Brangelina or the Science of Beauty

Seminar/Vorlesung Diplom/Master A, 4 SWS

Why do so many people find Brangelina (either one, take your pick) beautiful? Is beauty a real property of things, or is it 'in the eye of the beholder'? If the latter is the case, what happens if a man has bad eyesight - can he ask his neighbor to point out which girls are the most beautiful?


Does the word 'beauty' mean the same thing when we say that a face, a body, a painting, a song, a building or a mathematical formula is beautiful? Tonis Lukas, the Estonian minister of education and science, recently announced a competition to choose the most beautiful language of the world. In a similar beauty contest many years ago, the Estonian sentence, sõida tasa üle silla (meaning, 'go slowly over the bridge') was awarded the second prize, after Italian - or so Lukas claims. Would such a competition make any sense?


Are we justified in expecting others to agree with our judgments of beauty or should we not dispute matters of taste? Are our judgements of beauty dependent on cultural conventions or individual whims? If the perception of beauty is not a matter of certain qualities in the object (e.g. the right proportions), then where do our individual preferences come from? Or is Eddy Zemach right in claiming that beauty is real?


Why does beauty matter? What role has beauty played in the evolution of human beings? Is there an evolutionary reason for perceiving certain things as beautiful? Can evolutionary aesthetics be applied to architecture?


The readings comprise a selection of philosophical and psychological texts from Aristoteles to Eddy Zemach. Students will be expected to turn in a final paper.


Die Lehrveranstaltung wird in englischer Sprache abgehalten.


Vertretungsprofessor 2007-2010
Professor für Architekturtheorie an der TU Wien

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