Need and the ability to cope with our environment

Beauty a Chimera: Merely a by-product of speed claim populists

The political scene was dramatically altered by this morning's announcement from the respected Institute for Popularising Already Discovered Discoveries (IPADD). In supporting claims that "beauty" is a Functional criterion, the populists have severely compromised the Existentialist and Aesthete campaigns, and seemingly handed a victory to the functionalist camp. Although the populists have stopped short of endorsing extensions of the theories surrounding further aesthetic criteria, it seems only a matter of time until those too fall, and the Functionalist camp claims mastery over all other creative parties.

Based on a popular model of perception, the functional definition of "beauty" asserts that the speed with which we can understand an element within our environment is the prime consideration in the definition of beauty. The model proposes that our primary need is to "cope with our environment," and that that coping requires an understanding of our environment. Drawing on research which has shown user preferences for symmetry, balance, order and the like, the populists have proposed that the satisfaction identified popularly as "beauty" is the satisfaction of being able to easily understand our environment, and that the varying experience of beauty is related to the speed of comprehension.

Although this announcement is seen as a breakthrough for the functionalist camp, there are those within the movement who are rankled by the acceptance of what they see as a foreign ideal. Though both theories are concerned with the "satisfaction of need", and the "ability to cope with the environment," functionalists have traditionally confined themselves to the second half of the "coping" equation, the satisfaction of the impulses and desires which arise from the user's understanding of their environment. In general, the functionalists have trusted to rationalism and the hidden logic of their problem-solving methods to generate pleasing forms. In recent years, however, the camp has run into hard times, as client dissatisfaction has risen and the fervour of the party's formation has begun to die away. Rumours, generally unconfirmed, had the functionalist camp split, with radicals of both persuasions pushing for reform. With this announcement, the moderate group within the camp has clearly gained the upper hand, and pundits are predicting that the hard-liners will, when faced with the certain upsurge in popularity of the centre, soften their position, and move back within the heart of the camp.

Aesthete critics were quick to point out that the model endorsed by IPADD does not cover ideas of meaning, of interest and the like, things that they consider key to the attraction of created elements. The researchers who developed the model, however, have expressed every confidence that, with time, these effects will also be explainable in terms of our need to cope with the environment, and indeed, their research does seem to be pointing in that direction. The Aesthetes claim there is a quantum barrier of understanding against which the researchers are eventually sure to run, an assertion disregarded out of hand by the researchers, and one that hasn't damped the enthusiastic party raging in the functionalist camp tonight.

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Copyright (c) 1997 -- Mike Fletcher
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