What defines beauty has been debated for centuries. What hasn’t been clear until now is whether our brains respond uniquely to beautiful things/experiences.
What do I mean?
Is there a part of our brain that when triggered indicates whether we find something beautiful? The answer is yes. Moreover, according to a newly published report out of the U.K. (“Toward a Brain-Based Theory of Beauty“), our brains don’t distinguish between different sources of beauty. In other words, the same part of the brain that is triggered by a beautiful picture is triggered by beautiful music.
The study differentiates between what we deem beautiful and what we deem to be art (I won’t go through the whole methodology, as it I had to read it 5 times to understand it!). So the intellectual interpretation of beauty that we make when analyzing art isn’t playing a role here. For example, you may find Wagner amazing because of the complexity of the music but actually regard Rock’n Roll as more beautiful. So when listening to rock, this region of the brain is activated.
Who cares that we’ve now isolated a region of the brain that recognizes beauty? I ruminated over this a while.
I guess one could argue that understanding that something happens to our brains when we encounter beauty allows us to examine those objects of beauty for their commonalities and create a theory of what truly makes something beautiful – something philosophers, artists, theorists and historians have been trying to do for centuries.
How does that affect us normal folk? To be frank, I’m not sure. I kinda like the idea that there is no one definition of beauty. I don’t know if I want to know how to isolate what’s beautiful and what’s not. I just know I want to be surrounded by it.