Ain’t I Beautiful???


Please don’t mistake me! I have no illusions about my beauty or the lack of it. This blog of mine focuses not on how beautiful I am but what is it that we call beautiful!!!!! This stems from a discussion I had with my very good friend today morning while discussion HOW ONE QUANTIFIES BEAUTY? Or rather, why beauty is such an abstract concept! Beauty is definite, we say! For example, a rose flower (this example comes straight from a very good lecture I attended by Prof. B. V. Sreekantan) appears beautiful to most of us! But some people find it beautiful enough to write poetry about it whereas some people just call it beautiful and forget about it the moment they would’ve said that! So, how does one DECIDE what’s beautiful and HOW beautiful??

This question opens up a box akin to Pandora’s box of troubles! There is this fundamental question of HOW one defines beauty? What are the parameters that govern beauty? Is beauty really quantifiable? If it is, then, isn’t the concept beauty itself lost?

Actually, the discussion was about whether one can reduce everything in this world to some mathematical symbols and equations? And I was of the opinion that reducing something like energy to symbols E, F, G, H etc. has made us visualize ENERGY as equations and and not as we would feel/sense it otherwise! The discussion then reached one point where BEAUTY came in. I felt that beauty is not quantifiable. Because we don’t know what to define beauty in terms of! It’s such a SUBJECTIVE thing! I think full moon is bautiful whereas a friend of mine rubbishes this! So, is moon eventually beautiful or not? However, whether I agree or my friend disagrees, the fact that matter contains energy remains unchanged!

So, my friend and I were trying to come up with certain terms that could possibly decide whether a rose flower shown to us was beautiful or not! Let’s say a red rose is put in front of us. What are the obvious things that are noticed about it? Here I list a few that I can think of:

1. The colour
2. The symmetry in arrangement of petals (personally, I’d appreciate asymmetry more)
3. The shapes and sizes of petals
4. The fragrance of the rose (this may be excluded if we’re talking only about a picture of the flower)

Now, on the face of it, all the above stated quantities can be “measured” by us using certain techniques. The colour can be described by the photo spectrum of the colour, or the “redness” of the flower. There are ways to define the colour of the flower. Symmetry (or asymmetry) is again very definable. Shapes and sizes are very easily measurable too. And fragrance can of course, by quantified as the density of the fragrant chemical/s (these are well known and well studies chemicals by perfumery industry).

Now, we have a definition of all the parameters that tell us or lead us to believe that the rose flower is beautiful! A perfectly logical argument. I couldn’t find things to say against it. But does this actually convey to someone who isn’t looking at the flower how beautiful the flower actually is? Just by quoting the numbers related to the above quantities, can we make someone viaualize the rose?

Let’s take an example (this is an appropriate one knowing that Valentine’s Day is round the corner)! Can a lover propose to his lady love saying that:

My dear, your complexion is 9.5 on the scale of fairness, your eyes have an RGB value of (some number), your voice is this many decibels………………

If I were to be proposed like that, I’d slap the guy and tell him to go propose to a robot!!!! So, isn’t defining beauty making beauty lose its essence? So, in my opinion, there’s something more to beauty than just numbers! It has to be about HOW it makes the beholder feel! (Again, I take the word beholder from the saying “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”)……, whoever said this did understand the “perceiver’s” aspect of the beauty! That’s something you just CAN NOT quatify! You can not measure JOY that anyone is going to feel after seeing the rose flower! So, I came out of the argument convinced that beauty can’t be quantified (at least, not till some believable unit for JOY comes into being) as of now!

I know that my friend did give me a rather scientific approach to quantifying beauty, but sorry my friend, I still don’t agree with you! I still am of the belief that beauty can’t be DESCRIBED or UNDERSTOOD using a set of numbers and symbols as I believe that an integral part of beauty is how the perceiver FEELS upon seeing it.

There’s some more gyan coming your way in the coming days about consciousness (which will be essintially how I felt after attending an AWESOME conference in NIAS about consciousness, a scientific, artistic and philosophical approach)…….so, watch out for this space……..




  1. fuse me said,

    February 6, 2006 at 10:43 am

    Hmm, I too agree that quantifying beauty with remove the beauty from beauty… I think I told you this, but you probably wer’nt listening then.

    I was also blabbering something about Art then. I got what I wanted to say. Art tends to describe beauty in different ways and it simulates the actual feeling through another way. In some sense Art quantifies beauty. But not in the sense of science.

    Thats the “beauty” of art 😉

  2. Pritesh said,

    February 6, 2006 at 11:08 am

    I was listening, of course. And hence the mention of that part in the blog……and yes, very rightly said, Art is a beautiful way of describing beauty, not very scientific but good enough for our purpose…….

  3. Sree said,

    February 6, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    Hey thanx for dropping by. the posts u referred to are in Kannada – hence u wd have problems reading it.
    jus a thought on ur new post, despite quantification, the concept of beauty remains subjective rt? Even if u r able to give me the exact shade/shape/size of the rose u like, I can have a different set of numbers as my favourites? I feel its the reason for liking one set of qualities over another that is unexplainable. beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder? 🙂

  4. February 7, 2006 at 12:11 am

    Hm. But you have indeed opened a pandora’s box. You reap what you sow. And you get a big boring blog for writing such a nice blog on such a thought provoking topic. I will compliment you by writing a blog (of course very big and very very boring) as a comment on this.
    Good job!

  5. Ajit said,

    February 7, 2006 at 7:52 pm

    >> My dear, your complexion is 9.5 on the scale of fairness, your eyes have an RGB value of (some number), your voice is this many decibels………………

    >> If I were to be proposed like that, I’d slap the guy and tell him to go propose to a robot!!!!

    Me, too. But I would make sure that I use exactly 1.237N of force 😉

    Nice, beautiful post!

    BTW, your latest rangoli is beautiful.

  6. fuse me said,

    February 8, 2006 at 3:59 am

    The idea of Quantifying I guess is comming to a common consenses about a How much. Energy has the units of Joules, but A guy with 200 Joules of energy is considered really strong while an engine with 200 joules of energy is considered weak.

    Maybe we really can come up with a unit for beauty which depends on the observer’s parameters.

  7. February 8, 2006 at 9:02 am

    beauty’s chaos…art tries to make in quantified chaos..but is the chaos really there or is it because we percieve it to be so.if it is out there,really existing then ofcourse beauty can be objectified, but if it’s the latter case, then objectification of perception is too difficult a task, although i believe it can be done… 🙂

  8. Pritesh said,

    February 8, 2006 at 9:15 pm

    Hey Sree, thanks again for reading my thoughts. I agree that the numbers for you may not be the numkbers for me and hence, the subjectivity in the concept of beauty!

    And Sujju, your blogs are anything but boring…..

    Hey Ajit, nice to hear from you. And I shall remember the 1.237 N force concept when I slap some guy next time! 😉 And thanks, I’m just going on trying newer things in rangolis………….

    And Ananth, considering that there are 9 billion people on this planet, our database of everyone’s perception will have to be rather exhaustive and elborate!

    And thanks Anudeep. I don’t know you but I do agree with you! 🙂

  9. Rajani said,

    February 8, 2006 at 9:34 pm

    Hey Pritz,
    Remind me to loan you “The Romantic Manifesto” by Ayn Rand when we meet next. It might prod your thoughts further along this direction… or set you on another path altogether 🙂

  10. Pritesh said,

    February 8, 2006 at 11:12 pm

    Hey Rajani,

    I’ll be more than glad to read the book! It sounds interesting………waiting eagerly to read the book……

  11. sathya said,

    February 17, 2006 at 10:12 am

    There are quite a number of scientific brains behind such a topic…I’ll make an exception.

    I think its easier to relate ‘quantification of beauty’ using music rather than a rose. The scientists would definitely agree that almost every aspect of music can be measured and reproduced, but what appeals to us is not the structured flow of sounds (i fancy one might be able to program all music if that were the case!). You appreciate music by what you relate it with. On the experimentative side, I’ve tried listeneing to music backwards and also a single song at random order. The result: it made my head go dizzy! That was conclusive for me to say that the beauty of music lies in your experiences. I would say beauty is quantifiable but the quantum is percieved by each differently based on their experiences.

  12. Pritesh said,

    February 17, 2006 at 9:19 pm

    I agree Sathya, very true…..–>

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