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Functional Beauty

January 3, 2011

What is beauty? The opinions are varied, and to reap a useful understanding, one most start with the function; that is, what is the purpose of beauty? Beauty is to appreciate, and appreciation comes through perception; from what I can tell, if there is any function to beauty, it surely must be to be inspired, and to inspire others. Let us then draw the line between beauty and art: Art is created, through skill and creativity; beauty, by contrast, is that which already exists in the world, but can only be experienced through the perception and appreciation of the world, both man-made and preexisting. Thus, beauty is appreciation manifested, and art is the creation of objects through which beauty might manifest.

What then is prerequisite to beauty? What criteria must be fulfilled for beauty to exist? To be beautiful is must be appreciated, and as appreciation comes only through perception (and it must be perceived as intended, else it is not art, but merely raw), we understand beauty by understanding its parent perception. What determines how something is perceived? Several factors influence the quality of a novel, for example: how the author creates it, how it is presented, how both the author and the reader interpret it. All of these factors, and the predispositions and biases involved, can be summed up in a single word: Communication! That being the case, it would be most accurate to say that “beauty is communication being appreciated”, and that “art is beauty communicated as intended.” Functional beauty can be defined as such.

But there is far more to true beauty than this; because the magnitude of something (or someone’s) beauty is determined by appreciation, and appreciation is subservient to perception, we can only appreciate to the extent to which we perceive. Because one’s propensity for perception is determined by the number and quality of standards placed on the given object, beauty is ultimately determined by the complexity of that object; something cannot be both simple and beautiful, because in simplicity there are no standards by which to either negatively or positively appreciate it. On the contrary, something can only be beautiful to the extent to which it is complex. The reason why emotions make everything so much more beautiful, for example, is because emotions can be some of the most complex known phenomena in the world.

The problem with complexity is inherent in its nature: by putting limits on something’s nature (thereby making it more complex), you also reduce it to a finite, and thus imperfect state. A little analysis should tell you how this relates to beauty: beauty can only exist in imperfection! The only true beauty can only manifest through a mind of sin; either the person or the object itself must be imperfect or order for that object to be beautiful.

The function of beauty is to appreciate, and so by extension, the function of beauty is to sin. I will go into more detail about the mystical importance of this, but now let it suffice to say that beauty and sin go hand-in-hand; we are only beautiful because we are mortal, life is only beautiful because it ends, and love is only beautiful because it cannot truly last. These bitter truths you must accept, if you are to truly understand the function of beauty.

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