I have said that domestic cats don’t appreciate beauty. The discussion is philosophical. Philosophical discussions don’t result in hard conclusions. I can’t provide a guaranteed answer as to whether domestic cats appreciate beauty or not. I also can’t provide a definitive answer as to why humans appreciate beauty. That, too, is a philosophical question. I’ve done research briefly on this and discovered that there is no definitive answer on the appreciation of beauty by people. Therefore, I’m left to try and work out and answer it myself.
Cats don’t appreciate beauty
Domestic cats don’t appreciate beauty and neither do other animals. That’s my conclusion. But they do appreciate fitness to procreate in beautiful mates. Beautiful displays by male birds attract females. I’m going to argue that they don’t attract females because they look beautiful but because the female perceives the display as indicating that the male bird is fit and will create strong offspring.
In the cat world, male lions with dark, lush manes are more attractive to lionesses and other lions. They perceive these lions as being fitter. And in being fitter, their offspring, after they’ve mated, will also be fitter. This will help to sustain the family. The female lion’s cubs will more likely survive if she mates with a lion with a dark mane. So, she selects him and mates with him. She is not attracted to the beauty of the lion but she is attracted to the functionality of a healthy, dominant lion.
In my view, therefore, in the eyes of cats and other animals, beauty is transformed into functionality and efficiency in the interests of better survival of the individual, the family and the species as a whole.
As to Gary the cat in the video not appreciating the landscape behind him, it is because he is well fed! If he was a wildcat like his ancestor, he would look at the landscape and decide whether there were any prey animals in it or not. To a cat, the landscape is not beautiful but functional if it contains prey to aid survival. Functionality merges with beauty. I discuss this further below.
Note: This is a video from another website. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.
As for people, we know that humans appreciate the beauty of a landscape as seen in the video and photograph on this page. We see the beauty in another person and are attracted to that person. Everything we see we judge as to whether it is good looking or not. But I believe that at its root the assessment of the beauty or otherwise of an object is also about survival. In short, there is a functional basis to the appreciation of beauty.
If we look at a beautiful landscape we go back to our ancestral roots. Humans came out of the landscape, the primeval soup (the hypothetical set of conditions present on the Earth around 3.7 billion years ago)! We are connected to it, and when we look at it, we feel that connection, although we don’t realise it, and it feels good. Unfortunately, most humans have distanced themselves from nature. They are orphans from their origins. This makes them unhappy. If people connect with nature, they invariably feel better which is why doctors recommend that depressed people spend half an hour in a wood, forest or landscape to help them feel better.
So, people like beautiful landscapes because it makes them feel better and it makes him feel better because they are connecting with their roots. And in doing so they feel better, empowered and more able to survive.
People see beauty in another person but I think that this, too, is ultimately functional. The philosophers would probably disagree with me. But a beautiful person will make healthy kids, that’s the theory and that is where the attraction comes from. Once again it goes back to survival.
But why do we find some inanimate objects beautiful and some ugly? The first point is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is subjective but you will find a consensus that some objects are more beautiful than others such as the Apple Computer designed by Sir Jonathan Ive. And the E-type Jaguar is considered by many to be the most beautiful car.
This question is hard to answer. But if I follow my original theory that beauty is about functionality, it may be the case that when people see a beautiful computer like the Apple MacBook Pro, they believe that it is highly functional. The image that the object presents to the viewer is that it is highly functional and advanced. So, functionality is presented as beauty and beauty represents functionality. The two merge.
Even if a beautiful object is not particularly functional and rather badly made, initially we see that object as both beautiful and highly functioning until we learn otherwise. But the starting point is that beauty represents high quality functionality in inanimate human-made objects.
Humans versus cats on beauty
My conclusion is that humans are the same as cats although we see ourselves as very different and more intelligent regarding the appreciation of beauty. In humans we have to go back from observing beauty to recognising functionality. In cats they are already at the functional stage. They don’t waste their time deciding whether something is beautiful and not. They just decide if it is going to work for them and help in their survival.
So, when wild cats look at a landscape, they will decide whether the landscape can provide them with prey animals to hunt and live off. They don’t look at it and think that it is beautiful. They look at it and say there are prey animals there I can eat. Once again is about functionality.
Note: I am not a philosopher (as you might have guessed). I am trying to apply common sense and science to the question at hand.
SOME MORE ON PHILOSOPHY!!