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I prefer the one on the right. This is the problem with statements like “beauty is objective”—how do you mean? Beauty is quantifiable? Well, it’s not. You can’t put a number on beauty. Indeed, the right’s slogan “beauty is objective” self-defeats because it seems that there is no field where there is more disagreement than aesthetics—and perhaps that’s why it’s said so often as a propaganda slogan. Few people say “organic chemistry is objective”—and yet it is, I suspect, very objective. However, choices about architecture, art, and music just aren’t objective at all—that’s why there’s so much disagreement about aesthetic choice.

There’s an old Roman saying, “De gustibus non disputandum est,” which means, “In matters of taste, there is no dispute.” It referred to colour choices and decoration specifically. Well, that doesn’t mean it’s right—but it does get to the nub: there’s not even the modicum of social objectivity you find in law when it comes to aesthetics, let alone natural science. Besides, the right usually stands against quantity and for quality—which is generally taken not to be objective. I prefer the building on the right—and I’ll explain why.

Beauty is what is effective in the creation of aesthetic sensation, its only necessity is coherence—if an object of aesthetic contemplation has no coherence it cannot be beautiful (imagine a woman’s face disfigured by a car accident and a perfectly symmetrical model). The picture above is not beautiful because the way the text is splashed about it is incoherent—hence, no beauty. The building on the right is more beautiful than the one on the left because it is more coherent—it’s a singular black object, that’s what makes it attractive. The other building is beautiful, but not as beautiful—it’s broken up into three structures and is bitty. So is what I said “objective”? Let’s put it this way: it’s possible to make judgements in architecture, but good judgement, like good morals, depends on character.


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