry in this blog.

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