Just Looking


Mohan Matthen parses the philosophy of visual pleasure:

Aesthetic pleasure is pleasure in contemplating something. This pleasure could be sensory, like the enjoyment one derives from looking at a painting or listening to music. Or it could be intellectual, like the pleasure of reading the latest Robert Harris. In both cases, pleasure in contemplation has to be distinguished from wanting an object for other uses.

Immanuel Kant in the 18th century was among the first to understand this. His example was that of a palace. You might long to live in it, or you might hate it for its extravagance and want to destroy it. But both of these responses are distinct from the pleasure or displeasure derived from merely looking at it. Only the latter pleasure counts as aesthetic.

Discussing sexual selection, Charles Darwin wrote:

‘When we behold a male bird elaborately displaying his graceful plumes or splendid colours before the female … it is impossible to doubt that she admires the beauty of her male partner.’ Assuming that he really means beauty, and not sexual attractiveness, this is a mistake. It confuses sexual desire with aesthetic admiration. According to Darwin’s own theory, when a female looks at a male that way, she is not getting pleasure from looking at him for the sake of looking at him; rather, she is driven to mate with him. Darwin wrongly equates the lustful gaze with simple looking. Kant’s point was that aesthetic appreciation is disinterested. It is pleasure just in looking.

On the above photo by Mohammad Reza Domiri Ganji:

The stunning Nasir al-mulk Mosque hides a gorgeous secret between the walls of its fairly traditional exterior: stepping inside is like walking into a kaleidoscope of colors. Every day, the rays of the early morning sun shine through colorful stained-glass windows, transforming the halls into a dazzling wonderland of rich hues, patterns, and light that play on the floor of the mosque.

In addition to the glorious display of light and color through the stained glass, the mosque features other striking elements of design and architecture, including intricate geometric tile designs, painted arches and niches, and spectacular domes. The usage of beautiful rose-colored tiles in the interior design earned the mosque the nickname Pink Mosque in popular culture.

The mosque, located in Shiraz, Iran, was built from 1876 to 1888 by the order of one of the Qajar Dynasty lords. The beautiful structure was designed by Muhammad Hasan-e-Memar and Muhammad Reza Kashi Paz-e-Shirazi.

More stunning shots of the mosque here.