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Rachel Kelsch

Gerald Giles
LE 1350
April 20, 2016
Personal Life Philosophy
At the beginning of the semester when I did the Values and Self Image Appraisal Scale,
my results kind of surprised me. I thought that my highest score would be family (which was my
second highest) or humanity (which was tied for fourth place) because I thought that I spent
more time and energy focusing on those things above any of the other values listed. What I never
would have guessed was that my highest score would turn out to be aesthetics. Although I knew
that I valued beauty and aesthetics, I wasnt aware of just how much I valued it. Throughout this
semester Ive tried to pay more attention to what is important to me, and Ive come to realize
why it is rated as being of most value to me.
There are so many places that we can find beauty in our world, and there are so many
different kinds of beauty. I believe that everyone and everything has its own level and kind of
aesthetic beauty because beauty is subjective (Sartwell). In Of the Standard of Taste, David
Hume says,
Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which
contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may even perceive
deformity, where another is sensible of beauty; and every individual ought to acquiesce in his
own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those of others. (qtd in Sartwell)
Although the wording can be a little difficult to follow, I think that David Humes point is
correct; beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Each individual has their own opinions about what is

aesthetically pleasing and what is not. For example, one person may think that a painting is very
beautiful and would like to display it in their home, while another person feels neutral about the
piece, while yet another person thinks that its ugly and has no artistic value. Its strange to think
that something could be so subjective.
Not only do individuals have different opinions; there are also trends as to what is
considered beautiful within different communities. For example, in the Elizabethan Era, pale skin
was considered beautiful and women tried to make their skin appear lighter through the use of
powder and other products. In the 80s, big hair was popular and it could be considered the age
of excess (The History of Beauty). Trends in aesthetics isnt limited only to beauty standards,
though.
Different types of art have been popular throughout history as well. In Ancient Egypt,
huge pyramids and other large shrines were popular. In the Romanesque era, buildings were
constructed with many arches and domes. Gothic architecture was almost skeleton-like, with
delicate and intricate design and pointed arches. We are now in the era of Modernism and PostModernism, which is often minimalistic, with clean, smooth design (Architecture Timeline). I
think that architecture throughout history shows that aesthetics change throughout time.
However, the most interesting part of this to me is that although all of the eras have different
design and details, that all of the buildings are beautiful in one way or another. I think that sends
a strong message.
One situation in which there is always aesthetic beauty is nature. It may change and
morph into something else, but there arent trends that humans create and follow, which makes
nature have more of a standalone kind of beauty. There are activities done in nature that may be
trends, which makes people appreciate some aspects of nature more than others for a time. One

example of this is skiing; its a popular thing to do in many places, and especially in Utah. Skiing
helps people to appreciate the beauty of the snow and the mountains at a time when the cold
snow and wind might otherwise detract from the beauty. Although snowy mountains are always
beautiful, having an activity that connects you to the scenery brings out its beauty even more, I
think. The beauty in nature is always there, whether we pay attention to it or not.
One way to separate kinds of beauty or aesthetic is to differentiate between common and
extraordinary kinds of beauty. If you live in a certain place, its likely that youve become
accustomed to the beauty that surrounds you and that it doesnt stand out to you anymore. For
instance, Ive lived in Utah my whole life and the mountains surrounding the valley seem normal
to me. In fact, I never thought of them as extraordinary at all until I heard other people from outof-state talking about how magnificent the mountains were. That opened my eyes to the unique
beauty of the place that I live. Millions of people in the United States, and billions of people in
the world, dont get to see the kind of view that I see everyday. Another eye-opener was when I
traveled out of Utah for the first time and got away from all of the mountains. I went to
California, which is a very beautiful place, but I distinctly remember landing back in Salt Lake
City and seeing the mountains in a new light. Its not that I didnt think that the mountains were
beautiful before these experiences, but in my mind, they were a common kind of beauty. I now
realize that they are an extraordinary and majestic kind of beauty.
Another way to categorize things with aesthetic value would be by individuality and
conformity. Conformity would be popular beauty, such as someone following the beauty trends
in makeup, art, or architecture. These things would still be beautiful, but youd likely see many
of the same kinds or styles of things. Individualistic beauty would be something that is outside of
the box. This might be a trendsetter who comes up with new clothing styles or hairstyles, which

others see as aesthetically pleasing and begin to copy. Similar things happen in art and
architecture; someone comes up with a new style or design, and others who like the style decide
to try it out for themselves. One interesting things about individuality vs conformity is that its
not uncommon for the individualistic kinds of beauty to become the norm later on.
Yuriko Saito brings up an interesting idea; that of negative aesthetics, in his essay
published in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. He explains how some people are
attracted to the appeal of aesthetic violence or aesthetic pain, such as the hideous, the offensive,
the repulsive, and the vulgar. He uses the example of run-down buildings or neighborhoods, or
violent art. Saito says that the negative aesthetic experiences are thus useful and necessary in
detecting what his harmful to the quality of life and environment and provide an impetus for
improvement (Saito).
I am glad that through this class I was able to determine which values are the most
important to me. It has helped me to learn more about myself and understand who I am and why
I do the things that I do. I have also enjoyed writing this paper and learning more about what
aesthetics really is, how to categorize different types of beauty, and learn that everyones ideas of
what is aesthetically pleasing may be different.

Works Cited
"Architecture Timeline - Historic Periods and Styles." About.com Home. N.p., 21 Apr. 2016.
Web. 26 Apr. 2016.
"The History of Beauty." The History of Beauty through the Ages. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.
Saito, Yuriko. "Aesthetics of the Everyday." Stanford University. Stanford University, 30 Sept.
2015. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.
Sartwell, Crispin. "Beauty." Stanford University. Stanford University, 04 Sept. 2012. Web. 26
Apr. 2016.