What is Beauty?


When I was younger, I loved sports cars. Every detail of sports cars is designed only for speed, and so, they are collections of correct answers as a means of transportation, which is why they look beautiful. Such an easy logic once comforted me to some degree but, at the same time, provoked some smoldering questions: What about art that is of no utility? What is beauty?

Source: https://www.dw.com/en/why-sports-cars-are-works-of-art/a-45661630

Immanuel Kant wrote about aesthetic judgement in his work. I tried to understand, but it was too difficult for me. In such time as I had been in the depths of despair about my poor understanding, a simple sentence of a scientific paper tagged my eyes: Beauty is judged within 1 second in the brain (only in 0.8 seconds, to be more precise).

I thought beauty was a subject of philosophy, but now it seems to be studied in science (neuro-science) as well. The neuro-scientists have identified brain regions contributing to processing aesthetic appeal, and found there is a close relation between beauty and pleasure responses in our neural network. The Plato’s definition ー beauty is pleasure through eye or ear ー seems to be correct.

Kamuy dining series

I know. We now come to have another mystery to solve: What is pleasure? The same as my other journals, I can’t draw a clear conclusion, but the scientific paper this time gives us a good clue. There are key object properties to increase the aesthetic appeal of an object, and two of them are shared in the paper that are “symmetry” and “curvature.” Our products (the above chair consists only of curved lines, for example) can be said to be beautiful in neuro-science.


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.


3 thoughts on “What is Beauty?

  1. Beauty evolves with culture. The greatest artists push forward our understanding and appreciation of beauty. The scientists’ banal description of a 0.8 second process only refers to well established ideas of beauty which have become so accepted that they are clichés–at least to artists. It takes MUCH longer to come to terms with new art: there is no safety net of historical precedent, you are on your own. Only experience and time will sift out the real new work of beauty, its thunderous role of breaking the stale, stasis we so easily fall back into.

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