Some adages are so well-worn by constant use and mistreatment they are considered truisms. We begin to assume that they are true without really thinking about them, making truth itself both trite and trivial. One such adage is the fact that beauty is within the eye of the beholder. Such a belief makes beauty subject to the beholder, and not the beholder at the mercy of beauty.

It implies that everyone’s conception of beauty is similarly valid; it’s an individual relationship between the thing beheld and the individual beholding it. This reduces beauty itself to nothing but a figment of the individual’s creativity, having no objective lifestyle. It makes beauty meaningless. It has no universal presence. It generally does not exist except as a plain thing perceived through the lens of the individual’s pride and prejudice. It is no mere coincidence that those who declare that beauty is in the attention of the beholder, also proclaim that goodness is in the eye of the beholder equally, and so is truth.

The good doesn’t can be found except insofar as I think it is good, which often means that it creates me feel good. The reality doesn’t exist except insofar as I think it is true, which usually means that it justifies my behaving in virtually any manner which I wish. In essence, we can see and say, therefore, that this particular adage is an appearance of philosophical relativism which is another way of saying that it has no objective validity. From a relativist perspective, it is only true if it’s believed by one to be true; the reality of the adage is itself in the eye of the beholder.

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From a realist perspective, it is untrue simply; its so-called “truth” being the usual relativist error of confusing and conflating goodness, beauty, and truth with preference, opinion, and prejudice. Preference, which is kindled by prejudice often, has nothing in connection with beauty. This transcendent aspect of beauty exists to a higher level in the primal art of Creation even. Whenever a sunrise sometimes appears by us or leaves washed with sunlight, we know that people are experiencing something beautiful that reflects something that is also true and good.

And such knowledge transcends our preferences, prejudices, and opinions. This can be illustrated through the employment of an imaginary experiment. Let’s imagine that we put a Muslim, a Protestant, a Catholic, a Buddhist and an atheist in a field in the center of the evening. Let’s now imagine that we sit down them so that they are facing east down.

As dawn strategies, the sky will be seen by them differ from black for indigo shimmering with the barest hint of rose. The rose-coloured hue will spread across the sky in blushing shades of red. Perhaps they will start to see the sun rising above the horizon in resplendent white then. For a minute roughly Perhaps, as it turns from white to red, they can consider it straight.

It is as the dazzling orb turns to gold that they must avert their gaze. As this wonderful work of art metamorphoses before their eyes all those present, irrespective of their spiritual and philosophical prejudices and preferences, will know that the kiss has been experienced by them of beauty and will be pleased. Echoing the words of Peter to Jesus at the Transfiguration, they’ll know that it is good they are there.

Let’s now visualize the same scene with the same group of individuals, but we’ll add Gollum with their company. As others gaze in awe at the transfigured sky, Gollum, the light-fearing wretch in The Lord of the Rings, will skulk off in horror seeking a rock and roll under which to hide.

Is Gollum’s view of beauty as valid as the view of his neighbors? Is the beauty of the sunrise in the optical vision of the beholder? Should we respect Gollum’s singular originality in preferring the darkness of his cave to the sunlight? Do we’ve a right to question the legitimacy of what he considers to be beautiful?