So last year I was introduced to the concept of emergent properties, which claims that, based on complex reactions that occur when various factors co-exist and interact within a system. Simply put, you have a bunch of different things, and when you put them all together, something unanticipated ’emerges,’ i.e. the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
There’s all sorts of examples out there, some require greater scientific belief and devotion than others, so its nice when you can find an instance that doesn’t step on all the traditional religious and philosophic toes. (Granted, there will be objections to this theory, but it is based more on every-day observances than on science, making it at worst a matter of perspective.
So, I am asserting that physical attractiveness is an emergent property. For the sake of keeping this brief, I will restrict my proposition to human beings.
As proof that aesthetic appeal is emergent, I offer the observation that, individual, no part of the human body is attractive. (Before you freak out and start spamming me with messages about how “my (name of body part) is fantastic thank you very much”, listen to my explanation.) The individual factors are almost infinitely divisible (you can keep looking at smaller and smaller parts – provided you have the technology to see something even smaller, at infinitum) and at close up perspectives everything seems to look weird. At the levels of pores in the skin, veins in the eyes, etc… the human body is interesting… but attractive? I don’t buy it. Imagine the most perfect pair of legs… zoom in on the knee joint, or the ankle and then tell me it is actually attractive. (I believe that even fetishists would agree that when the hormones aren’t pumping, the human body looks weird.) At the level of component parts, no body is attractive.
Thus, if all components are not attractive, the whole of the body should not be attractive… and yet, often (if not always) it is. That means the the whole (body) is greater than the sum of its parts (all the weird little components). And yet, somehow, when we have the context of the whole body (the ‘interaction’ between the parts), physical beauty magically appears.
My theory is that, despite the nasty little components, when we see the big picture, we recognize the beauty. I think there’s a life lesson in there, and it swings both ways. (Get your minds out of the gutter!) First off, despite all the problems in society, when we imagine the world as a whole, it is actually quite beautiful… (ok so it is more like a really, really, really fat person with full-body acne, greying hair, a receding hairline, bad table manners, gas and B.O. … but I’m sure someone could fall for it… or maybe that’s just the hopeless romantic in me… rofl) From the other perspective, no matter how wonderful we are led to believe the world is, there are always problems that need to be addressed.