2005— International Winner

Thomas Leahy, Great Britain

What is more Important to you? The Truth or Beauty

To attempt to answer this question, I first need to understand the meaning of the words 'truth' and 'beauty'. Beauty is, by definition, "the combination of qualities that make something pleasing and impressive to listen to or touch, or especially to look at." I think the key adjective here is 'pleasing', of which the noun is pleasure.

I believe pleasure is a superficial, short-term feeling which can easily be mistaken for happiness. Pleasure seems hollow and transitory, whereas happiness is real and permanent. This distinction is made by Aristotle in his important work, Ethics. I would say that beauty can often be an impeding factor which hinders us from seeing the truth, which may be a lot less desirable: as Simone Weil wrote, "the truth does not always seem beautiful." This idea is in concordance with the definition of beauty, which says that beauty makes something "impressive to listen to or touch, or especially to look at;" it does not say that beauty is the sign of something good or in itself desirable.

So beauty can be, as it is in the story of "Sampson and Delilah", a mask which fools and deceives and leads one to believe something which is not true. However this is not the case for truth; truth can never deceive or fail to deliver. What you see with truth you get with truth, unless of course the truth is obscured by a false pretence, as is the story of 'Sampson and Delilah'.

I would argue that from something beautiful we can receive great pleasures that are pleasing to the eye or to the touch. There is nothing wrong with this; I am not saying, as some have, that things of beauty contain evil. However, I am saying that should evil be hidden inside beauty it is very difficult to see it. Beauty is a mixed blessing: it can please or deceive, but it cannot make anyone truly happy. For someone to be truly happy, (and this is why it is more important), they must know the truth about the object, thought or being. For only if I see the truth about something or someone can I truly trust it, accept it, and feel truly comfortable around it. No one can ever be happy if they know they are being deceived by a beautiful lie--which although seems to please, is intrinsically false.

Aristotle says that philosophy is the pursuit of truth, and I believe that only a weak person would settled for anything less, no matter how it pleases the senses.

Kids Philosophy Slam Home Page