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What role do you think mathematics plays in beauty and aesthetics?

  1. Nov 4, 2011 #1
    Do you think that beauty and aesthetics are subjective or objective things?

    I read an article about the Golden Ratio and how it influences beauty and aesthetics. Certain people have better looks because of the mathematical proportions within their face that makes it easier for our minds to process.

    But there's also a cultural side to it. Certain physical features are considered more beautiful in different parts of the world. Beauty/aesthetics are often subjective.

    So what do you think? To what extent does mathematics influence our perception of beauty?

    I'm writing a paper on this for school and have a good idea of what I'm going to write. I just want to get some input on what people think because it's really interesting =)
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 4, 2011 #2
    The golden ratio is overhyped, and most of the of the information you've probably read about relationships between it and the proportions of the body are basically urban legends (passed around the internet with no reputable source). Second; unless you're arguing that something can be beautiful without anyone around to find it beautiful, beauty is not objective (objective means "mind independent").

    The golden ratio/attractiveness thing is not evidence for objective beauty, it's just evidence for a trait selected for by evolution.
  4. Nov 4, 2011 #3
    Yeah, if you think about it, men always found women beautiful, hence they mated with them. Even when they looked like Neanderthals and Australopithecus, and apes. You can't find a golden ratio in all those different faces, it's just number mysticism.

    Usually beauty is quite closely related to health, or sexual health. Outside of the opposite sex it seems to be related to self consistency and purity, but I couldn't add any more than that.
  5. Nov 4, 2011 #4


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    i find things with symmetry beautiful, and there is some experimental evidence to suppose people with more symmetrical features are regarded as better looking. symmetry doesn't necessarily mean uniformity, as anyone who's ever seen a piece of quartz can tell you.

    certainly the properties of auditory harmony and dissonance have a mathematical basis, frequencies that are in simple small integer ratios to each other sound more pleasing than frquencies that have no such simple ratio, and vibration sources with such ratios as more prominent harmonics, tend to be regarded as more pleasing (often, aging of a musical instrument dampens the higher harmonics, "mellowing" the sound, by emphasizing the lower frequency harmonics, with smaller ratios to the fundamental tone).

    there have been attempts to describe beauty in mathematical terms, such as the formula: beauty = order/complexity. these haven't been entirely successful, as there appear to be aesthetic qualities that defy easy objectification.

    i think our brains are built on pattern-recognition, and that some of the same mental processes occur when we do mathematics, and respond aesthetically. it's not so much that mathematics is a big factor of art, so much as we organize both through similar filters: compare/contrast, hypothetical extension, reduction and canonical forms.
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