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Is Beauty Truth?

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Old 07-09-2007, 05:48 AM
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Default Is Beauty Truth?

This is the end of Ode To A Grecian Urn by John Keats, one of the most famous poems in the English language:

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty -- that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

Is beauty really truth and vice-versa? Or was Keats simply carried away by poetic license?

Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy dealing with beauty and its criteria while epistemology is a separate branch that focuses on knowledge and its criteria. And never the twain shall meet IMO because they are studies of phenomenon that are worlds apart in essence.

In my experience truth often has warts -- ugly aspects normally hidden from view. And beauty can be a facade, veils of illusion masking flaws. The common element is concealment of the negative, which is a very strange meeting ground for two subjects that are supposedly noble and uplifting.

Are beauty and truth lies or subterfuge? What is the origin of the human urge to see beauty and find truth?

In the traditions of western culture man was said to be the measure of all things, but that is monumental conceit. Man is actually the measurer of all things and he always comes out on top. Man sees himself in certain aspects of nature and declares them "beautiful." It is Narcissus in love with his own reflection in the waters of reality.

This kind of conceit and narcissism may have served an adaptive function in the evolution of man, helping a relatively weak animal feel at home in a dangerous environment, but it doesn't come from any desire to see the truth.

So whence the urge for truth? This question fascinated Nietzsche, who suspected the search for truth often went against the best interests of human social life. He believed that success in society usually depends not on truth, but rather on cunning, deception, acting, striking poses, etc.

Yet the urge for truth persists in some people despite its practical drawbacks. Why? Certainly not because it is "beautiful." That notion is nonsense considering the social consequences because man is a social animal.

What do you think? Does beauty=truth?

"The earth was made round so we can't see too far down the road and know what is coming." -- Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa
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Old 07-09-2007, 01:17 PM
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We seek truth to find purpose. The purpose of life.
Truth is what is right. What is right gives us purpose.
Thus are lives have a greater meaning.

Truth does not fall into any of the five senses, and that is the problem.
I believe that Keats was trying to connect truth with the five senses.
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Old 07-10-2007, 10:24 AM
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Does beauty equal truth? If you watch Big Brother it often turns out that the more beautiful a person is, the more attractive their personality.
The ugly ones tend to be bitter and twisted.
Does beauty equal truth. If by truth you mean goodness then I say probably.
Obviously Ted Bundy goes against the trend.
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Old 07-10-2007, 11:33 AM
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Default Keats

Originally Posted by Asferthecat View Post
Does beauty equal truth? If you watch Big Brother it often turns out that the more beautiful a person is, the more attractive their personality.
The ugly ones tend to be bitter and twisted.
Does beauty equal truth. If by truth you mean goodness then I say probably.
Obviously Ted Bundy goes against the trend.
I do not believe that when Keats spoke of the relationship between Truth and Beauty he intended an interpretation of the word 'Beauty' anything of the sense in which it is normally used today. In one of his letters, he writes:

"The excellence of every Art is its intensity, capable of making all disagreeable evaporate, from their being in close relationship with Beauty & Truth - Examine Lear and you will find this exemplified throughout; but in this picture we have unpleasantness without any momentous depth of speculation excited, in which to bury its repulsiveness."

Had Keats meant 'prettiness' or 'beauty' in its ordinary and more superficial sense, I think it is unlikely that he would have selected Lear as his example. I believe that the 'Beauty' arises rather out of the fact that that the Imagination 'experiences' the perceived object with such lucidity and completeness that those things which are irrelevant or discordant to the perception are eliminated fromt the 'fusion' of the object and the the 'Mind'. For Keats, 'mind' would encompass the transforming power of the Imagination - thus, Truth and Beauty come into existence together and in close relationship.

Also, the 'Negative Capability' letter would seem to suggest that Keats had an understanding of Truth which was, in a very real sense, mystical - one which was accepting of 'doubts' and 'uncertainties' and which had as its foundation "the holiness of the Heart's affections" rather than the power of Reason.
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Old 06-28-2008, 02:39 PM
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Some would say so. I've actually thought over this a bit, and that's one of the themes in my story, "The Truth". OK, that title leaves little enough to the imagination .

In it, I have a race of people who see truths in everything, or forms, as Plato called them. Everything has its own truth, which it is based on, thus, life is truth. All that is beautiful is truth, while all that is evil has truth, albeit of a different kind. According to these philosophies, beauty has truth, but is not specifically defined as truth. That's a little bit of my own view, there. There is more to truth than just beauty, but there is great truth in beauty as well.
"Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools speak because they have to say something." - Plato
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