Culture

TED Radio Hour asks: What is beauty?

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

TED-Radio-Hour-BeautyWe all know what it feels like to stand in a place that overwhelms our eyes with splendor, to hear a piece of music that seems to pluck the strings of our heart, to behold a face whose shape is pleasing. Beauty: it’s a thing we all know and are drawn to. And yet what is it that makes something beautiful?

Today’s TED Radio Hour asks this deceptively simple question. It begins with violinst Robert Gupta, reflecting on the instinct musicians have to know when something is simply lovely. Next, we hear from Denis Dutton, who looks at the universality of beauty as a gift from our ancient ancestors and the emotions they attached to the things that helped them survive. After, psychologist Nancy Etcoff explains why those we love are so beautiful to us.

In the second half of the show, model Cameron Russell talks about the decisions she made in her talk which went viral earlier this year, all about why she’s a model. Her explanation: “Because I won a genetic lottery.” Civic leader Bill Strickland describes how the magic of the potters’ wheel changed his life, and how he seeks to do the same for the youth of Pittsburgh through his arts education center. And designer Richard Seymour shares why beauty is not so much a thing in and of itself, but a feeling.

It’s an inspiring hour of great moments from TED Talks, embedded in a soundscape of music and fresh interviews. As Strickland says in the show, “When I think of beauty, I think of life and hope and all of its enormous possibilities. “

Check out your local NPR schedule to find out when the show airs today, or listen to it via NPR’s website »

Or head to iTunes, where the podcast is available now »

Comments (7)

  • Pingback: A Darwinian Theory of Beauty? « Honey and Locusts

  • commented on Apr 27 2013

    Reblogged this on robin2robinson.

  • Brian Steere commented on Apr 22 2013

    The feeling of beauty – if not limited to an associated form, is one of recognition.
    Science – or the mind of definitions – cannot deal with beauty – but only with the forms associated with it. However scientists are humanly beholding in living relationship and so can appreciate the beauty and wonder of That anything is – or indeed of a beautiful idea or solution.

    Definitions of beauty substitute for recognition. Mutual agreement makes a ‘reality of consensus’. Narcissus became infatuated with his own image – but this seduction cost him his awareness of his true relation. So it is with man and his own thinking.

    Consider the act or moment of true appreciation and then notice the mechanism of mind that quickly denies it – perhaps in the attempt to define or explain or possess it.

    Yet the true beauty is a moment of thoughtlessness and directness of being that is itself associated with a sense of communion or connection with the Living Universe – even if one doesn’t apparently believe any such thing.

    • commented on Apr 29 2013

      I love your comment especially these lines: “Yet the true beauty is a moment of thoughtlessness and directness of being that is itself associated with a sense of communion or connection with the Living Universe – even if one doesn’t apparently believe any such thing.” So profound and yet so true! Thanks.
      -Juliet Ume

      • Brian Steere commented on Apr 29 2013

        Thankyou. There is a saying ‘talk is cheap’, well I guess beliefs are talk – unless they are the fruit or realisation that cannot be defined. And maybe such believing isn’t woven into a mask or identity to present to the world – but is silently moving unspoken in us in our lives as a core sense of presence that breaks through our often busy and distracted lives with a moment of genuine helpfulness or shared purpose – for these too are beautiful, and are not the result of coercive intent or attempts to become loved, respected or valid – and yet embody these qualities unselfconsciously.
        Though we cant define beauty, our current definitions limit how much we are able to let in.

  • commented on Apr 22 2013

    Reblogged this on My Life is Majestic and commented:
    Beauty in universal

  • commented on Apr 19 2013

    Reblogged this on The healthiest beauty.