Random Musings: The Nature of Beauty

1)  Does beauty truly exist?

2)  Perhaps beauty is merely a feeling; an inner subjective experience; my impression of a perception . . . an emotion.  Perhaps beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.  If this is the case, it is false to believe anything truly is beautiful.  When I look at the sunrise and exclaim in awe, “how beautiful!” I am merely expressing a feeling—I am communicating something private.  For the sunrise is not beautiful in any objective, concrete, sense; it is just an object within space and time.  Like all objects, it has no intrinsic value, no purpose, no meaning, it conforms to no pattern.  I, the observer, give it meaning . . .

3)  If beauty is simply a subjective experience, a feeling, then to speak of beauty is no different than to speak of indigestion.  In effect, the expression, “how beautiful,” is functionally equivalent to the expression, “my stomach hurts.”

4)   How wretched life would be if beauty did not exist!  I look at my wife, an angel, the radiance of the sun instantiated in human form . . . yet, this isn’t real.  The beauty of my wife is nothing but maya—an illusion.  In reality she is the endless shifting of atoms, the constant flux of matter and energy; as am I.  To say that my wife is beautiful is really to say that one shifting batch of atoms (my wife) collided with another shifting batch of atoms (my eyes) creating a chemical response in my brain and producing a particular emotion.  Her beauty is but one euphoric chemical reaction—an animal instinct, a sexual desire.

5)  In a world devoid of intrinsic value, beauty is degraded—it becomes something base.

6)   But surely beauty must exist!  Surely the sunrise is more than the endless shifting of atoms; more than the sense of awe engendered by a brute biochemical response to perception.  Surely such reactions occur in the presence of great beauty—a beauty woven into the very fabric of reality.  A form . . . an idea . . . a logos . . .


Nietzsche and a Pastor: The Domestic Animal

“The problem I have here is not what ought to succeed mankind in the sequence of species ( — the human being is a conclusion — ):  but what type of human being one ought to breed, ought to will, as more valuable, more worthy of life, more certain of the future.

           This more valuable type has existed often enough already:  but as a lucky accident, as an exception, never as willed.  He has rather been the most feared, he has hitherto been virtually the thing to be feared — and out of fear the reverse type has been willed, bred, achieved:  the domestic animal, the herd animal, the sick animal man — the Christian . . .”


 If the world we live in is, as Nietzsche asserts, one in which immaterial substances, or ideas, or forms, or gods do not exist, then it is utterly preposterous to believe that the,  “human being is a conclusion.”  On the contrary, it is painfully obvious that the physical world is as Heraclitus observed long ago: constantly in a state of flux — constantly evolving.  Within a matter of years every molecule within your body will be replaced; physically speaking, you will be an entirely different person.  Everything changes; nothing stays the same; the species is forever evolving.  On naturalism, there is nothing to ground your identity in and absolutely no good reason to believe that the evolution of human beings has come to a close.  In fact, there is absolutely no good reason to believe that human beings, as we know them, will always exist.

Modern naturalists have come to embrace this view with great enthusiasm.  As Gregory Stock notes with great excitement:  “we know that Homo Sapiens is not the final word in primate evolution, but few have yet grasped that we are on the cusp of profound biological change, poised to transcend our current form and character on a journey to destinations of new imagination” — It is a hallmark of current naturalistic thinking to believe that mans ever increasing power over nature, thanks to advances in science and technology, has brought about profound liberation – total freedom to control our destiny; to shape man into whatever image seems most desirable.

Therefore, Nietzsche’s attempt at redefining the ideal man, under the assumption that man, “is a conclusion”, is incredibly limited in scope when compared to the aspirations of contemporary naturalists.  Nevertheless, like contemporary naturalists, it is equally incoherent . . .


It should be clear now, that if we accept the naturalistic framework, it is impossible to say objectively, “what type of human being one ought to breed, ought to will, as more valuable, more worthy of life.”  Without a transcendent reference point, there simply is no concrete answer to this question.  In point of fact, there is no ought at all; there is simply what you think is the ideal man or what society believes is the ideal man.  At the end of the day, those with the strongest will to power will determine what the ideal man is—and this is nothing more than tyranny.  Consequentially, Nietzsche’s discussion about the ideal man (as if such a thing actually existed within the naturalistic worldview) seems rather disingenuous; or, at least, naïvely optimistic.

Considering the total fluidity of reality and the complete absence of absolute universal truths entailed by naturalism it is surprising, to me, that Nietzsche actually believes in his ideal man.  It is also surprising, to me, that he believes his ideal man actually exercises a certain amount of freedom—in contrast to the wretched domesticated animal.  At the end of the day, even Nietzsche’s ideal man is completely subject to the mindless and impersonal laws of nature which, if we accept naturalism, dictate his every thought and action.  Not even the super man can escape the laws of physics or transcend the controlling influence of his biochemistry.


In the final analysis, Nietzsche’s diatribe only communicates two things—his subjective opinion of what the ideal man is and his personal distain for Christians.  Perhaps, thirdly, it communicates the dissonance in his own thought—the inconsistent ramblings of a man bent on refuting objective values while simultaneously arguing for that which he deems most valuable.  At the end of the day, in order to fully embrace Nietzsche’s worldview, we must abandon the notion that there is an ideal human being and accept the fact that ideals are simply subjective opinions generated within the human brain through the brute physical processes of nature.  We must be willing to embrace the fact that human beings do not have a nature and that we simply reflect one fleeting moment in a constantly evolving reality.  We must also accept, in spite of the claims of contemporary naturalists, that mankind has absolutely no control over his destiny.


Freedom is, arguably, the chief aim of naturalism: freedom from a controlling omnipotent God, freedom from outmoded and irrational religious dogmas, freedom from puritanical ethical systems, freedom to redefine the human race and guide the course of evolution . . .

Sadly, this supposed freedom is completely illusory.  Consider these two points: (1) human beings are a part of nature, and hence, themselves locked in the endless, and fundamentally, meaningless, cycle of material causes and effects, and (2) those human beings currently in existence will ultimately decide the fate of those human beings (or other humanoid species) in the future.

Regarding the first point, although human beings seem to be gaining more knowledge of and, hence, better control over nature, human beings are not transcendent from nature.  Therefore, human beings are just as much subject to the laws of physics and chemistry which guide the rest of the universe.  Accordingly, on naturalism, human decisions, in fact, our very thoughts and emotions can be explained in terms of purely physical processes.  In other words, our very thoughts and actions are exclusively determined by the mindless physical laws of nature.  Under such circumstances, any freedom we imagine having over our destiny is truly delusional–in fact, the very notion of freedom, itself, was brought about by an unbroken chain of physical causes and effects completely out of our control.

We must also face the fact that all succeeding generations will be subject to the biological and psychological manipulations enacted by those scientists, academics, and politicians who currently control the new eugenics project.  In fact, the leaders of every generation will exercise total control over the genetic and psychological outcome of the next.  In essence, our species (or any new species) will forever be enslaved to the choices of those in the past.  A similar formulation of this argument can be found in C. S. Lewis’s book The Abolition of Man. 

In summary: there is no real freedom under the naturalistic framework–just enslavement:  enslavement to the blind, impersonal, unbroken laws of nature, and enslavement to those who exercise greater power over the weak (and even over those who do not yet exist).


True freedom can only be found in Christ because it is only in Christ that we understand, objectively, who we are and what it means to live.  For it is only if we have a transcendent reference point that we can say, definitively, that there is an ideal man, and in fact, an ideal way to live.  Jesus is our transcendent reference point—“the way, and the truth, and the life”–and, therefore, truly the ideal man.  Ironically, it is only the domesticated animal who can know, objectively, “what type of human being one ought to breed, ought to will, as more valuable, more worthy of life, more certain of the future.”

This is part three of a series; to read the rest of the series click here.

Universals vs. Particulars

A universal is something that is true of anything’s nature. For instance, a human is a rational-animal. That means, he can think in abstracts (he can think of “redness,” he can do things a computer or animal cannot do with his mind) and he is also physical (he has a material body, like other animals). So the thing that ties all humans together is that they’re rational-animals.

A particular is something that is particular to a nature, but not in the definition of the nature (a property). Then there are things that flow from the particulars that are called “accidents.” So let’s take John.

Universal – John is a rational animal

Particular – John can run

Accident – John can run faster than most men

If we look at David, we can see the following:

Universal – David is a rational human being

Particular – David cannot run

Accident – David must be in a wheelchair because he cannot use his legs

Now, while David might have the capacity to run (if his legs worked), he currently cannot. But when the universal is in the right place, he’s still a human being even if he doesn’t share in all the properties.

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