Tuesday, September 25, 2007

De Forma Humana, Pt. 2

I recently hit upon another way in which to look at human beauty. By way of recapping what I wrote before, I noted that we tend to polarize beauty and say that it is either a physical property or that it is a spiritual property of a person. I take issue with both of these positions, but not because I think either completely wrong. Rather, I think they need to be brought together, not separated. I also noted that beauty is traditionally placed together with goodness and truth, and thus, to the Christian, there can be no more of an individual standard for beauty than there can be for truth. Thus, the classic line, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," is disqualified to the Christian (or anyone who believes in absolute universal truths).

My thoughts at present are to continue down the path of thinking of beauty in the same way we think about goodness. Morality is, I think, is what started this new thought exercise. There are two components to being a truly moral person: rightly believing and rightly doing. One cannot be truly moral without both. For example, if I do not believe that stealing is wrong, I obviously am not going to be regarded as too terribly moral a person. Additionally, if I do believe stealing to be wrong, but do it anyway, we achieve the same result. There is another level of possibility, and that is if one does the active aspect of morality and abstains from stealing, but does not actually believe stealing to be wrong. Perhaps this person simply believes it to be a social convention and fears reprisals, and for this reason as well, simply acts so as to appear moral. However, because the belief is not present, I am hard pressed to call him moral, at least in this instance.

What has this to do with beauty? If beauty is something of a composite of both physical traits and non-physical elements, we can conclude that, if beauty is in fact like goodness, that both an outward aspect, as well as an internal aspect, must be present. Simply maintaining good flesh does not entail beauty, nor, by this reasoning (as harsh as it sounds), does the presence of that ineffable "internal" stuff. Again, all of this rests on the assumption that we can think about beauty in the same way we can think about goodness.

In terms of what this looks like practically, I am again at a loss to give an example grounded in reality. I realize that I am approaching this topic in a fairly "detached" manner, and I realize that there are serious human concerns involved. Indeed, I understand that many people struggle with self-worth, and often their appearance is a major factor. To these people, what I have been saying might seem rather disheartening, if it is true. Currently, I am not willing to die on the hill that I have been building, and so I am very much open to other ways of thinking about beauty, that avoid the "mere" traps of "merely physical" or "merely inner" and abstain from relativism. It is a high set of criteria, but I think these are essential elements of the conversation and I'm a little more willing to fight for than the hill.

By way of a final observation, it has occurred to me that I have been approaching this subject in a fairly humanistic manner, starting with myself and what I can see and know. A safer way of reasoning would be to start with what we know of God and His revelation and work down to man from there. Perhaps this is a more excellent way.


Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoy your writing! Challenging and though provoking :) I studied what "beauty" was awhile ago...I just re-posted my thoughts on my blog...

Jacob Douvier said...

It's good to know that my random ramblings on something I really don't know anything about are found amusing by someone!

FYI, your profile does not link to your blog.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe in random!! :) God is not random nor are His plans random..so your writings are placed in the right spot in His plan :) my blog is www.klynnday.blogspot.com