>Is our perception of beauty changing?

>Today the question of beauty isn’t really considered to be a subject of philosophy anymore. But for most of our history it has been. Plato was obsessed with it. It also formed a big part of philosophy throughout the renaissance and enlightement. Yet there are still many questions today.

Do we see beauty in a different light today? Will we see it in a different light in the future. Most men now say there are many models they don’t find attractive. Often people retort that they’re merely trying to present themselves in certain way. But what if it’s more than that? What if our idea of beauty is starting to change? Do you ever find yourself saying “most people would find him/her/that sight beautiful, but I don’t”?


  • >There was research published last week (and reported in the Economist) that suggested that, at least in terms of female perceptions of male beauty, the socio-economic climate and, especially, standards of health (or, at least, one's needs in these regards)can be determinate.A single image of one man was digitally altered and transformed into two separate images – one with rugged features (strong jawline etc.) and the other with more effeminate ones. Women in areas of above average mortality, overwhelmingly found the more rugged man more attractive, whilst the oppostie was true in more affluent areas. From this, the researchers have suggested that in poor socio-economic conditions women look for a stronger man who is, physiologically, more likely to extend the gene pool.A point the scientists did not seem to make was that this is good supportive evidence for David Hume's doggedly utilitarian understanding of human perceptions of beauty (to be fair, all of Hume's moral and political philosophy can be described thus, but that's by the by), with him even going in to specifics about wide child bearing hips, thick luxurious hair and such like being subconscious indicators of beauty – both hint at good health and a high chance of prolonging humanity through strong offspring.In this light perceptions of beauty do change according to socio-economic circumstance (in richer times men might like girlish looking women like Keira Knightly and women girlish looking men like Orlando Bloom, but in more troublesome situations women prefer chiselled Marlon Brandos and men womanly Rita Hayworths), but the root of these perceptions (a subliminal utilitarian need to promote and preserve the human race and, more immediately, a particular lineage) remains static.I don't know and am not qualified to really argue whether or not I believe this, but it's as persuasive an argument as I've yet heard and one which seems to supported by both moral philosophy and psychological research.

  • >That's really interesting! So it means that when someone says they find a more feminine person attractive that they may be more likely to be at ease with their situation and not fretting about their future. I think I'm inclined to agree with the view in general. I'm sure there are additional reasons for someone judging attractiveness but it seems logical that this one is certainly present.

  • >How mucxh does Beauty and Interest merge ?You meet a beautiful woman and date her for a few years. Then you break up with her, even though she is till almost identical to the woman you started dating.How has she become less beautiful ?Have you suddenly become less superficial/concerned with beauty ?Or does looking at her physical features no longer pique your interest like it used to ?I think it is more likely number 3. Along the lines of Rob's quote of "most people would find her/him/it 😉 attractive, but she/he doesn't do it for me"So is beauty then, not judged by the eye, or the subconscious darwinian impulse, but by the brains yearning to feel stimulated ?Either by endorphins, curiosity, excitement, or any manner of emotional responses.

  • >When people try to objectify beauty, what they are really doing (and not realising) is turning off the emotional relationship to/with beauty.This is how we turn up with the simplistic darwinian criteria of big hips, long dick, masculine jawline, large breasts.If darwinian logic were true and followed through, then in affluent societies where the "knowledge economy" is in ascent, most woman should find a Bill Gates, or Stephen Hawking sexually stimulating. This would be because they are the best 'foragers, hunters, and providers' in the current society. If woman want to ensure the survival of their lineage (and men also) then it should be wealth that inspires the impression of beauty. But it doesn't.Don't argue that woman (and men) do marry for money to ensure their health and lineage. The point is that it still doesn't translate into an alteration of the perception of beauty.Finally, Darwinian logic is fucked in the head anyway.

  • >Nice one. That made me laugh.You have some good points. But like most debates I would say the answer (with regards to Darwinian logic) lies somewhere in the middle. There are certainly trends in terms of what we have found attractive throughout history. Hardly anyone finds weak, dumb, unhygienic etc people attractive. In fact this is most likely the reason people don't find Stephen Hawking attractive. When people want to criticise Dawrwinian logic they usually simplify it as you have just done, putting it down to one or two characteristics that explain success. But remember that we have evolved a use for lust (i.e. pro-creation) and I seriously doubt Stephen Hawking is going to be fathering any new kids soon.Simply put, of course emotions have a big role to play. But evolution plays a role in what emotions do.

  • >I didn't really understand what you were on about in your post above Rob.My main point was that beauty is related to interest. Not perfectly but with a good degree of correlation.Also, how do you mean most people don't find Stephen Hawking attractive ? I wouldn't call him dumb (although i disagree with his big bang theory), and i am sure that his minders bathe and wash him every day, so he shouldn't be unhygenic either. That only leaves "weak". How is he weak ?Intellectually and socially he is quite powerful, physically he is weak but i'm sure his minders negate that limitation. maybe he even has body guards ?If we accept that he is physically weak, then what about micheal j. fox. never a big guy, short and weighing about 50kgs in his prime, he was an 80's heart-throb. Even now with his debilitating physical disease of parkinsons', he would be found quite attractive.for every counter trait you could mention, e.g. nice hair, good skin, sparkly eyes, that redeem micheal j. fox, i could highlight someone without those features who is considered attractive. Bob dylan with bad hair, eric roberts with bad skin, stevie wonder (eyes might be nice but no one has ever seen them).it is easy to say that the majority of people want tall, dark, and handsome, or petite, fair, and whatever, but most people are stupid. those same people are also happy with chasing money, voting continually in ineffective political systems, and wasting their life chasing after the next gadget for sale. Surely we should not look to what the masses "think" they want as to our determination of what is beautiful ?

  • >Perhaps I misunderstood you. I thought you were making the point that interests are emotionally defined.As for Hawking I find it very unlikely that he could beat you or I in a fight, unless that jack-in-a-box punching glove off of the Simpsons really is attached to his chair! So yes I did mean physical, muscular weakness. And you knew that!As for Michael J Fox I think he would be seriosuly offended if he heard that! He may not be the strongest man in the world but he can move thousands of muscles i.e. all of them. Hawking can move a handful.It's about extremes, and balance. Most women do not find the world's strongest (physically, as if I need to say it) men attractive. But neither do they find the weakest (physically) attractive. If these extreme traits are balanced out by other traits then people will find them attractive.As I said before Darwinism on any level is not about picking one trait and tying everything to it. It's about balance. You may not find an overly muscular woman attractive at first, but if you get talking to her you may find yourself attracted to certain elements of her personality, or perhaps other parts of her physical appearance.Nor can you say that everyone wants the same balance. Not every person is the same (and nor are most stupid; uneducated maybe, but this doesn't mean stupid). Every set of genes differs. And the study of epigenetics shows us that experience changes us within one lifetime too. Everyone will search for different things. Everyone will be attracted to different things. And everyone will be repelled by different things. But this does not discount evolution. There are trends and similarities in people's tastes. And different groups of people can evolve in different ways, both from generation to generation, and in each individual person's life.

  • >But why would physically weak be a determinant in Darwin's survival of the fittest theory when we inhabit a knowledge economy?Weakness is undesirable in the jungle, but it has been a good few years since we were in the jungle.If you say that beauty is a balance, then that is not darwinism, it is my theory of interest (don't have a name for it)."You may not find an overly muscular woman attractive at first, but if you get talking to her you may find yourself attracted to certain elements of her personality, or perhaps other parts of her physical appearance",this is what i am saying about something causing the brain to become interested.

  • >Darwinism is about all assets that have helped us survive in history, and all those that benefit us today. Hence all features can be discussed under the bracket of Darwinism.An example of how things stay with us is back problems. We have walked upright for, well a pretty long time. But about 70% of people still suffer from back problems today. In fact 100% of us have at some times in our lives. This is because we are still evolving, and having difficulties coping with the weight, the altered centres of balance, and particularly lately with the chair. We have not evolved to sit in chairs and hence it can cause a lot of back pain, particularly if you have an incorrect posture.All those reasons why the brain finds interest in different things have evolved.

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