This paper is motivated by the value of rendering the philosophical tradition of thought about beauty as an intelligible and useful theoretical framework for empirical research into aesthetic experience.
The discussion re-articulates and defends against some objections, four theses about our experience of beauty:
1. The Distinctiveness Thesis.
Beauty is a distinctive aesthetic phenomenon. It is not a portmanteau term for aesthetic phenomena in general nor a mere honorific. Nor is individual or cultural variation in the things we find beautiful an objection to the thesis.
2. The Cross-Modal Thesis.
In response to beauty, our cognitive, affective and conative capacities are all centrally involved. It is argued that standard evolutionary accounts of beauty are insufficiently deep to explain the ontological variety of the beautiful.
3. The Mereological Thesis.
Our experience of the relation between parts and wholes is, in the beautiful, of a different kind from our ordinary experience of ordinary things. In objects experienced as beautiful, the reciprocal and intelligible relations between parts and whole play the part that law like relations play in the real world.
4. The Particularity Thesis
The aesthetic response to beauty and the deepest possible attachment to someone, – paradigmatically, in Eros based love – something or somewhere as absolutely particular are, at root, the same phenomenon.
Ian Ground, Sunderland University, UK
Harvard Citation Guide: Ground, I. (2012) Why Does Beauty Matter?, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 05 Dec 2012, Available at: http://isparchitecture.wordpress.com. [Accessed: 01 Jan 2013].