• Noble Dust
    1.5k
    I've never been too interested in the various proofs and arguments for/against the existence of God, so this isn't really an argument along those lines, or an argument at all; it's more just a question.

    Does a bird know that it's beautiful? This is a poetic question more than a philosophical one, but it brings up a valid philosophical line of enquiry: Is there a macrocosmic hierarchy in which beings "look down on" beings lower on the hierarchical scale and observe qualities of those beings which are invisible to those lower beings themselves? The bird doesn't "know" that it's beautiful in the way that we "know" that (and of course, there's the problem of whether beauty can be epistemically apprehended in the first place). But putting that question aside, our unique, subjective apprehension of the bird's beauty is an experience of the bird that only occurs via our human conciousness. From our human vantage point, the bird is beautiful: not just the the colors of the plumage, but the physical way the bird flits, flies, and the songs that it sings. The bird is acting on instinct; the bird doesn't control it's physical appearance the way a beautiful man or woman does; the bird doesn't sing for the pleasure of song itself; the bird has no mirror in which to observe it's own beauty, both literally and figuratively (figuratively in the sense that conciousness is a mirror in which we reflect on ourselves). The bird has none of that. But we possess a view unique to us; The very sense-experience and abstract concepts that create our apprehension of the bird as beautiful are the things that are exclusive to our human conciousness.

    So now, moving up the theoretical macrocosmic hiearchy, the question becomes: Does a human person know that it's beautiful? And secondly, could there be a higher form of being that observes and apprehends a beautiful quality in us which we are incapable of seeing?

    stellers-sea-eagle-taking-off-in-snow-_r7a2533-hokkaido-japan.jpg
  • Bitter Crank
    4.3k
    Darwin thought beauty was a critical piece of natural selection, along with fitness. Birds prefer--choose--beauty in their mates, he thought. A male cardinal does not need to know that he is beautiful, but his selective mate does. She (apparently) is the one who decides who gets to share her nest.

    Knowing one is beautiful would seem to be a special accomplishment. Many people like the face they see in the mirror; its kind of disadvantageous to not like it. But to assess one's appearance as "handsome", or "beautiful" and identify the degree of loveliness requires an accurate assessment of one's appearance from the POV of others.

    What we more likely know is how well our face does in the market place. That we can see -- how people respond to us, what they say to us, who shuns us, who gravitates to us, all that. And of course, all that isn't based on beauty alone.

    There is a New England shape note song--or maybe the Southern Harmony tradition which speaks of the longing to see God, or if not God directly, the throne, a sight that would be infinitely pleasurable. And even more, to be in the embrace of God.

    Father, I long, I faint to see
    the place of thine abode.
    I'd leave these earthly courts and flee
    up to thy seat my God

    Here I behold thy distant face,
    and tis a pleasing sight
    but to abide in thine embrace
    is infinite delight.

    I'd part with all the joys of sense,
    to gaze upon thy throne.
    Pleasure springs fresh forever thence
    Unspeakable, unknown...
  • Noble Dust
    1.5k
    Birds prefer--choose--beauty in their mates, he thought. A male cardinal does not need to know that he is beautiful, but his selective mate does.Bitter Crank

    But the point I want to make, and probably didn't really make, is that "beauty" is something different for the bird than it is for us. Our very conciousness, our place within the world, is a perspective from which we see the bird in a specific way, and we see it as beautiful. Our experience of the beautiful male bird is not the same as the female's. The female, when she see's the brightly arrayed male, doesn't see beauty as such as we humans see it; she sees some sort of bright colors, and, whether because of just how bright they are, or some pheromone situation, or the male's shear force of determination, she chooses a mate. She doesn't see the male the way we do. That's my entire argument; we see an aspect of the bird which the bird is not capable of seeing.

    But to assess one's appearance as "handsome", or "beautiful" and identify the degree of loveliness requires an accurate assessment of one's appearance from the POV of others.Bitter Crank

    Why can't I see my face in the mirror and decide that I'm beautiful (the word handsome is so overwrought; all people are beautiful) based purely on what I see, not on my projection of how others see me? It takes a lot to look oneself in the eye and call oneself beautiful.

    There is a New England shape note song--or maybe the Southern Harmony tradition which speaks of the longing to see GodBitter Crank

    Thanks for sharing it.
  • numberjohnny5
    78
    Is there a macrocosmic hierarchy in which beings "look down on" beings lower on the hierarchical scale and observe qualities of those beings which are invisible to those lower beings themselves?

    Do you mean a hierarchy in which certain animals that have evolved particular capacities to evaluate qualities (like beauty) in other animals that have not evolved such capacities? Apart from humans, I do think that some animals can evaluate such qualities in other animals insofar as what is "beautiful" to them might serve different evolutionary functions (e.g. avoiding or falling prey to predation).

    I don't think that hierarchies are objective things, btw. They are just ways that minds organise things. So there is no intrinsic "superior/inferior" "valuable" differences in things apart from minds thinking about things in that way.

    "Does a human person know that it's beautiful?"

    It depends on the person, since beauty is subjective.

    And secondly, could there be a higher form of being that observes and apprehends a beautiful quality in us which we are incapable of seeing?

    Again, beauty is subjective. There is no objectively "beautiful quality" that exists in things apart from some mind judging qualities to be beautiful.

    It could be true that someone/thing observes a quality in us that we aren't aware of and judges it as beautiful. But that judgement belongs to the mind of the observer judging that quality.

    I'm not sure what a "higher form of being" means. I'd say we have evolved particular features that enable us to perform particular functions that some animals cannot. But the same is true for other animals that are able to perform particular functions that we cannot. Neither is "higher" or "lower" than the other in the sense of intrinsic "superior/inferior/value, etc."

    That's my entire argument; we see an aspect of the bird which the bird is not capable of seeing.

    I'd put it like this: we are capable of perceiving and appraising aspects of non-human animals that other non-human animals cannot perceive and appraise (based on our biological apparatus). But it's probably also true that some non-human animals are able to perceive and appraise aspects of humans that humans cannot perceive and appraise (e.g. infra-red perception, sonic detection, etc.).
  • Noble Dust
    1.5k
    Do you mean a hierarchy in which certain animals that have evolved particular capacities to evaluate qualities (like beauty) in other animals that have not evolved such capacities?numberjohnny5

    No.

    Apart from humans, I do think that some animals can evaluate such qualities in other animals insofar as what is "beautiful" to them might serve different evolutionary functions (e.g. avoiding or falling prey to predation).numberjohnny5

    I agree, but I'm not talking about evolutionary functions.

    I don't think that hierarchies are objective things, btw. They are just ways that minds organise things. So there is no intrinsic "superior/inferior" "valuable" differences in things apart from minds thinking about things in that way.numberjohnny5

    But I'm talking about a hierarchy within which "minds thinking about things in that way" are just one level of the hierarchy. Plus the only minds thinking are human minds; no other minds are thinking, presumably.

    It depends on the person, since beauty is subjective.numberjohnny5

    If you re-read that section of the OP, you'll see that beauty there is metaphorical and not literal in a physical sense.

    Again, beauty is subjective. There is no objectively "beautiful quality" that exists in things apart from some mind judging qualities to be beautiful.numberjohnny5

    Again, you're missing the metaphor of this entire thread, which is in the title of the thread.

    It could be true that someone/thing observes a quality in us that we aren't aware of and judges it as beautiful. But that judgement belongs to the mind of the observer judging that quality.numberjohnny5

    That's vaguely close to one aspect of what I'm asking here. But it sounds like you're just talking about people observing people. Again, if you re-read the OP, I'm using the bird as a metaphor for imaging if a similar scenario of us observing the bird applies to some higher form of being observing us.

    I'm not sure what a "higher form of being" means.numberjohnny5

    A form of being higher than humans.

    I'd put it like this: we are capable of perceiving and appraising aspects of non-human animals that other non-human animals cannot perceive and appraise (based on our biological apparatus). But it's probably also true that some non-human animals are able to perceive and appraise aspects of humans that humans cannot perceive and appraise (e.g. infra-red perception, sonic detection, etc.).numberjohnny5

    I agree, but it looks like you're thinking within a physicalist/materialist framework; I'm not. I agree that what you say here is true, but it's not an argument against the possibility of a higher form of being existing above the being of humanity; a form of being that apprehends a different view of humanity in the same way that we observe a different view of the bird.
  • Wayfarer
    4.8k
    Beautiful verse, BC.

    So, I agree, in that I think the distinctively human trait is to reflect on beauty, and to wonder at it. I can’t see how birds could do that, even though I think birds are highly intelligent beings, much more intelligent than many people think. But it’s the self-awareness, the ‘being aware of being aware’ of something, which I think amplifies the sense of beauty in H. Sapiens, which I think is absent in other creatures.

    But I can’t quite make the leap from there to the second paragraph. I suppose one answer might be, that the sense of being loved is in some way to ‘feel beautiful’. At a very basic level, your mother’s love for you as an infant instils a sense of self-worth in you which might, at a stretch, be a kind of beauty. (The sad testimony to this is the pathologies of infants who are raised with an absence of all maternal love.)

    So I suppose, within the Christian framework, the sense of the Lord as a ‘loving father’ and indeed the sense in which the sacrament of marriage recapitulates that love, is also a source of something very life beauty.

    The problem is, I can’t see how it constitutes any kind of proof.
  • Noble Dust
    1.5k
    But I can’t quite make the leap from there to the second paragraph.Wayfarer

    The leap is just a simple metaphorical leap; we see a beautiful aspect of the bird which the bird cannot see; what's to say that something else sees a beautiful aspect of us that we cannot see?

    I suppose one answer might be, that the sense of being loved is in some way to ‘feel beautiful’. At a very basic level, your mother’s love for you as an infant instils a sense of self-worth in you which might, at a stretch, be a kind of beauty. (The sad testimony to this is the pathologies of infants who are raised with an absence of all maternal love.)Wayfarer

    Love is, in a way, the next question to ask about after coming to some conclusion about this fundamental question, I think.

    So I suppose, within the Christian framework, the sense of the Lord as a ‘loving father’ and indeed the sense in which the sacrament of marriage recapitulates that love, is also a source of something very life beauty.Wayfarer

    I guess that might be true. I will say, with all honesty, that as a former Christian, I didn't consciously intend to ask this OP question with that as a possible outcome. In good faith, I started the thread because this is a metaphor that I've found to be incredibly powerful in my own thinking, so I wanted to flesh it out.

    The problem is, I can’t see how it constitutes any kind of proof.Wayfarer

    Well, maybe I should change the thread title, but as I mentioned in the intro paragraph, I don't mean to argue for proof necessarily.
  • Wayfarer
    4.8k
    I wouldn't worry, just thinking aloud.
  • Noble Dust
    1.5k


    Ok; just responding to your comments.
  • numberjohnny5
    78
    I agree, but I'm not talking about evolutionary functions.

    In that case, I don't think that animals that are relatively dissimilar to us perceive qualities as "beautiful" apart from them being able to do so for evolutionary purposes.

    Plus the only minds thinking are human minds; no other minds are thinking, presumably.

    I assume that other animals that are similar to us, that is, animals that share similar anatomical/biological features/apparatus (e.g. apes) can think too. By "think" there I mean rational/implicative/relational thinking, although it wouldn't be as abstract or "complex" as our thinking.

    If you re-read that section of the OP, you'll see that beauty there is metaphorical and not literal in a physical sense.

    What is "beauty" in the sense that you're using it? And would you also have a view per what beauty is ontologically?

    But it sounds like you're just talking about people observing people. Again, if you re-read the OP, I'm using the bird as a metaphor for imaging if a similar scenario of us observing the bird applies to some higher form of being observing us.

    I'm confused. Let me try to clarify something of my position in case it helps further the discussion.

    Any perception/appraisal is going to involve some mind (human or non-human (including something like a god)) observing some other (or some mind perceiving/appraising aspects of itself). That's necessarily the case.

    A form of being higher than humans.

    In what sense "higher"?

    I agree, but it looks like you're thinking within a physicalist/materialist framework; I'm not. I agree that what you say here is true, but it's not an argument against the possibility of a higher form of being existing above the being of humanity; a form of being that apprehends a different view of humanity in the same way that we observe a different view of the bird.

    Well, I am a physicalist. ;)

    I wasn't presenting "an argument against the possibility of a higher form of being existing above the being of humanity". I still don't know what "higher" means. I don't view things as intrinsically "superior/inferior/valuable, etc.". That's all I'm saying; and it seems that you do.

    Would there be a higher being higher than the higher being, btw? Would it be an infinite sequence of higher beings in that regard?
  • Noble Dust
    1.5k


    Quick tip, highlight the text you want to quote, then click "quote". That way, the people you respond to will get notifications that someone has responded. I noticed your responses because I'm watching my own thread. :-O

    In that case, I don't think that animals that are relatively dissimilar to us perceive qualities as "beautiful" apart from them being able to do so for evolutionary purposes.numberjohnny5

    But how does "beauty", aesthetically speaking, obtain evolutionarily? How would Adorno respond to you, for instance?

    What is "beauty" in the sense that you're using it? And would you also have a view per what beauty is ontologically?numberjohnny5

    In this particular case in this thread, beauty first refers to our perception of the bird (view the attached photo for context), and then secondarily refers to an abstract concept in which the first concept of beauty is creatively applied to a possible form of being which is higher than humanity.

    As to an ontological view of beauty, I love that stuff, but at this point...it's tough ground, and a lot of the ground feels tough because of language.

    I would say Divine Being is primary, and Beauty might possibly be secondary. Beauty might be the generative outgrowth of divinity. That's not very good, though. Go easy on me. Or not.

    I'm confused. Let me try to clarify something of my position in case it helps further the discussion.

    Any perception/appraisal is going to involve some mind (human or non-human (including something like a god)) observing some other (or some mind perceiving/appraising aspects of itself). That's necessarily the case.
    numberjohnny5

    Well, I agree with your clarification. So I'm not sure why you're confused. It must be a miscommunication between us.

    In what sense "higher"?numberjohnny5

    Higher in the sense that we are higher than the birds. Who's higher than us? No one/thing?

    Well, I am a physicalist. ;)numberjohnny5

    Bingo! :P

    I don't view things as intrinsically "superior/inferior/valuable, etc.". That's all I'm saying; and it seems that you do.numberjohnny5

    But I don't know what you mean by "superior/inferior/valuable". I get "superior/inferior" from my suggestion that we see something the bird does not, and maybe something/someone else sees something in us that we do not (superior/inferior here, for clarity, has no moral connotation). But I'm not sure how "valuable" plays into that.

    So, I'm entertaining the possibility of a macrocosmic hierarchy in which various beings grade along the scale (slugs, birds, humans, angels??? God???), but any sense of inferior/superior is just a sense of ontological scale. If that make sense.

    Would there be a higher being higher than the higher being, btw?numberjohnny5

    :-} Would there be a sweeter ice cream sweeter than the sweeter ice cream, btw?
  • numberjohnny5
    78
    Quick tip, highlight the text you want to quote, then click "quote".Noble Dust

    Thanks for the tip. :)

    But how does "beauty", aesthetically speaking, obtain evolutionarily? How would Adorno respond to you, for instance?Noble Dust

    I think it's essentially a combination of acquiring anatomical features that serve us functionally in (mentally) organising and categorising things and an upshot of that functionality that allows us to obtain pleasure from such experiences.

    I know next to nothing about Adorno. If you think it will help, maybe you could summarise a position he has related to this stuff?

    In this particular case in this thread, beauty first refers to our perception of the bird (view the attached photo for context), and then secondarily refers to an abstract concept in which the first concept of beauty is creatively applied to a possible form of being which is higher than humanity.Noble Dust

    That took me a while to make sense of, and yet I'm not sure I've understood.

    So "beauty" in the sense you're using it in this thread entails some entity/process/X/?? which involves

    (a) perception of the bird (first concept of beauty?);
    (b) a second (abstract) concept of beauty that refers to the first concept (perception), and that which then is possibly creatively applied to "a form of being which is higher than humanity".

    Have I got that right?

    As to an ontological view of beauty, I love that stuff, but at this point...it's tough ground, and a lot of the ground feels tough because of language.

    I would say Divine Being is primary, and Beauty might possibly be secondary. Beauty might be the generative outgrowth of divinity. That's not very good, though. Go easy on me. Or not.
    Noble Dust

    When you say stuff like "Divine Being is primary", it reminds me a bit of "The Great Chain of Being": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_chain_of_being

    What makes you say "that's not very good, though"?

    My response is that I would have to understand what "Divine Being" actually is? I take it it's not material and therefore immaterial?

    Higher in the sense that we are higher than the birds. Who's higher than us? No one/thing?Noble Dust

    "Higher" is a quantitative term (conventionally speaking). So I'm asking in what sense "higher" are we than birds per that definition. You might be using an unconventional definition of "higher" though, so you'd need to share that with me in order for me to grasp what you're getting at.

    But I don't know what you mean by "superior/inferior/valuable". I get "superior/inferior" from my suggestion that we see something the bird does not, and maybe something/someone else sees something in us that we do not (superior/inferior here, for clarity, has no moral connotation). But I'm not sure how "valuable" plays into that.

    So, I'm entertaining the possibility of a macrocosmic hierarchy in which various beings grade along the scale (slugs, birds, humans, angels??? God???), but any sense of inferior/superior is just a sense of ontological scale. If that make sense.
    Noble Dust

    By that I'm assuming you mean "intrinsic qualities" that some things have that others do not which determines whether things are "higher" or "lower". In that sense, I'd guess some intrinsic qualities that make something "higher" than other things would include superior qualities or superior values, for example.

    Ok, but I see the "scale" as subjective, fyi. We could use scales for many purposes; in other words, there is not one "true" or "correct" purpose for using/applying scales to things.

    Would there be a sweeter ice cream sweeter than the sweeter ice cream, btw?Noble Dust

    It depends on the individual tasting the ice cream and the amount of properties that produce sensations/perceptions of "sweetness" for that individual. There might be a limit as to an individual's taste budes being able to make distinctions of sweetness once they taste things that are intensely sweet. One could still compose some product with whatever properties makes something sweet to an individual with an excessively large amount of those sweet properties to ensure that it's relatively one of the sweetest products to taste.
  • Cavacava
    1.8k

    The bird is as tightly caught in the spell of its own being as we are tightly caught in the spell of our own being. A bird can't sense the beauty we see it in any more than we can sense the beauty a higher being (might) see in us.
  • numberjohnny5
    78
    The bird is as tightly caught in the spell of its own being as we are tightly caught in the spell of our own being. A bird can't sense the beauty we see it in any more than we can sense the beauty a higher being (might) see in us.Cavacava

    You mean that any being cannot escape its own subjectivity? If so, I agree. For the bird to sense/perceive/evaluate anything from a perspective other than its own doesn't make sense.
  • Cavacava
    1.8k



    You mean that any being cannot escape its own subjectivity?

    Yes, but the word 'subjectivity' does not (in my opinion) encompass the totality that word 'being' is capable of expressing.
  • numberjohnny5
    78
    Yes, but the word 'subjectivity' does not (in my opinion) encompass the totality that word 'being' is capable of expressing.Cavacava

    Could you say more...?
  • Cavacava
    1.8k


    We are a unique 'mix' of form & matter, same as the bird. The bird's connection to what it is (its being), is immediate and intimate with what it is, our connection to what we are (our being) is mediated and it is rarely intimate with what we are.
  • numberjohnny5
    78
    We are a unique 'mix' of form & matterCavacava

    We are? In my view form is identical to matter. For something/matter to exist it must have form. It doesn't make sense to me to think that matter has no form. On the other hand, you could say that particular "kinds" of matter have particular "kinds" of forms. But either way, ontologically, form and matter are not different things.

    The bird's connection to what it is (its being)Cavacava

    What is the difference between "the bird" and the bird's "being"? They sound like two distinct things in the way you're claiming.
  • Bitter Crank
    4.3k
    Does a bird know that it's beautiful? A Weird Argument For Theism

    This is a poetic question more than a philosophical one, but it brings up a valid philosophical line of enquiry: Is there a macrocosmic hierarchy in which beings "look down on" beings lower on the hierarchical scale and observe qualities of those beings which are invisible to those lower beings themselves?

    And secondly, could there be a higher form of being that observes and apprehends a beautiful quality in us which we are incapable of seeing?
    Noble Dust

    Beginning with birds is a weird way to argue for theism, but I guess the analogy works well enough:

    We are to birds as God is to us

    I don't know what birds see in each other. It could be that what the bird sees is the same thing that we see--that is, the female cardinal clearly sees a red male cardinal. Some birds do, anyway. Crows are apparently able to recognize human faces and classify them as belonging to friend or foe. If they can tell us apart--as different as we are from them--then they must be able to see each other as individuals.

    When I put a new male finch in the cage with the female, the male made a bee-line for the female and mounted her -- the time from the box to mating was about 1 second. Point being, the male instantly recognized the female, and visa versa, apparently.

    Our identification of beauty in birds doesn't inform them of their beauty. It's a bridge too far. So, perhaps "we are to birds as God is to us" still holds, but oppositely since

    God may be as distant from us as we are to birds

    So, God's vision of us may do for us what we do for birds, which may be something, or nothing.
  • Cavacava
    1.8k

    But either way, ontologically, form and matter are not different things.

    They sound like two distinct things in the way you're claiming.

    Form and matter are bound together, their mix is inexorable in the same way each separate being is inexorable bound to Being, to existence.
  • numberjohnny5
    78
    Form and matter are bound together, their mix is inexorable in the same way each separate being is inexorable bound to Being, to existence.Cavacava

    That doesn't really clear things up for me. What is the difference between "form" and "matter" ontologically?

    Are you saying that "Being" is identical to "existence"?

    What is "Being" ontologically?
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