Shahidha Bari at Aeon Magazine:
In its long philosophical history, beauty has taken detours. It has been derailed by technical wrangles and commandeered by authoritative proclamations of good taste. But perhaps now, we are only just starting to understand the exceptional nature of the experience it demarcates, how it works upon the body, alerts us to our susceptibility to the world and reminds us of our commitment to it. When the literary critic Elaine Scarry investigated beauty in the late 1990s, she noticed the ‘contract’ between the beautiful object and those who recognise it as such. Each, she notes, confers ‘the gift of life’, welcoming the other. It’s a cloying, rather vague expression, but there is something to this idea of a compact, the notion of a mutual realisation that unfolds between us and the object of our attention when we are engaged in judgments of beauty. Something rises to challenge our particular perceptual faculties, and we rise to meet it in turn.