On the one hand we teach our children not to “judge a book by its cover,” but on the other we seek out beauty as one of life’s most profound experiences. What do we mean when we describe something as beautiful? When we speak of the beauty of a landscape, for instance, are we referring to its formal properties (how it looks) or to the content it conveys (such as the will of a god)? Are standards of beauty relative such that one can justifiably claim that Britney Spears makes more beautiful music than Beethoven, or can we be biased or otherwise mistaken regarding our opinions of beauty? Is beauty a superficial, childish, and even oppressive obsession or are experiences of beauty central to a good life?
- Jennifer Armstrong, senior lecturer in philosophy at the University of New Hampshire