Animal Sentience Stories:

Animals have a Sense of Beauty

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This page highlights stories and information that shows that animals have a sense of beauty.

This page is part of a section concerning animal sentience which relates true stories, information and accounts of animal sentience.
For an introduction: Animal Sentience Stories

Emotion Love Altruism Empathy Pleasure Intelligence and ingenuity
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 Sixth Sense

Animals Have a Sense of beauty

Animal Morality Mental Health  

Click the links above to go to read stories and information that highlight these characteristics and abilities in animals.

Animals have a sense of beauty.

Beauty of course as the saying goes is in the eyes of the beholder and is appreciated in different ways by human beings or sometimes not at all. Also beauty may be appreciated or not at varying times in a person's life to a varying degree. A person who is dying for example often sees the beauty of nature more profoundly. While a busy person fails to notice the beauty around him hence the expression of not taking time to smell the roses. A person who is severely depressed may lack for a time while in this state the ability to appreciate beauty, the world becoming as a result of his depression a bleak place. People also see beauty in different things, ignoring the beauty of the rose a vintage car enthusiast might perceive a 1926 Bentley Speed Six Tourer as beautiful. I perceive sheep as beautiful creatures and take many photos yet many people pass them by without a second thought. In the spring the grass banks in our village are covered with dandelions which to my eyes a magnificent display of beauty yet most people perceive them as a weed and fail to see the splendour of these brilliant yellow flowers that carpet the other wise rather uninteresting cropped grass verges.  Writing about a sense of beauty in his book The Descent of Man Darwin considered that some aspects of human ornament were less aesthetically pleasing than the ascetic sense of animals and also that a sense of beauty in a particular species of animal may be entirely different from that which we perceive as being ascetically pleasing. There can be little doubt that animals may have similar variations of the appreciation of beauty and may even appreciate beauty in ways different to human beings.

Did human aesthetics evolve from animal aesthetics?

To answer to the question, Is the sense of aesthetics entirely human, we may need to turn to evolution. Perhaps we should consider that aesthetics, or a sense of beauty, evolved before man in the course of pre-human evolution and rather like any other evolutionary process it is possible that human aesthetic appreciation evolved from a similar appreciative sense in animals.

It was Darwin himself who introduced the idea of evolutionary aesthetics. He provided an account of animal aesthetics advocating that non human animals have a sense of aesthetics. He theorised that a sense of beauty in the human animal may be a continuation of aesthetic preferences in animals.

This idea has by and large been rejected by modern day evolutionists.

Consider that with regard to other attributes such as cognition, emotion and behaviour it is well recognised that such capabilities exist in animals in varying degrees and that these abilities and capacities have evolved in humans from their animal ancestors. Therefore it is also likely that our sense of beauty, aesthetics, also began its development in animals and is still present in animals today as are all our other inherited abilities.

In an excellent essay on the topic Wolfgang Welsch writes:

Why am I addressing the unusual topic of animal aesthetics? At our last meeting in Tokyo-Makuhari, I suggested a turn to transhuman aesthetics: a type of aesthetics that no longer follows the modern decree that everything is to be understood in departure from the human and by referring it back to the human. Instead, we ought to conceive of the human in a larger than human context, taking into account, for instance, our place in the cosmic and natural environment, or our primordial connectedness with the world, or the non-human layers of our existence.

In this spirit it is quite natural to turn to evolution to ask whether the aesthetic attitude might be not a uniquely human invention but one that already originated before man appeared on earth in the course of prehuman evolution, in the animal kingdom. Maybe human aesthetics developed from animal aesthetics.

Read more of this essay: contempaesthetics.org/newvolume/pages/article.

Decide for yourself read what Darwin and others have to say about animals and their sense of Beauty.

In The Descent of Man Darwin makes reference to the ascetic ability of animals. Here while discussing animal social inclinations he refers to animals as possessing a sense of beauty

It may be well first to premise that I do not wish to maintain that any
strictly social animal, if its intellectual faculties were to become as
active and as highly developed as in man, would acquire exactly the same
moral sense as ours. In the same manner as various animals have some sense
of beauty, though they admire widely-different objects, so they might have
a sense of right and wrong, though led by it to follow widely different
lines of conduct.

Darwin recognised that birds have a sense of beauty that is almost as developed as that of humans. Below in this extract from the Descent of Man wherein he writes that birds would not have evolved their beautiful plumage and beautiful songs had these attributes not be appreciated by female birds

SENSE OF BEAUTY.
This sense has been declared to be peculiar to man. I refer here only to the pleasure given by certain colours, forms, and sounds, and which may fairly be called a sense of the beautiful; with cultivated men such sensations are, however, intimately associated with complex ideas and trains of thought. When we behold a male bird elaborately displaying his graceful plumes or splendid colours before the female, whilst other birds, not thus decorated, make no such display, it is impossible to doubt that she admires the beauty of her male partner. As women everywhere deck themselves with these plumes, the beauty of such ornaments cannot be disputed. As we shall see later, the nests of humming-birds, and the playing passages of bower-birds are tastefully ornamented with gaily- coloured objects; and this shews that they must receive some kind of pleasure from the sight of such things.

The Descent of Man Charles Darwin
gutenberg.org/ebooks/2300

Concerning bird song It has been sauggested that the main theme of  Beethoven's Fifth Symphony may have been inspired by the song of a bird who lives in the area of Bonn

Can animals appreciate beauty? Judge for yourself with the following examples

One Early evening, on a hike...with Baron, my German Shepherd, he stopped and sat down in front of me...He Kept looking at me until I, too, sat down in the grass, than he turned away from me and gazed at the setting sun. His eyes fixed to the west, he immobile until a while after the sun has set. When he came out of his reverie, he nudged me and we took off again across the meadows , he playfully, myself in awe.

Bill Schul Quoted in Peace to All Beings by Judy Carman

This story originates from an internet forum

Our dog, when I still lived at home, was once standing around near the door, which usually means he wants to come in, so I opened the door for him. Apparently, he didn't stand there because he wanted to go in, but seemed to realize why I had opened the door, and turned his head to some nearby grass, as if he was saying "oh, er, um, I was just.. looking at the flowers.  It's a bit hard to convey, but he actually looked self-conscious. Cute! :3

experienceproject.com/stories/Animals/54822 scroll to the last entry

This page  will be updated and added to when further information and stories are found. If you have a story to tell about animals and a sense of beauty please consider including it here by e-mailing Christine Contact

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* I have endeavoured to provide accurate references for stories found on the internet however some of the stories are so frequently repeated that the original source is not easily identifiable. If you see any story here that is yours for which you have not been credited for or have not given permission for its inclusion please Contact me.

 

 

Credit Photo: (c) 2008 by Wanda Embar, Vegan Peace. Picture taken at Farm Sanctuary.

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Important please note:

I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

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