Beauty: I’s The Beholder!

I just taught a music unit for a class in the college’s general education core, Artistic Expression. In six short sessions we made a dash through each of the eras of music history, with a quick listen to a few musical examples, especially emphasizing how form works in unifying a musical work. This dash provided us the material to talk a good deal about aesthetics, the study of beauty, or better said, the enjoyment of beauty. So, it made sense to put a short essay on the unit test asking the students to take one of two positions:

Beauty is only in the eye of the beholder or


Beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder.

Read the whole thing …


3 Responses to “Beauty: I’s The Beholder!”

  1. mumbaiKar Says:

    Are you sure, it’s the beauty? Or is it the booty? 🙂

  2. Rusty Pritchard Says:

    Your students are probably right at home in their economics classes, where they learn that all values are subjective, and can be reduced to “tastes and preferences”. Economists clearly reject the notion of virtues that must be cultivated. We’re all born with tastes for which we are unaccountable, which appear to come from nowhere.

    My own students frequently fail to distinguish “opinion” from “reasoned positions”, and try to use “that’s just your opinion” to stave off any argument that threatens the autonomy of their beliefs, however poor those beliefs may be.

    Mark Sagoff, in his brilliant essay “At the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, or why Political Questions are Not all Economic”, argues that such hyperindividualism is not unique to economics–it is shared by psychotherapists–for example. He argues that values are NOT subjective, and that politics is the arena where we discuss which values are good and which values are bad (of course, even richer conversations occur in faith communities). The pressure to describe values as merely subjective is strongest in those who would rely nearly solely on the market as an arbiter of good and evil. You put out an idea, product, symphony, mp3 file, and see whether people are willing to pay for it. The market organizes production to provide for whatever people want, but it does not sit in judgment of those wants. Libertarians rail against the social imposition of private values, and they see all values as private. In faith communities, civil government, and families, a different conception of value prevails. IN those settings, real conversations about beauty, truth, and goodness can take place, because values are not really subjective. This goes a long way toward explaining why free markets are nearly always destructive of faith, morality, family, social capital, and common-sense government.

    You should read the great Sagoff essay, which is available at

  3. Ann K Says:

    I love this! “it might mean she has something to learn, it might mean she has found an area in which to grow.” One of the greatest things in life, I feel, is when we come to see beauty through others…when we are able to find beauty in something that was previously stagnant in our minds because of the influence, teaching, and inspiration of another. This is what connects us more deeply to eachother. This is what makes us human.

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