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I can't remember who said "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". That statement is true. Beauty is very subjective. I think the importance of beauty and beautiful things is that they give us pleasure. Some may argue that beauty is over rated but doesn't this really depend on what item you are talking about?
In the United States, beauty and fame are worshipped, as film director Oliver Stone has declared. Advertisements are geared toward beauty; people desire to more beautiful as they expect to be more desired if they are. In fact, beauty is often confused with goodness.
I agree with post 5. There are other areas where beauty is important and valuable besides simply human beauty. It is part of our nature to respect and admire beauty. We paint our houses and fill our yards with flowers because we love beautiful things. An area of town that is considered beautiful is likely to be more respected and treated differently than an area of town considered ugly. There's a reason downtown areas and parks are filled with green grass, flowering trees, and strict rules on signs and buildings. People want to spend time in a place that is pretty. It's just part of who we are. A store that is attractive will have far more business than one that is ugly.
The posts above are approaching beauty as it relates to the human form and human appearance. Perhaps this is the most potent interpretation for discussion here, however, as a concept, beauty encompasses a larger area of ideas.
We can talk about how important beauty might be in the sense of culture. How important is art?
Beauty is important (but not, I think, good) in that it is a standard that many people aspire to. It is a multi-billion dollar industry in this country as well as many others, and it shapes our eating, exercise, hygenic, shopping, and other habits. Modern media has become instrumental in spreading and indeed creating standards of beauty. It is only human to want to conform to social standards, and it is nothing new. I recently learned that archaeological digs in Mississippian-era Indian sites have revealed that young women who seem to have been human sacrifices all had very similar facial and body proportions, suggesting that ancient peoples valued a certain kind of beauty as well (so much, apparently, that they deemed them worthy sacrifices.) What makes today's obsession with physical beauty so unique is the ubiquity of the images that shape our concepts of beauty.
For many the understanding of what is beautiful can be different. Not all people see the same things as beautiful. Over time, the understanding of what is beautiful changes as well (and in different cultures). I think as long as we recognize that people all have different views on what is beautiful then beauty can have its place in the world. It is only when some try to push their definitions upon others where problems exist.
Beauty should have very little importance in society. However, it may have more than we think it should. Studies have shown, for example, that people who are considered to be good looking make more money than people who are not. We are apparently to some extent biased in favor of beautiful people.
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