The Art of Living: Hospitality to the Stranger Within "The role of art is to make a world which can be inhabited. What is fundamental to education?
Copernicus' aesthetic objections to [equants] provided one essential motive for his rejection of the Ptolemaic system His field is hot now and every year he is inundated by applications from would-be graduate students.
You don't hear that word much now. And yet we still need the underlying concept, whatever we call it.
What my friend meant was that he wanted students who were not just good technicians, but who could use their technical knowledge to design beautiful things. Mathematicians call good work "beautiful," and so, either now or in the past, have scientists, engineers, musicians, architects, designers, writers, and painters.
Is it just a coincidence that they used the same word, or is there some overlap in what they meant? If there is an overlap, can we use one field's discoveries about beauty to help us in another?
For those of us who design things, these are not just theoretical questions. If there is such a thing as beauty, we need to be able to recognize it.
We need good taste to make good things. Instead of treating beauty as an airy abstraction, to be either blathered about or avoided depending on how one feels about airy abstractions, let's try considering it as a practical question: If you mention taste nowadays, a lot of people will tell you that "taste is subjective.
When they like something, they have no idea why. It could be because it's beautiful, or because their mother had one, or because they saw a movie star with one in a magazine, or because they know it's expensive. Their thoughts are a tangle of unexamined impulses.
Most of us are encouraged, as children, to leave this tangle unexamined. If you make fun of your little brother for coloring people green in his coloring book, your mother is likely to tell you something like "you like to do it your way and he likes to do it his way.
She's trying to get the two of you to stop bickering. Like many of the half-truths adults tell us, this one contradicts other things they tell us. After dinning into you that taste is merely a matter of personal preference, they take you to the museum and tell you that you should pay attention because Leonardo is a great artist.
What goes through the kid's head at this point? What does he think "great artist" means? After having been told for years that everyone just likes to do things their own way, he is unlikely to head straight for the conclusion that a great artist is someone whose work is better than the others'.
A far more likely theory, in his Ptolemaic model of the universe, is that a great artist is something that's good for you, like broccoli, because someone said so in a book. Saying that taste is just personal preference is a good way to prevent disputes.
The trouble is, it's not true. You feel this when you start to design things. Whatever job people do, they naturally want to do better. Football players like to win games.
CEOs like to increase earnings. It's a matter of pride, and a real pleasure, to get better at your job. But if your job is to design things, and there is no such thing as beauty, then there is no way to get better at your job. If taste is just personal preference, then everyone's is already perfect: As in any job, as you continue to design things, you'll get better at it.
Your tastes will change. And, like anyone who gets better at their job, you'll know you're getting better. If so, your old tastes were not merely different, but worse.Essay Version Click-Tap "CONTENTS" at the top to see the table of contents for this essay.
A Socratic View of Wrongdoing. Morality is a term that refers to our adherence to rules that govern human behavior on the basis of some idea of right and wrong. Although the terms moral and ethical are often interchanged, in this essay I restrict my use of the terms ethics/ethical to refer to our.
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