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Kaleidoscope: A Phenomenological-Empirical Study of Beauty Open Access


Other title
Empirical studies
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Aaftink, Cathelein
Supervisor and department
Kuiken, Don (Social and Cultural Psychology)
Sywenky, Irene (Comparative Literature and East European Studies)
Miall, David S. (English and Film Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Hart, Jonathan (Comparative Literature and English and Film Studies)
Kuipers, Giselinde (Cultural Sociology)
Burch, Robert (Philosophy)
Comparative Literature

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This doctoral project describes beauty as it is lived. It is an exploration of beauty’s experiential qualities as well as an investigation of its structural characteristics. Beauty has an eidetic structure that is morphological (rather than exact), which means that its essence has properties that are more or less characteristic (rather than necessary and sufficient) and that its phenomenal instantiations are similar in some ways (rather than being the same in all ways). Consequently, imaginative variation—a method that may be successfully employed when investigating exact essences—does not suffice when one seeks to uncover systematically the various meanings that may form part of a morphological essence. Instead it is more appropriate to: (1) consider multiple lived instances; (2) identify for each instance the lived understanding (i.e., sense of the whole) and lived meanings (i.e., parts) that played a role in that instance being experienced as an instantiation of its kind (or type); (3) examine in a dialectical manner instances that are relatively similar; and (4) combine insights obtained through the preceding whole-part analysis and dialectical explorations. It then becomes possible to describe a phenomenon in a way that is mindful of the different experiential-eidetic manifestations that may typify its nature. Following these procedural steps in the analysis of 471 personal experiences with beauty as recounted by first year psychology students has resulted in the description of the following lived variations of beauty: (1) a variation called objective beauty in which the experiencing individual responds to a thing of beauty that is experienced as distinctly separate from herself; (2) an affective-noetic variation in which beauty is lived in terms of a feeling or a certain state of mind; (3) a non-dualistic variation of beauty in which beauty is lived as a unified sense of the experienced and the way in which it is experienced; and (4) a variation called situative beauty in which beauty is experienced as involving all aspects of the situation that the experiencer finds herself in.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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