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Capstone Maggie Stephens

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Maggie Stephens
Mr. Bannis
Introduction to Philosophy- 1
November 18, 2014
Capstone: Philosophical Analysis The philosophical question, “Is beauty in the eye of the beholder?” is exemplified in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The concept of beauty is a reoccurring theme in “The Great Gatsby”: the way Jay Gatsby views Daisy Buchanan, the way Nick Carroway views Jay Gatsby, the symbol of the beauty of the green light at the end of Daisy and Tom Buchanan’s dock, and many characters’ view of living areas as beautiful or non beautiful. Is there something in their minds that tells them these things are beautiful or do they just think they are beautiful? Plato believes that “We can recognize and judge the beauty of physical things only if the nonphysical Form of Beauty resides in the mind,” (Lawhead 145). Plato believed that beauty is objective and unchanging. Jay Gatsby, the former love interest of Daisy, who is now married to Tom Buchanan, sees her as a beacon of his hopes and dreams. He idolizes her beauty to the point of obsession. He looked at Daisy “in a way that every young girl wants to be looked at." If Daisy Buchannan is objectively beautiful, then that is unchanging no matter the observer. She is naturally pretty, wears fancy clothes, and talks in an enchanting way. These qualities combined make her objectively beautiful. If the observer sees Daisy as not beautiful, that is a weakness in them. It is not a weakness in the object or person itself. Nick Carroway and many others in the book see Jay Gatsby in an illuminated, beautiful way. “He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself,” (Fitzgerald 35). They all see Gatsby as beautiful, and that is object and inherent in their mind. If beauty was subjective, then the term beauty can be applied to whatever the observer wants. So if beauty is in the eye of the beholder then a murderer can say, “murder is a beautiful thing” without anyone being able to rightly object him. But murder is not a beautiful thing; it is the opposite in fact, so beauty cannot be in the eye of the beholder. Plato said in “The Voyage of Discovery”, “If there is any loveliness discerned in the lineaments of the body, or beauty in the movement of music and song, it is the mind that makes this judgment. This means that there must be within the mind a superior form, one that is immaterial and independent of sound and space and time.” In the Great Gatsby, everyone considers East Egg to be the most beautiful and elegant place to live. The land has pretty physical features and the highest social class lives there, making it beautiful. Augustine says, “If the beauty of this order fails to delight us, it is because we ourselves, by reason of our morality, are so enmeshed in this corner of the cosmos that we fail t o perceive the beauty of a total pattern in which the particular parts, which seem ugly to us, blend in so harmonious and beautiful way,” (Lawhead 150). So, the answer to the philosophical question, “Is beauty in the eye of the beholder?” is no. The Great Gatsby exemplifies Plato’s stance on this issue by showing certain things as beautiful because of the qualities that make up that thing. Something that is beautiful is always beautiful, and it is the observer’s fault if they do not see that, not the object itself.

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