Kolata: The world beautiful

We live in a world afflicted by violence, poverty, social inequality and environmental crisis. Individuals, governments, multilateral institutions and NGOs have been laboring for decades to solve these problems. Despite their repeated efforts, human rights violations, degradation of natural resources, social inequality and unsustainable patterns of global consumption appear to be intensifying.

We, therefore, have a choice: We can succumb to cynicism and blithely continue down the narrow path of materialism and unreflective consumption, or we can search for new solutions to old problems.

The best solution must get at the root of the problem, which lies in our current value system — one that privileges individualism over the collective good, promotes accelerating material consumption over sustainable use, and perpetuates political and social structures that are inherently unjust.

In approaching these problems, we must redefine our values by exploring the balance between individual liberty and self-realization and the collective good. An alternative philosophy that focuses our analytical lens on the collective values of beauty and justice may be the answer. There is a long line of social thought and philosophical reflection on the connections between beauty and justice. Beauty and justice are intimately connected and mutually reinforcing. Beauty requires and creates justice and justice generates more beauty in the world. Our definition of beauty surpasses the purely aesthetic. We define beauty as subjective in concept and plural in form, but always related to moral, values-based discourse and practices.

Any attempt to shift paradigms in concept and practice requires concrete steps. First, there must be a social context for individuals to share experiences of beauty and to participate in collective acts of compassion. More importantly, we need to bring greater analytical clarity to the relationship between beauty and justice by continued work on the philosophical grounding of the idea. Finally, we need to explore the feasibility of linking beauty and justice in politics and practice. We must test this new philosophy in tangible projects. Projects must seek pragmatic solutions to social problems and reflect a philosophy that recognizes the inherent value in solving them. For instance, by integrating traditional agricultural practices with new, sustainable technologies and improving the quality of life for marginalized populations in developing countries, we not only address the problem of food security, but also acknowledge the beauty of sustaining the environment.

These critical problems of injustice are too important to ignore or approach in old ways. We must share our subjective senses of beauty to inspire others to find new, unforeseen forms of beauty and new paths to justice. In short, we must experiment to contribute to a world that could clearly benefit from a little more beauty and a lot less injustice.

Justine Kolata is sophomore in Morse College.


  • What?

    “Beauty requires and creates justice and justice generates more beauty in the world.”

    No. Just — no.

  • Hieronymus

    “[W]e must redefine our values by exploring the balance between individual liberty and self-realization and the collective good.”

    Always good to hear from representatives of the Future Marxists of America club.

    So… why the increasing animus to the US Constitution? Do y’all really think that American freedom, grandeur and, yes, dominance was just (or, um, “unjust”) dumb luck?

  • lol

    And the games begin–who can rip this to shreds most eloquently and condescendingly…

  • Uhhh…what?

    Does this actually say anything…? Sounds like a bunch of a fluffy nonsensical gibberish written by someone tripping on acid…

  • Amiee Teagarden

    “I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uhmmm, some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and uh, I believe that our, I, education like such as uh, South Africa, and uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uhhh, our education over here in the US should help the US, uh, should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future, for our children.”

  • George Patsourakos

    The Yale University writer is correct in saying that America privileges individualism over the collective good. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to reverse the priority of these two factors under our capitalist economic system.

    Capitalism encourages individual wealth by any means — provided it is accomplished by obeying the law — even if this results in eroding the collective good. In short, capitalism is a self-centered “dog-eat-dog” economic system in which everyone looks out for himself, with little if any consideration of the collective good.

    President Obama is trying to change these inequities, by taxing the wealthy at a much higher rate than middle and lower class Americans, and in several other ways. In fact, I believe that President Obama’s plans for change during his four years as President will result in a socialist economic system for America. Socialism would mean that Americans would tend to live more for the collective good, and less for privileged individualism.

  • Anonymous

    I generally refrain from mean spirited comments, but the utter vacuousness of your column was the straw that broke this camel’s back…

    Do you realize that, when you speak, words come out but they don’t make any sense? I could point out specifics… but then i’d just end up block quoting this whole thing.

  • amie teagarden

    anyone see parallels to miss south carolina?


    This is the worst thing I’ve ever read in the Yale Daily News.

  • Bryce

    @ amie teagarden:

    Let’s be civil. The Miss South Carolina reference is a low blow and wholly unnecessary. While this piece doesn’t really spell out how beauty and justice are tied together, the idea has a venerable pedigree tracing back to Plato. The True, the Good, the Beautiful, and (why not?) the Just, are tied inextricably together, and the modern tendency to divorce them has led to more ugliness and more injustice than the world had ever seen before.

  • confused

    This column exemplifies the problem with YDN columns and with Yale in general. What is she SAYING?? There isn’t one specific sentence in this whole thing!

  • commons peanut gallery

    “In short, we must experiment to contribute to a world that could clearly benefit from a little more beauty and a lot less injustice.”

    …for kids who can’t read good.

  • @amie teagarden

    You mean in the sense that it is just a long incoherent ramble that throws around some buzzwords but ultimately says absolutely nothing? In that case, yes.

    Anyone see any parallels to Billy Madison?
    ________, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I’ve ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response was there anything that could even be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

  • Econ=freedom

    So, I guess Adam Smith ain’t req’d readin’ no more there at Yale, huh?


  • jabs

    more than miss south carolina… zoolander.

  • HDT

    Nothing about this article warrants such blunt and indelicate criticism.

  • y09

    It’s still more insightful, coherent, and well-written than any Peter Johnson editorial ever was. So in that regard, it’s quite the step up for the YDN Opinion page.

    “Do y’all really think that American freedom, grandeur and, yes, dominance was just (or, um, “unjust”) dumb luck?”

    Dominance seems to be due to a combination of natural resources, geographical position, and good luck. If you want to argue otherwise, please lay out a coherent argument in favor of that position. I don’t feel any more free here than in Europe (or maybe a little less). As for the grandeur, look to geological processes for the cause.

  • Yale 01

    I think the connection is very logical. It is a concept that has been explored by some of the greatest thinkers from Plato to Sen. I applaud Ms. Kolata in here attempts to bring beauty and justice to the world… why these efforts would produce any negative responses is unclear to me.

  • good thoughts

    Dear all-of-the-above-commentators,
    The day we throw out idealism as silliness –the day we decide that passion for improvement is nothing more than unrealistic absurdity–is the day choose to limit our possibilities of making real, practical, tangible changes in global justice. So I know it makes you all feel really good to put down the work and thoughts of someone who everyone knows is hotter than you (I’m pretty sure this author is known throughout campus as the Yale beauty as well as one of the few true Yale hearts?), try to control yourselves. Is it impossible to write a compassionate article nowadays for the YDN? However unrealistic (isn’t that the beauty of it? set goals higher to make us reach further?), the thoughts are good. Well done, and at least you had the guts to write something altruistic in this overly-cynical university!

  • Ort

    Econ=freedom–Have YOU read Adam Smith? Seriously, pick him up; he doesn’t say quite what you think he says.

  • Yalie

    Let’s be completely honest- if Justine wasn’t a girl, and wasn’t as beautiful as she is, would she get as much crap for doing what she’s doing?

    It’s an exceptionally well-crafted statement. First she was criticized for doing “stupid things” like stargazing and drinking tea, and now she’s being criticized for writing a scholarly, well-organized article. She’s one of the nicest people at this university, and her hard work is going to pay off soon.

  • @y09

    Don’t you dare say that about Peter Johnston.

  • ’09

    The writer certainly makes a valid point-individualism *can* be quite deleterious. However, it isn’t always about seeking personal material gain. Isn’t it also a form of individualism to pursue the work you personally find rewarding? From where are these “beautiful” advancements to come but the people who *want* to pursue them? Similarly, work for the “common good” seems noble enough, but it robs the individual of his free spirit. Tasks for the common good, forced upon unwilling participants, are often done poorly. Individual desire and investment in work are usually requisite for true quality (as I’m sure any Yalie can verify).

    The greatest irony of this piece is its depiction of beauty as a shared quality. Beauty, physical or otherwise, is itself an extremely personal experience. Though its perception is social, its creation is individual. There is no “sameness” in beauty- the standards and potential vary on an individual basis. Though I may perceive it, I cannot “share” in another’s beauty, but instead develop mine for myself. Decrying individualism does fiercely attack some base emotions and desires, but it also steals our individuality, our ability to ask “Who am I? What tools and perspectives may I bring to the beautification of the world?”

  • Blah

    blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah beauty and justice are intimately connected and mutually reinforcing blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah we need to explore the feasibility of linking beauty and justice in politics and practice blah blah we must blah a world that could clearly blah blah a little more beauty blah blah blah injustice blah

  • Anonymous

    Just go to orbis on the Yale library website and type in beauty and justice or beauty and morality. There are many authors who write on the subject including Kant and Nussbaum. The idea is brilliant.

  • @#13

    thank you.

  • Hieronymus

    I am not convinced that folks are criticizing the philosophic ramblings so much as the overt preference for collectivist versus individual rights. At least, I *hope* that is the main thrust of ridicule.

  • @Hiero

    Nope, that’s just you.

  • yeah, but…

    @25: I think Justine needs to read that stuff more than anyone else. her ‘work’ (lol) wouldn’t be so justly criticized if she used some statistics, quotes from philosophers, or anything to actually make an argument at all.


    I, for one, am criticizing both the bizarre philosophical ramblings as well as the overt preference for collectivization.

    Anyways, who’s to say that beauty is a collective value? Is it not in the eye of the beholder anymore?

  • Goldie ’08

    I find bueaty in rugged individualism.

  • Anonymous

    I just think that the problem is that it wasn’t specific or very logical. It just wasn’t very good writing, that’s all, although I do see the point of it.

  • yale ’10

    In a strange coincidence, there was a column with the same irritating title (“The World Beautiful”) last year. It was written by someone with the same initials: JK. Something strange is going on.

  • @33
  • wait, what?

    All I see here are buzzwords and unsupported assertions. Please step out of your intellectual echo chamber and engage in some serious rational thought.

  • yalie2008

    I don’t know this girl or the situation, but it seems obvious to me that this is a joke. It really can’t be serious. I hope.

  • why?

    What is most befuddling about this opinion piece is that it is not really a response to some specific happening which the author has observed and on which she would like write an opinion about. Yes, she is commenting on injustice in the world and what she personally believes can be done to counteract that, but what inspired her to write this piece other than to promote her movement? If she could use specific examples of how her plan would work instead of just spitting out hot topic words and big ideas perhaps I could start to believe what she’s saying.

  • laughing Yale student

    This piece is part of Justine’s larger undertaking, the “Movement for Beauty and Justice”. I know because I was recently invited to her Facebook group with said title.

    Justine’s movement for beauty and what have you is just one of the many ridiculous resumé building attempts undertaken by Yale students. What separates her endeavor from the rest is in just how obnoxiously nebulous and naive her “movement” is–a fact only reinforced this piece.

    Just the other day I could not help myself and actually had to laugh when I saw a flyer poorly taped to a street sign on Elm advertising a stargazing on Cross Campus sponsored by Justine’s organization. Have you ever looked up into the New Haven night sky from Cross Campus? You can MAYBE see a star or two on a clear night.

    Still I encourage the movement-despite quickly declining the invite to join her Facebook group-because I can at least get a chuckle or two out of the ridiculousness.

    In fact, I look forward to the movement’s next farce…

  • @ laughing yale student

    Yes, seriously. This is clearly a resume padder. If she really cared about fighting against injustice she’d join something that’s already established and work to support that cause. Or she’d start something that very concretely worked to solve a problem that is being insufficiently addressed. This organization is so nebulous, and so hard to take seriously, that I have a hard time believing she started this for any reason other than to pad her resume.