I’m always interested in the presence of abstracts in reality. I touched on this with my question of good and bad in my last post, but I come back around to it this week. (Because midnight and the end of Monday looms? We shall never know).
The question turning over in my mind right now regards cuteness. What makes something “cute?”
This idea was put to me in, I kid you not, honors Philosophy 101 my first semester of college. Of course, the prof didn’t use such a useful object for consideration. Instead, he presented the question of abstracts by means of a table.
We all know what a table is. What it looks like. We can consciously picture one if we try. And we could all definitely spot one from a hundred yards and say, without doubt, that it is neither a chair, nor a flamingo, a slide, or a plate. It’s a table.
But what makes it a table? Is it what it is made of? Wood or other materials? (So are chairs and some plates.) Is it what it has? A flat surface and legs? (So does a chair and a slide.) Is it what it does? Something you eat off of? (Like a plate or a very confused flamingo.)
The point is that in reality, any of us could see an object and correctly identify if it was a table as opposed to, say, a pink, stupid-looking bird. This is because (and I think this is from Plato, but I’ll defer to my philosophy-buff fellow writers, who’re probably fully erect right now because I said philosophy and abstract in the same post) we each have an abstract idea of what a table is. Without having to picture a distinct table. We know what a table is. Unassailably.
Back to my question. Forget the stuffy table example. Forget Philosophy 101 (erections drooping, I know). Back to cute.
I’ll ask again. What makes something “cute?”
Let’s start with an unassailable, we-may-even-rightly-call-it-borderline-abstract example of cuteness:
This is a picture of my dog, Tails, when he was a 3-month-old puppy. No one, and I mean no one could argue that he’s not cute. Look at him. (To put it in perspective, that orange toy, Mr. Binky, is about 4 inches tall.) He is A-dor-a-ble. And cute.
But this post isn’t about a gushing dog owner’s infatuation with his pooch. It’s about understanding the greater depths of thoughts. About pushing boundaries.
So, as I was sitting here, thinking about what to write, I looked at Tails and thought, “why is he so cute?”
Bear in mind, he’s now over a year old and looks like this (still pretty cute, I think).
So, while I can admit that he’s not as cute now, my question remains. What makes something “cute?” We have an abstract sense of cuteness. We can judge cuteness in variable spectra (e.g. “Tails was cuter as a puppy, but still cute as an adult”).
But would I know cute if it walked up and smacked me in the face?
Can I see what cute is? What it does? How it’s used? What it looks like?
Cute, unlike the easy table example my philosophy prof used, is even more abstract. But no less important.
I offer this post as a chance to wake up to the abstracts that surround each of us. Recognize the cute things around you today. Or the beautiful things. Or the any-number-of-other-adjectives-things.
Abstracts, they’re all around you. And you didn’t even know it.
davidrsheehan is a contributing writer for projectgroupthink.wordpress.com. Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog. You can also tweet directly with him: davidrsheehan. He is happy to provide more cute pictures of his silly dog Tails, if anyone would like to counter his statement that Tails is unassailably cute.