You know that moment of pause in front of a beautiful plate of food when we think……wow! This is too pretty to eat.
What is that pause about? It doesn’t stop me from consuming and dismantling a beautiful banana split. Is that pause a moment of appreciation and recognition? Is attractive plating in fancy restaurants about extending the pause when our brain is confused by the paradox of “gosh, this is beautiful” and “I need to eat, enjoy and destroy it?” Maybe. Beauty has the power to direct us towards an ethical moment, a pause before destruction. Timothy Morton talks about beauty as recognized fragility. Recently, in a blog post, Levi Bryant asks a similar question, when he suggests,
I do think, however, that beauty might play a key role with respect to environmental issues and how we relate to other living organisms, but I’ll save that for another day. I just wonder why it is that I find something beautiful or what is reflected back to us about ourselves in those things we find beautiful.
Beauty may be a way to interrupt our destructive relationship with the world and things with an ethical pause. How do artists, designers, chefs create things of beauty to be appreciated yet consumed? They may not answer, Levi Bryant’s question, “What is the ground of the ability to have, as Kant put it, “disinterested pleasure” or the ability to find things beautiful?”
But, makers of “(interest) dependent beauty” may offer some strategies capable of extending the ethical pause that makes us lament……this is too pretty to eat.
I need to eat something pretty now and think about this consumption-coexistence paradox provoked by beauty. Hmmmmm…
This question is in part a response to a blog post titled “Beauty” on the blog: Larval Subjects.