Why I'm Glad I Took Philosophy
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Politics and Activism

Why I'm Glad I Took Philosophy

What is beauty, and how do you know if something is beautiful?

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Why I'm Glad I Took Philosophy
Peyton Carrington

Last semester I took a class entitled “Beautiful & Good.” It was an interdisciplinary honors class that had 3 sections with 3 different professors. Being a humanistic inquiry course, this class was a concoction of art, literature, and philosophy and it explored the relationship between beautiful things and moral goodness. If someone asked me what beauty was before taking this class, I would have been stumped.


So, instead of bashing Plato, I would like to introduce my favorite philosopher we discussed, Immanuel Kant. Firstly, Kant says that beauty mustn't have a purpose, which goes along with the idea of "art for art's sake." In order for something to be beautiful, one must find it pleasant but disinterested, having no desire to possess it. This could be true for something, like a sunset, that you enjoy looking at but don't want to carry home with you.

Next, Kant argues that for something to be beautiful, it must evoke a universal subjective feeling to anyone who views it. This means that, for something to be beautiful, everyone must have the same experience when looking at it. This concept is intriguing, but it seems nearly impossible to prove.

Lastly, the most interesting concept I learned from Kant was free play of the imagination. This theory explores how the mindsets the imagination free in the presence of beauty, transforming one's view of the world. This is the most abstract concept we discussed in class, but I believe I have experienced it.

I can't remember every instance, but I remember feeling like I'm in a trance. Sometimes in the presence of beauty, my mind will take me back to a good memory where I feel infinite like I've found my place in the world. It might sound silly, and it's not easy to explain, but you can probably relate if you have an active mind.

So, back to reality (see what I did there), even though I was hesitant to pursue this class, I'm glad I did. While it might not seem applicable to my career (at first), philosophy helps me understand some principles surrounding what attracts people's attention and how people assess what is good and beautiful. This will enable me to better understand the consumer.

But, the conclusion is really up to you. Is beauty truly in the eyes of the beholder, or is there more to it?

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