How Hotness Kills Beauty

"Design for a diploma of the Czech Academy of Sciences - Katz's Award", Max Švabinský (1873 - 1963), Czech

A while ago I saw a tweet appear on my feed - it was a tweet from the Professor Bret Weinstein, and it said: "Beauty doesn't fade. Hotness fades. And frankly, we would all be a lot better off if it didn't exist at all. (...) But hotness deranges the world. It is the enemy of beauty." From the moment I saw it, I decided that I shall contemplate and explore it as this has been my personal sentiment since the time I started developing interests in philosophy, aesthetic, poetry, and beauty. But what it is that hotness does that kills the beauty? How did it accomplish that most people can no longer tell the difference between the two? To discover that, I shall be helped by one of the most significant aesthetes humanity had seen - Friedrich Schiller.

Democratisation of Values and Relativism

"Folly driving the chariot of Love", Giuseppe Bezzuloli (1784 – 1855), Italian

"What is man before beauty liberates him from free pleasure, and the serenity of form tames down the savageness of life? Eternally uniform in his aims, eternally changing in his judgments, self-seeking without being himself, unfettered without being free, a slave without serving any rule. At this period, the world is to him only destiny, not yet an object; all has existence for him only in as far as it procures existence to him; a thing that neither seeks from nor gives to him is non-existent. Every phenomenon stands out before him separate and cut off, as he finds himself in the series of beings. All that is, is to him through the bias of the moment; every change is to him an entirely fresh creation, because with the necessary in him, the necessary out of him is wanting, which binds together all the changing forms in the universe, and which holds fast the law on the theatre of his action, while the individual departs. It is in vain that nature lets the rich variety of her forms pass before him; he sees in her glorious fulness nothing but his prey, in her power and greatness nothing but his enemy. Either he encounters objects, and wishes to draw them to himself in desire, or the objects press in a destructive manner upon him, and he thrusts them away in dismay and terror. In both cases his relation to the world of sense is immediate contact; and perpetually anxious through its pressure, restless and plagued by imperious wants, he nowhere finds rest except in enervation, and nowhere limits save in exhausted desire." - "Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man", Friedrich Schiller In my article "Liberty Within Structure" I have written about human need for their own microcosm and freedom from the sometimes, overwhelming, and sometimes oppressive and unjust, external structures. Human desire to be separate, to serve nothing but his own self and expect instant gratification is an urge that exists perhaps in all of us - any external structure, any transindividual system of values is to a degree, oppressive to our appetites, our egos as it restricts them and establishes rules and laws to be governed by. It is also, one of the biggest traps that humans fall into, the promise of unlimited freedom soon becomes vain and an individual becomes a loss entity inside of a chaos, lacking meaning, purpose and principles. Unable to inherit them from surroundings, most individuals cannot create them on their own - nihilism is a logical consequence. The concept of Beauty, the whole philosophy of aesthetics was not immune to the general wave - the efforts of Romantics, of Nietzsche and Wagner were in vain, the individual had already become the measure of everything and everything that restricted the endless expansion of individual was an oppressive structure that had to be destroyed. Beauty perhaps suffered so largely because Beauty often appears as the great discriminator. Beauty seen through classical ideals of symmetry and harmony, especially on humans simply touched where the post-World War II West was most sensitive - it suggested that certain humans have it, and certain do not and that the only difference between the two is the specific expression of their ancestry in their phenotype. In arts, the classical aesthetic philosophy became oppressive as it suggested that not all tastes are equal, that bad tastes exist, that vulgarity, indecency and kitsch exist. Beauty discriminates and it discriminates harshly. So Beauty was on her knees, almost beheaded and just like human being ends up being betrayed by promise of limitless liberty, so was he betrayed when he declared Beauty oppressive. She that demanded reason and refinement, was replaced by her shadow - the hotness, the sex appeal, the superficial stimulation of the senses, the work of hormones. Like a quiet sound of piano Nocturne behind the noise of loud, protruding sounds, the Lady Beauty can barely be heard. She could only be heard by paying close attention, by being able to distinguish melody among the meaningless noise. She would also require an ear trained to spot her, an eye to see her, because like everything sacred, she hides behind a veil of mystery - the beautiful sound may draw the trained ear's attention but that is only the initial call, where she truly reveals herself is in the feeling of sublime, of almost terrifying epiphany. How "hotness" kills beauty is that "hotness" requires no effort of us and it appeals to the most base, most primal in human beings. The constant stimulation of the senses hardly ever transforms into satisfaction but only in more need for stimulation. As Schiller said in the quote above, the only rest there is exhaustion, an overdose, before the cycle begins again. And indeed, our age is the age of over stimulation of senses in every form that it may take conscious, willing action to seek a break from constant dopamine. When Beauty was killed, it made space for the favorite principle of the libertines - "the self-expression", even if that which one is to say and express, brings no value, meaning or anything constructive. Body and sexuality became the new canvas of self-expression and like every purely sensual and hormonal stimulation, it demands a greater dosage - the shock, the aggression, the vulgarity. The lack of subtlety became a never ending competition. The gentle and non-aggressive beauty has no power against it. As Schiller said the human, before recognising Beauty, sees only that which asks of him or gives to him, and Beauty very often does neither.

Aesthetic Principle as a Moral Principle

Detail from the "Borghese Vase" (1st Century BC), Louvre Museum, France

"When I attribute to taste the merit of contributing to moral progress, it is not in the least my intention to pretend that the interest that good taste takes in an action suffices to make an action moral; morality could never have any other foundation than her own. Taste can be favorable to morality in the conduct, as I hope to point out in the present essay; but alone, and by its unaided influence, it could never produce anything moral. (...) Taste demands of us moderation and dignity; it has a horror of everything sharp, hard and violent; it likes all that shapes itself with ease and harmony. To listen to the voice of reason amidst the tempest of the senses, and to know where to place a limit to nature in its most brutified explosions, is, as we are aware, required by good breeding, which is no other than an aesthetic law; this is required of every civilized man. Well, then, this constraint imposed upon civilized man in the expression of his feelings, confers upon him already a certain degree of authority over them, or at least develops in him a certain aptitude to rise above the purely passive state of the soul, to interrupt this state by an initiative act, and to stop by reflection the petulance of the feelings, ever ready to pass from affections to acts. (...) Notwithstanding this, a great point is gained already by the intervention of taste in the operations of the will. All those material inclinations and brutal appetites, which oppose with so much obstinacy and vehemence the practice of good, the soul is freed from through the aesthetic taste; and in their place, it implants in us nobler and gentler inclinations, which draw nearer to order, to harmony, and to perfection; and although these inclinations are not by themselves virtues, they have at least something in common with virtue; it is their object. Thenceforth, if it is the appetite that speaks, it will have to undergo a rigorous control before the sense of the beautiful; if it is the reason which speaks, and which commands in its acts conformity with order, harmony, and perfection, not only will it no longer meet with an adversary on the side of inclination, but it will find the most active competition. If we survey all the forms under which morality can be produced, we shall see that all these forms can be reduced to two; either it is sensuous nature which moves the soul either to do this thing or not to do the other, and the will finally decides after the law of the reason; or it is the reason itself which impels the motion, and the will obeys it without seeking counsel of the senses. " - "The Moral Utility of Aesthetic Matters", Friedrich Schiller Many thinkers and artists of the Western tradition have thought it possible for aesthetics and art to completely fill the vacuum left by the fall of religious structures in Europe. However, aesthetic alone did not manage to do it. Music, arts, literary circles and movements, philosophical schools of the 19th century have become a way to resurrect something for certain period of time, but it could never sustain for longer periods. In that sense, the aesthetes were criticised - it is the structures that create values which art expresses, art cannot create the structure itself. Schiller, takes the middle path - aesthetic cannot stand alone but it can be a pointer, a way to cultivate values. Just like the modern art, vulgar music is an expression of postmodern society's values, so was the art of the times past. The value of aesthetic philosophy and Beauty is that it can assist humans in cultivating virtues, in tuning into their reason, their consciences, their souls. By doing this, humans develop an eye, an ear, a smell for the gentle, subtle, harmony, ideal and perfect and by doing so, the eye, the ear is more repulsed by the violent, hard, sharp and vulgar. In doing so, human in the forms, seeks that which elevates human form, human mind, human existence - even if they represent dreadful conditions, events such as death, war, torture, even if they represent human beings nude or human sexuality - it is always to elevate, to strive for an ideal, for the possible. Our appetites, which on their own are not evil as they serve the continuation of life, in Beauty, become sacred and beautiful, our sins a chance for repentance and our brokenness a place for Apollo's light to enter. Beauty is discriminating, but Beauty is also available, she is always present, but she does not pull us to notice her, however to a careful observer, she shows herself. We all live in an age when our senses are constantly stimulated with the vulgar. We can hardly control our urges to react to a phone's buzz even while driving, we can hardly go without eating for couple of hours and view the fasting individuals as either superhumans or fanatics, for why would one deprive themselves of food when they are hungry? But we can learn, we can listen to the notes when we listen to music and devote ourselves only to music, not listen to it while studying or doing something else, we can with care look at a statue, at a flower, at a human face, notice the way brows arch, the way lips curve, the way movement accentuates the athlete's muscles, and we can allow the Beauty to discriminate, for we ought to be her servants.

Links "Aesthetical and Philosophical Essays", Fridrich Schiller Professor Bret's Tweet


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