ChatGPT and the philosophy of aesthetics

ChatGPT - what is beauty?

You may recently have heard about ChatGPT, the online artificial intelligence (AI) software which answers questions and composes text which can be used in web pages and anywhere else where text is required. This is great news for anyone who needs quick content to add to their website. It is not great news for the thousands of people around the world who earn their living by writing this content. It also presents challenges for school teachers who are setting homework for their pupils.

The two questions which have always dominated aesthetics are what is art and what is beauty? I decided to ask ChatGPT these two questions. I created a free account – which seems to be mandatory to use it – and began typing into the online form.

So here goes.

What is beauty?

Here is the text from ChatGPT so you can read it clearly:

“Beauty is a quality or attribute that a person, object, or scene possesses that pleases the senses or the mind. It can refer to physical appearance, but also to qualities such as harmony, balance, proportion, symmetry, and color. Beauty can be subjective and varies from person to person, as it depends on individual preferences and cultural norms. For example, what one person considers beautiful, another might not, and beauty standards have changed throughout history and across cultures. Ultimately, beauty is a complex and multi-faceted concept that can encompass both objective and subjective elements.”

This is a good answer from ChatGPT. It stresses the complexity of beauty and its cultural and historic relativity. Also it mentions the fact that some artists and thinkers consider beauty to be an objective quality while others consider it to be subjective and there is a broad range of opinion in between.

What is art?

Art is a form of human expression that encompasses a wide range of creative activities and disciplines, including visual arts (such as painting, sculpture, and photography), performing arts (such as music, dance, and theater), literary arts (such as poetry, prose, and storytelling), and decorative arts (such as architecture, design, and fashion).

Art is often seen as a reflection of the culture and society in which it was created and can express emotions, ideas, and experiences. It can also be used to communicate a message or to challenge people’s perceptions and beliefs.

Art is often considered to have aesthetic value, meaning that it is appreciated for its beauty or emotional power. However, it can also have social, political, or cultural significance.

The definition of art can be debated, and what is considered art can change over time. Some people believe that art must be creative and original, while others believe that art can be found in everyday objects and experiences. Ultimately, the definition of art is open to interpretation, and it continues to evolve as new forms of expression are developed.

Again this is a decent answer. It leads with the expression theory of art and captures the encompassing nature of art which includes the decorative, literary and performing arts. The occasionally political nature of art is mentioned as is the movement to make art out of everyday objects.

What did Plato say about beauty?

“Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, had a nuanced and complex view of beauty. In his philosophy, he saw beauty as a universal idea that transcends individual things and can be perceived through reason. He believed that beauty is not just in the physical appearance of objects, but also in their inner essence, and that the essence of beauty can be understood through philosophical inquiry.

In his dialogues, Plato frequently explores the nature of beauty and its relationship to truth and goodness. He believed that the appreciation of beauty leads to a deeper understanding of truth and goodness, and that true beauty can only be found in perfect forms or ideas, which exist in a realm beyond the physical world.

For Plato, the beauty of a physical object is merely a reflection of its inner essence and its participation in the universal idea of beauty. He believed that the beauty of an object is not inherent in the object itself, but is a result of its participation in the world of Forms.

In summary, Plato saw beauty as a transcendent idea that is connected to truth and goodness and can be perceived through philosophical inquiry. He believed that the beauty of physical objects is merely a reflection of their inner essence and their participation in the universal idea of beauty.”

This is a good summary of what Plato, one of the first thinkers to analyse it, thought about beauty. It includes Plato’s ideas about forms and the essence of beauty.

Any good artificial intelligence software seeks to learn form its interactions with people and ChatGPT asks its users for feedback for each answer it gives.

I fed back that the answers were reasonable.

The pitfalls of ChatGPT for generation of content

ChatGPT and its competitors are seen as tools that will in the near future generate a lot of the content we all read on the Internet and even in magazines and newspapers.

If you are thinking of using ChatGPT to generate content for your website you need to think about the question of uniqueness and originality of content. ChatGPT generates very similar or even identical content for specific questions, but search engines such as Google penalise sites which copy or plagiarise content from other sites. So if thousands of autopilot websites all post the same or very similar content, generated by ChatGPT, search engines will soon penalise those sites. Sites which research and post unique content will gain an advantage in the competitive world of search engine placement. If you laboriously write your own content for your own website then my advice is to continue to research and write it – it will surely pay off in the end.

No doubt AI software will be used to generate more and more art. There are already AI generated novels out there. Here is a list. And AI-generated music – take your pick here. See my own blog post about AI-generated digital paintings here. I am not sure that this will be good news for creators. It will certainly be used by unscrupulous third parties to bargain down human creators. In the end we may be left with an ocean of mass-AI-produced music, novels, poems, paintings, sculptures and so forth. Creators will have to use their wits to find a way around this, if there is one.

Let’s wait for the brave new world.

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