Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Beauty and Paradox

Beauty is what emerges out of the interaction of paradoxical elements. The more paradoxical elements, the more beautiful the object.

I am pretty certain the above is true. Some examples:

Woody Brock's concept of relative complexity of theme versus complexity of transformation of theme
beauty balances symmetry and asymmetry (the golden mean ratio being an example)
beauty contains both unity and variety

Beauty is emergent from the conflict between paradoxical opposites.

More, the universe seems to also be emergent from the conflict between paradoxical opposites. Self-organizing systems, too, emerge when there are paradoxical opposites (I just finished reading Paul Krugman's "The Self-Organizing Economy," in which he observes that cities self-organize into complex patterns due to the simultaneous presence of centripetal and centrifugal forces among businesses, for example). Indeed, the strange attractors of chaotic, biotic, and self-organizing systems are paradoxical in nature, simultaneously attracting and repulsing. If all of this is true, then Frederick Turner is correct when he says that our recognition of beauty is the recognition of the deep tendencies of the universe itself. Since these deep tendencies keep arising -- and keep arising in more and more complex forms -- then it makes evolutionary sense for us to appreciate beauty.

Paradox is a pair that seem self-contradictory, but in fact arise out of reflexivity. How can something be both symmetrical and asymmetrical at the same time? Or both complex and simple simultaneously? These are paradoxical relations. The golden mean ratio is an irrational ratio (and ratios are rational), meaning it is a paradox.

An example:

Something cannot be both black and non-black at the same time and in the same sense, as that would be a contradiction. However, something can be a mixture of black and white. One kind of mixture -- a linear mixture -- gives us gray, of course -- but another kind of mixture, a nonlinear mixture where the object simultaneously becomes more black and more white at the same time will give us something with black and white texture, with large splotches and areas of black and white. For for something to become more black and more white at the same time is a paradox. It also gives one more order as well.

The strange attractor is strange precisely because it attracts and repels simultaneously.
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