By C.L. Bolt
We make qualitative judgments about art and beauty. Some works of art are considered better in some way(s) than other works of art, and some things are considered more beautiful than others. There is a large amount of subjectivity involved in determining whether or not something is beautiful, not to mention a large amount of expertise which is needed to make a better judgment on such issues.
An old cliché claims that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” but few, if any, consider this to be true. Such an account is wholly subjective, meaning that there are no actual standards concerning what is beautiful and what is not aside from the individual, but the individual can hardly be called any sort of standard, especially when it comes to the aesthetic judgments of others. This is what was meant when subjectivity was spoken of a moment ago, only here the theory in question is one of complete subjectivity with respect to art and beauty. The subject, and no one else, determines what is and is not beautiful.
Yet there is widespread agreement concerning what is and is not beautiful. Or, perhaps more obviously, there is widespread agreement concerning some things being more beautiful than others. Aesthetes are those who are able to make such determinations better than the common individual because they are more experienced in different realms of art and beauty, but at this point some sort of objective standard is being assumed. That is, there is a sense in which beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder. It is an experience that takes place on the inside of a person not unlike the experience of a person feeling cold. One person may truly claim that it is cold in a room while another disagrees and truly says that it is not, but the truth of the statements here are purely subjective. There is a point at which the two people will agree that it is cold, and there can be agreements about one place being colder than another by comparison and standards of measurement like temperature, but there are not typically considered to be anything like measurements of temperature with respect to the beauty of a piece of art or something else.
If we are going to say that there is something to beauty – something more than wholly subjective opinion – then we are going to have to say that beauty is in more than just the eye of the beholder. To claim that judgments about beauty are only in the eyes of beholders – intersubjective – is only to push the problem back a step. Beauty is surely in the eye of the beholder, but not only in the eye of the beholder; God has the final say on what is and is not beautiful, and we agree with Him in our aesthetic experiences or else pervert the truth. There is, of course, a great deal more that could be said on this subject.