Liquid Plummer

The State of Now: Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder?

In The State of Now on November 19, 2009 at 3:00 pm

First, I have to establish that this discussion will focus on the aspect of the ideology of liberalism as it pertains to art.

To establish this discussion we must first agree that in the United States and other liberal countries that allow for artistic freedom have at their discretion the power to choose what they consider to have artistic value, hence, what we determine to be meaningful or beautiful, and the power to choose what we consider to be ugly or what we do not consider to be meaningful or beautiful. If there is one phrase that symbolizes the very essence of this perceived freedom of choice, it would have to be this: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I would like to put forth the proposition that not only are the perceived freedoms of liberalism false, but that in fact, the statement beauty is in the eye of the beholder makes the notion impossible to implement.

If we examine the statement, Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we have to acknowledge and state as fact, that we are using the word beauty to identify aspects of our world and our reality that is defined by the OED as “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” And so, if we are to establish and state as fact that we have a system of measurement where a person or thing can be defined as beautiful and therefore has an actual or implied higher aesthetic value, than we must inevitably conclude that this classification has at it’s polar opposite – the concept of ugliness, which possesses the lowest aesthetic value.

If you are going to state that there are things in this world that have beauty, then you are creating a standard for which everything that does do not fall within the established definition of beauty must be allocated to a lower level of consideration. Everything has a flip side, and this is beauty is no different.

If we establish a system of measurement for artistic value where beauty is placed at the top and given the highest artistic value, then we must immediately conclude that at the bottom of this system of measurement of artistic value is ugliness, which is assigned the lowest artistic value.

Throughout our society as a whole and within individual subcultures, there is embedded within the artistic environment a standard which uses a system of evaluation and measurement as it pertains to what we accept as valuable and what we do not. As a basic component of this reality we label, accept, enforce and even regulate what we consider to be beautiful. These decisions ultimately establish an implied, intrinsic truth as it pertains to a particular discipline, giving a particular piece or even an entire movement a label that identifies that piece or movement as one that retains the highest value in reference to it’s artistic aesthetic.

Classical dance, music, and art, all have works that stand out and are the very definition of what the world has agreed to label as the most meaningful or beautiful example for each respective discipline.

Contemporary dance, music and art also have works that stand out and are the very definition of what the world has agreed to label as the most meaningful or beautiful example for each respective discipline.

The statement “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” not only abandons any system for measuring the level of quality of a particular piece of art, it deems any system of measurement to be irrelevant and ultimately ignores the fundamental reality within every genre of artistic expression. This reality is that there is a value system that arranges any and all works within that genre on a scale from beauty to ugliness.

If we agree that as part of our decision to accept or deny the validity of a particular piece of art, that we are inevitably accepting or denying its value as well. Then we are using a system of measurement which assigns values to things we consider beautiful and to things we do not.

This is the exact system of measurement used by classical art and is in direct contradiction to the ideology of liberalism, which at it’s very foundation espouses the belief of artistic freedom, which allows the artist ultimate discretion outside any established rules or system that would dictate or influence how or what truly holds artistic value.

The difference between liberal and classical art forms is that in the world of classical art there is an agreed upon standardized unit of measurement referred to as aesthetics, against which all art is held to measure it’s validity and beauty. In the contemporary art world there can be no system of measurement because there is no agreed upon standard of aesthetic beauty. The individual or subculture determines for themselves what will be assigned the label of validity and beauty. In doing this they are dislocating themselves from the world of reality where standards have already been established, discarding any real or implied standard of measurement or value by maintaining that, to them, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

We must conclude that unless you use the standard of aesthetics to judge what you accept or deny has value, and therefore beauty, you are simply denying reality and are therefore delusional. In addition, as soon as you make a value judgment on a particular piece of art that falls outside of what you consider to have value you are ultimately refusing to allow artistic expression which is in direction contradiction to liberalism.

The world of liberalism insists on deciding for itself what is beautiful while simultaneously rejecting any standard for which to judge what will retain this label. The world of liberalism states that each individual shall enjoy ultimate artistic freedom, but within this implied environment of freedom there remains a system of measurement where the individual or group assigns value to a particular piece, therefore eliminating implied artistic freedom and holding the piece up to the new established from of measurement within that subculture.

The existence of a system which creates an evaluative standard of beauty within a system that demands to decide for itself what is beautiful, while rejecting anything that does not fall into this created definition, precludes and eliminates any and all artistic freedoms and is an exercise in fascism and the ultimate example of ideological hypocrisy and is therefore invalid.

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