Aesthetics refers to the philosophical comprehension of taste and beauty, especially in relation to the perception and interpretation of appearance. In most instances, people look critically at the appearance of others to judge them, and it affects more than the persons in question. Since time immemorial, women have always put their best feet forward to look beautiful and achieve somehow a “perfect look”. All the same, the concept of beauty has always been misconstrued and many times people tend to look at the outward appearance of clothing, and physical appearance to rate the beauty of a person rather than the inner spirit and an individual’s personality. This essay discusses aesthetics, the perception of three authors on beauty vis-à-vis physical and emotional. In this paper, the texts used include Alice Walker's “Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self”, Elaine Scarry’s “On Beauty and Being Just”, and Boethius’s “De institutione musica.” These three articles express the authors’ thoughts on beauty and discuss the themes and symbolisms applied in discussing the aesthetics in the texts. The essay emphasizes the analysis of viewpoints of each of the three authors and offers an explanation of how their ideas converge or differ.
Walker’s article focuses on the ideology that beauty is founded on an individual’s point of view. The author’s perspective of beauty is derived from the context of her own life, which compelled her to accept her deformed physical nature that she obtained from an accident during her childhood that left blinded her right eye. Although disturbed by her existence with a blind eye initially, she triumphs the feelings of inferiority and emerges as a person excelling in other fields, and attracting the praises of other people. According to the text, Walker’s major theme is self-acceptance, which she portrays as the most important aspect rather than self-pity and trying to conform to the conventional standards of beauty that are defined by others. In the first segment of the essay, Walker indicates that despite her coming from a low-income family, and her father earning a little pay from his employer, she is still the most confident girl among the other siblings in the household.
Walker’s sentiment is an indication that perception about poverty may have played a role in ruining the confidence of other siblings and confining them to their poverty. In the beginning, she describes her words in confident ways, where she uses words like “bright sunny day in 1947” (Walker 271). Here, she states she grew up worried about how other individuals would perceive her blinded eye. Later, in she introduces an interesting point of view in aesthetics by discovering the beauty of being different. While growing up, she was fond of her father and would follow him in all the places he went. Walker is confident about how she looks and does not mind dressing and looking like her brothers.
She says, “I am eight years old and a tomboy. I have a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, checkered shirt and pants, all red (Walker 274).” This point of is similar to that of Elaine Scarry in her short story “On Beauty and Being Just”. In this short story, her perception can be identified to discuss beauty in a manner that surpasses the sexualisation of women, but recommends it to cover poems, paintings (art), pebbles, mountains, and the sky. According to Scarry, beauty can catch the attention of an individual – a radical decentring. At that moment, according to Scarry, beauty makes humans see themselves at the center of the universe and allow the beauty of the object in view to occupy our minds. According to Scarry, a visual object may recreate itself in the realm of touch, which may, as a result, reappear in a second visual event, which is often the final depiction.
In relation to Walker’s perception of herself as different and beautiful, Scarry agrees by indicating that beauty prompts a copy of itself (Scarry 280). According to the analysis of her text, Scarry succeeds in her objective to absolve beauty from the common moral condemnations towards it and restores it to the philosophical consideration. In the process, Scarry engages eloquently with early philosophers, such as Plato whom she describes the Symposium, particularly on how the point of view of physical beauty catalyzes the need for a higher nature of moral beauty until the observer is confined into an awareness of beauty, independently, without any forms of contingency. According to the analysis of beauty provided by Scarry, it is uncommon to find a believer in similar metaphysical entities as “beautyitself” (Scarry 281). Possibly the most basic concern in the philosophy of aesthetics is the subjectivity or objectivity of beauty, which fosters the “in the eye of the beholder” maxim. In the Middle Ages, beauty was situated beyond an individual’s specific thoughts and experiences. However, in relation to Walker and Scarry, beauty is not a feature of an object; it exists in the perceptions of persons, where they are contemplated, and, as a result, every individual perceives beauty uniquely.
“Beauty brings copies of itself into being. It makes us draw it, take photographs of it, or describe it to other people. Sometimes it gives rise to exact replication and other times to resemblances and still other times to things whose connection to the original site of inspiration is unrecognizable” (Scarry 282). However, the author uses the classical philosophical basis that looking at a beautiful object makes the viewer try to find other beautiful components and make beautiful objects, which often happens through painting or poem writing about the aesthetic appeal of the world. In the same way, beauty can reproduce itself in a resembling manner, with the help of the viewer, somehow in the same way that actual beauty exists.
“The arts and sciences, like Plato’s dialogues, have at their center the drive to confer greater clarity on what already has clear discernibility, as well as to confer initial clarity on what originally has none” (Scarry 286). The methodology described by Plato, as described by Scarry, indicates that the levels of beauty can be complemented by various particular, equal, cases of beauty, which communicate with each other, and shows communication between the object and the subject. Such a replacing of the steps of perceived by a focus on equality is the most critical aspect in the last part of Scarry’s book. In the second part of the book, the author is not satisfied in her ability to obtain a moral ground for the definition of beauty.
Rather, she chooses to indicate that beauty has a beneficial moral value, and it is responsible for the intensification of the human desire to mitigate the injustices done to the world at any particular point. In Scarry’s “On Beauty and Being” there are similarities in how she views beauty and how the same concept is perceived in Walker’s “Beauty: When the Other Dancer Is the Self.” In the latter, the author recognizes the fact that the appearance and perception of things differ from one individual to the other, which makes her identify beauty in “being different. Similarly, in the article “On Beauty and Being” by Scarry, beauty is a compounded aspect that entails an association between the viewer and the object through perception.
In Boethius’s “De institutione musica,” aesthetics is understood in terms of music. This was among the first musical pieces that were printed in Venice approximately between 1491 and ’92. According to the text, the author describes the music as the arts that are created through an instrument under stress, either by water or through percussion. According to the composer, the beauty of this music is that the word instrument is not referred to in the original text, but by later translation, who referred to the tensions that produced the music as coming from instrumentalis. In this part, the beauty of the music is that the composer created a piece that can be recognized by the contemporary generations without feeling that its classical nature is irrelevant. Thus, viewing beauty from the musical expression, Walker, and Scarry, it is evident that beauty is perception, which recreates itself according to the wishes of the viewer to the object.
In the composition, among other creations during the medieval times, the manner in which Boethius treated his art enabled him to sub-divide it into humana, musica mundane, and instrumentalis, as identified in the “De Institutione Musica,” was used by other philosophers and music lovers of the medieval times. Such classification had a major influence on how people perceived music and categorized knowledge in reference to quadrivium. Thus, not only were musical compositions, as a subject of beauty but part of the latter. However, the complications of musical philosophy were applied in other disciplines, including mathematics and sciences.
In conclusion, the paper has discussed the opinions that the authors express as far as beauty is concerned and discussed the themes and metaphors used in the aesthetics in the texts. According to how the three articles address the issue of beauty and perception, it is evident that they agree that beauty begins with how the viewer perceives the object, especially through the manner in which they represent the beauty. During that stage, the beauty of art appears differently from one viewer to the other. The paper also assessed the viewpoints of the three authors and offered an explanation of how their ideas converge or are different. While pursuing this course, various issues came into play, and the definition of beauty from a philosophical perspective is understood. Accordingly, contextualizing beauty through aesthetics enables an inner understanding and ensures that it is not misconstrued. In brief, the article affirms that famous adage that beauty lies in the eyes of the viewer.
Chadwick, Boethius. De institutione musica. 1990. p. 242-47.
Scarry, Elaine. On beauty and being just. Princeton University Press, 2013. p. 279-85
Walker, Alice. Beauty: When the other dancer is the self. Na, 1983. p. 271-78