Taking Beauty Seriously

If all experience of beauty is merely subjective, we find ourselves in a position in which some people like rice pudding and other people do not like rice pudding, which is then the conclusion of the matter. In short, it would mean that no two people have ever differed or ever can differ on a question of beauty. When one person says the Philadelphia City Hall is more beautiful than the Parthenon and another person denies this, they are not, on the subjectivist theory, arguing at all.

One man is telling about his insides and the other is telling about his insides. If someone wishes to contend that the works of a contemporary leader of a dance band are aesthetically superior to the works of Beethoven, there is, subjectively speaking, no suitable rejoinder.

This situation, however, is too absurd to be accepted by thoughtful critics as the last word on the question. The fact is that people do argue about aesthetic judgments, and the subjectivists argue as much as anybody else.

Regardless of their philosophical position, those who take beauty most seriously tend to hold that those who fail to see what they see really ought to see it, and with sufficient clarification of sight would see it.

Kant goes beyond the mere rejection of the familiar maxim and points out the imperative note which is essential to aesthetic judgment, a note similar to that which we found in moral judgment. To assert that a thing is beautiful is to blame those who do not agree. If I am right, they are wrong.

It would be laughable of a man to justify himself by saying, "This object is beautiful for me."

Elton Trueblood, Philosophy of Religion