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
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
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.
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