A week ago, i had a very interesting conversation with a friend, and he mentioned theory about biological aspect of the beauty. I have thought about Plato “golden proportion” theory but to hear it from male’s perspective was quite interesting.

Over thousands of years philosophers devoted a great deal of time to prove or invalidate the biological side of beauty.

In ancient Greece, Helen of Troy, the instigator of the Trojan War, was the paragon of beauty, exuding a physical brilliance that would put Cindy Crawford to shame. Indeed, she was the toast of Athens, celebrated not for her kindness or her intellect, but for her physical perfection. But why did the Greek men find Helen, and other beautiful women, so intoxicating? 

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Guido Reni 1635, situated in Louvre Museum, Paris

Maybe i am wrong, but i think, one of the first philosophers that considered biological and mathematical aspect of beauty was Plato. Plato wrote of so-called “golden proportions,” in which, amongst other things, the width of an ideal face would be two-thirds its length, while a nose would be no longer than the distance between the eyes. Plato’s golden proportions, however, haven’t quite held up to the rigors of modern psychological and biological research — though there is credence in the ancient Greeks’ attempts to determine a fundamental symmetry that humans find attractive.

6:9 :: 8:12

In which 9 is the arithmetic mean, and 8 the harmonic mean between the extremes 6 and 12.

Plato’s writings on beauty are based on his doctrine of ideas. He explained that what we know from everyday experience is not knowledge but only belief or assumption (Gk. doxa) and we should try to find behind it the permanent real knowledge (Gk. episteme) which consists of “ideas”. One of the ideas is “beauty” (Gk. to kalon), or the permanent property which belongs to all beautiful objects. This property remains the same irrespective of whether somebody admires the object or not.

“That which is apprehended by intelligence and reason is always in the same state; but that which is conceived by opinion with the help of sensation and without reason, is always in a process of becoming and perishing and never really is.” (Plato: Timaeus, trans. Benjamin Jowett).

“That which is always the same” or the constant essence of beauty might consist of e.g. proportions of the dimensions. This idea is attributed to Pythagoras (ca. 532 BC) who is said to have discovered the fact that certain arithmetical proportions in musical instruments, e.g. the lengths of strings, produce harmony of tones (on the right, an illustration from Gafurio’s Theorica Musice, 1492). On the basis of these musical harmonies the Greek tried to explain also the beauty in the proportions of the human body, of architecture and other objects.

Vitruve (I:III:2) said that a building is beautiful when the appearance of the work is pleasing and in good taste, and when its members are in due proportion according to correct principles of “symmetry” (where “symmetry” means “a proper agreement between the members of the work itself, and relation between the different parts and the whole general scheme, in accordance with a certain part selected as standard. — The definition of symmetry is found in I:II:4).

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Carle Vanloo, Elizabeth Petrovna 1760

On the other hand, it seems senseless to say that beauty has no connection to subjective response or that it is entirely objective. That would seem to entail, for example, that a world with no perceivers could be beautiful or ugly, or perhaps that beauty could be detected by scientific instruments. Even if it could be, beauty would seem to be connected to subjective response, and though we may argue about whether something is beautiful, the idea that one’s experiences of beauty might be disqualified as simply inaccurate or false might arouse puzzlement as well as hostility. We often regard other people’s taste, even when it differs from our own, as provisionally entitled to some respect, as we may not, for example, in cases of moral, political, or factual opinions. All plausible accounts of beauty connect it to a pleasurable or profound or loving response, even if they do not locate beauty purely in the eye of the beholder.

Nevertheless, eighteenth-century philosophers such as Hume and Kant (my personal favorite) perceived that something important was lost when beauty was treated merely as a subjective state. They saw, for example, that controversies often arise about the beauty of particular things, such as works of art and literature, and that in such controversies, reasons can sometimes be given and will sometimes be found convincing. They saw, as well, that if beauty is completely relative to individual experiencers, it ceases to be a paramount value, or even recognizable as a value at all across persons or societies.

Hume’s “Of the Standard of Taste” and Kant’s Critique Of Judgment attempt to find ways through what has been termed ‘the antinomy of taste.’ Taste is proverbially subjective: de gustibus non disputandum est (about taste there is no disputing). On the other hand, we do frequently dispute about matters of taste, and some persons are held up as exemplars of good taste or of tastelessness. Some people’s tastes appear vulgar or ostentatious, for example. Some people’s taste is too exquisitely refined, while that of others is crude, naive, or non-existent. Taste, that is, appears to be both subjective and objective: that is the antinomy.

Both Hume and Kant,  begin by acknowledging that taste or the ability to detect or experience beauty is fundamentally subjective, that there is no standard of taste in the sense that the Canon was held to be, that if people did not experience certain kinds of pleasure, there would be no beauty. Both acknowledge that reasons can count, however, and that some tastes are better than others. In different ways, they both treat judgments of beauty neither precisely as purely subjective nor precisely as objective but as inter-subjective or as having a social and cultural aspect, or as conceptually entailing an inter-subjective claim to validity.

There is social aspect, for example every country has its own criteria that counts as “attractive”. For example, Chinese men prefer women with small feet. In Shakespearean England, ankles were the rage. In some African tribal cultures, men like women who insert large discs in their lips.Aside from symmetry, males in Western cultures generally prefer females with a small jaw, a small nose, large eyes, and defined cheekbones – features often described as “baby faced”, that resemble an infant’s. Females, however, i read a study, have a preference for males who look more mature — generally heart-shaped, small-chinned faces with full lips and fair skin. But during menstruation, females prefer a soft-featured male to a masculine one. Indeed, researchers found that female perceptions of beauty actually change throughout the month.

 

In my humble opinion, i think real beauty of the woman is in her qualities, her actions, spark in her eyes, her smile, her grace and kindness, her confidence and her knowledge…. There are so many aspects that makes a woman beautiful in my opinion… that we cannot objectively say someone is beautiful or not until we actually  get to know a person. Yes, inner world is so cliche, and human beings are such a visual creatures, but i still believe that the beautiful “shell” of the woman is only one third of the actual beauty of any woman, or even less… Symmetrical and proportionate face is great, 90-60-90 body is fantastic, but physical attributes can be accomplished in this world quite easy, gym and possibly if necessary minor cosmetics, but what is inside cannot be hided or changed. You can look like a proportionate Barbie, and the moment you open your mouth – well guess. Yes, most males attracted to such type, because as i said we are visual creatures, but normal, self sufficient and smart male would never go with such woman beyond just “play”, so i positively encourage young generation of women to not be lazy and rely on their nature given gifts but pursue something more substantial.

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Comments
  1. fremka says:

    It was very funny when one guy explained why he found me pretty from the rational-biological pov, in a joke manner thanks God as he is really smart one and well-educated)) it was not about proportions it was rather about functions, she has long hair and good nails = she is healthy enough to live long and give a healthy child to him, her breast means she is able to feed a baby (though size doesn’t automatically mean milk), long legs = able to run from animals and enemies, good eye-sight, skin, nice=healthy teeth etc etc. I believe the more ‘developed’ a person is the less power have these biological factors but we’re still animals so it will always matter. As for symmetry it’s also a very interesting theory but practice shows it also works not in 100% cases, that is good from my pov. Personally I can’t say if I like a person or not being exposed to his photo – no chance, I can’t. I really need to talk at least a bit to feel if I like him visually. That’s why we can find attractive not only young and model looking people 😉 So yes, agree with U 😉

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