Should You Get a Face Tattoo? Ethics, Aesthetics, and the Nature of Beauty

                Aesthetics has been a long debated sector of philosophy, yet, it is a difficult one to debate. For one, there is a common belief that beauty is subjective. How can one establish normative rules for something so fluid? Partially, this is a problem about philosophers not doing science. The contemporary philosopher Derek Parfit argued that personal identity is temporary which makes sense if one bases one’s stance on the idea personalities are constituted primarily by conscious memories. It may feel true that if you don’t remember something it no longer exists but personality traits are mostly subconscious and much of them are formed in early-childhood prior to when most people have many memories and last the full lifetime so his philosophy is objectively untrue.

                With regard to aesthetics, beauty is not merely in the eye of the beholder. There are general consensuses by people across cultures of what is attractive and what isn’t. More importantly, there are aesthetics that have more positive and more negative effects on people. The Broken-Window policy implemented most famously in New York but also in other places is an example of that. It has long been argued that one of the main ways art can be ethically guided is by the virtues it promotes and vices it erodes. That is whether a piece of art, be it a painting, a novel, a film, a poem, a song, or so forth forwards some moral or ethical cause for the better. Typically, this is argued in the context of the explicit messaging of a piece rather than the genre or the general aesthetic. That is to say that it speaks in favor of a political movement or a specific moral lesson or something like that. Yet, the general aesthetic has a psychological effect on people and that should be considered when creating anything to be consumed by the senses.

                By the aesthetic and genre designed, confidence can be imparted, friendliness can be instilled, superfluous fear can be abated, and much more. The atmosphere and vibe of an environment is heavily affected by the aesthetics. Therefore, it is important that the aesthetic be crafted with the mental state and mental health of the consumers in mind. When I say health, I mean in both the acute and the chronic sense but more in the chronic. To use an example in Mill’s utilitarianism, if one manages to be a functional (without significant physical ailments, so biological health is not a factor), long-term, heroin addict it may contribute to acute utilitarian happiness but it will both in the individual case and as a precedent for others contribute to a chronic lower degree of happiness than otherwise would be had for a number of reasons therefore from a chronic utilitarian perspective, one should still abstain and interventions are warranted (although interventions should avoid being punitive).

                Similarly, the mental health measurements of higher consideration when judging aesthetics should be chronic more than acute. I’ve written about being on the spectrum and offending people in minor ways before. In the most acute and immediate sense, offending people causes brief depression and anxiety yet if that depression and anxiety were to be socially enforced then the sum of all minority groups who are prone to be offensive would be regarded as inherently immoral and it would decrease the net happiness of everyone but if society expected the offended party to tolerate the offensive item then everybody would feel more accepted and safer and happiness, on the broad and chronic scale, would increase. So, aesthetics effects on people’s mental welfare should be gaged more in terms of chronic than acute.

                As far as the question posed in the title. Should you get a face tattoo? Well, I don’t have any tattoos whatsoever. First, because I have classic, romantic, old-timey tastes and I don’t like tattoos. Even discrete ones. Second, they’re like gambling. I might win but I probably won’t and I can’t lose if I don’t play. That is to say that any particular tattoo will likely go out of style but not having one is always in style. If I really wanted one, I could get a henna tattoo and renew it or redo it whenever I wanted to. If I got a real tattoo I would lose some control over my body, the sovereignty over which is among my most cherished assets as it is for many people. I feel that my mode of thought is a consideration for my future self that is built on a responsibility and self-discipline. Although, I’m here to argue about aesthetics, broadly, so I won’t really go further. Should you get a face tattoo? Probably not for a number of normative reasons but, for here, I’ll leave that to the reader.

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