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Salon Luitpold, courtesy of WALA: ‘What is beautiful? And if something is beautiful, what is its purpose?’ With Meredith Haaf, Julia Leeb, Robert Pfaller, Nicoline Wöhrle
Photo: Salon Luitpold
Aesthetic ideals are likely as old as humankind itself. Nowadays, in times when media and photography are more present in our everyday lives than ever before, looking good plays a particularly important role. The desire to look beautiful seems to be stronger than ever in the current international context, which is, to some extent, dire.
How do notions of beauty come about? And why do we need them? Is there a difference between natural and artificial beauty? Do the beautiful, the good and the truthful really belong together? Where can beauty be found in horror – and is that even acceptable?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, ...
... they say. And where there are different observers, there are different views of beauty. This is also the case on the podium of Salon Luitpold: Julia Leeb, photographer and journalist, searches for it in war zones and crisis regions. With her photographs, she portrays the fragility and truthfulness of the moment as a part of beauty. Robert Pfaller, professor at the Art University Linz, takes a philosophical view. In Plato's triad - the true, the good and the beautiful - which has been quoted again and again for millennia, beauty is the outsider: ‘Unlike the good and the true, beauty has no two sides. It is always real’.
For Nicoline Wöhrle, Head of Communication at Dr. Hauschka, there are definitely two types of beauty, inner and outer. Nurturing both was the founding impulse of the natural cosmetics brand in 1967. The discussion was moderated by Meredith Haaf, journalist and deputy head of Süddeutsche Zeitung’s section “Opinion”.
What is beautiful? And if something is beautiful, what is its purpose?
What unites all the approaches: When we talk about beauty, we talk about people. The question, ‘Am I beautiful and what role does beauty actually play for me?’, occupies most people at some point in their lives. Do I subscribe to the beauty norms promoted in the media? Or do I consciously decide not to be influenced by common ideals of beauty?
In the Western world today, most people can consciously decide what they want to do or not do. Such as whether to subscribe to standard ideals of beauty or not, whether to paint their nails and apply lipstick or not, or whether to wear high heels or not. In this sense, beauty can be a symbol of freedom – the freedom to create your own self-image.
Inner beauty, outer glow.
Sometimes just one look is needed to recognise beauty. And yet it is said that it is in the eye of the beholder. And that true beauty comes from within. But is there such a thing as ‘inner beauty’? Intrinsically, beauty always reveals itself on the outside; if something looks beautiful, then it is beautiful. Beauty is merely a construct – there is no contrast between appearance and reality. Beauty is always real.
However, beauty does not have to be superficial, and it isn’t. Real beauty can be found in a respectful gesture, a genuine interaction, an intimate moment. Real beauty emerges in moments of sincerity. And sometimes it also presents itself as a visible glow. People who are at home in their own skin radiate this sense of inner ease outwardly. That must be what Elisabeth Sigmund meant when she said, ‘There are two kinds of beauty: inner and outer.’
We still firmly believe this today.
The famous Munich-based coffee shop Luitpold has seen host Stephan Meier welcome familiar faces from the worlds of art and culture, science, politics and society for more than 10 years as part of its ‘Salon Luitpold’ series. The discussions are both inspired and inspiring, focusing on visions and projects to enliven society.
A relaxed group discussed the topic of ‘What is beautiful? And if something is beautiful, what is its purpose?’
Nicoline Wöhrle, Head of Communications at WALA Heilmittel GmbH and Dr. Hauschka
Julia Leeb, journalist, photographer and film maker
Robert Pfaller, professor of philosophy at the University of Arts Linz
Meredith Haaf, writer and deputy head of Süddeutsche Zeitung’s opinion section
TEXT: Nadja Reibel