Thursday, June 19, 2014

One Direction Has Really Weak Epistemic Standards...

Two things: First, I LOVE THIS SONG! Second, I'm not sure 1D has really proved that the particular person they are singing about in "That's What Makes You Beautiful" is in fact beautiful. For simplicities sake, let us name the particular person that 1D is singing about, oh, I don't know... how about... 'Natalie Portman.'

Consider the chorus:
"Baby you light up my world like nobody else.
The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed,
but when you smile at the ground it ain't hard to tell,
you don't know-oh-oh,
you don't know you're beautiful.
If only you saw what I could see,
you'd understand why I want you so desperately.
Right now I'm looking at you and I can't believe,
you don't know-oh-oh.
You don't know you're beautiful.
Oh oh,
that's what makes you beautiful!"

While I'm still not convinced that 'Natalie Portman doesn't know she's beautiful' can be derived from the fact that she smiles at the ground (what's worse is that they claim this ain't a hard inference to make!), the main focus of the song seems to center around providing standards for what makes Natalie Portman beautiful. This claim, however, seems to be vindicated way too easily! Natalie Portman is beautiful, apparently, because she doesn't know it! In other words, what makes Natalie Portman beautiful is that she doesn't know she's beautiful! I'm not sure whether 1D holds this standard of justification for all claims (or even a particular class of claims), but it seems like an odd standard to have. Consider justifying the claim that 'Natalie Portman is an actress.' What would make this claim true is if Natalie Portman didn't know that she is an actress! (Although, an explanation concerning 1D's conception of 'knowing' is required to make these inferences.)

Not to be insensitive, but if this is our standard for beautifulness, then the world suddenly just gained a crap-ton of new beautiful people... (e.g., everyone who doesn't know they're beautiful, is in fact, beautiful!). It's not even the fact that someone could be beautiful and not know it! There is no other standard for beauty other than not knowing you're beautiful. It's just in virtue of the fact that someone doesn't know they're beautiful, that they are, in fact, beautiful!

And, in case you need more justification, don't worry! Zayn's got ya covered. As Zayn starts off the second verse:
"So c-c-come on,
you got it wrong. 
To prove I'm right 
I put it in a sa-ah-ong."

If this is all it takes to provide justification for a particular claim, then I'm in the wrong profession! Simply by putting some claim in a song proves that you're right/provides justification for that claim? Wow. Although, I guess that could be right... it just means that LMFAO is actually sexy... AND THEY KNOW IT!


  1. To be honest, I don't read them as defending an epistemological position. As I read them, they are arguing for the *metaphysical* thesis that beauty is grounded in the ignorance of beauty. This raises the interesting question of whether it is possible for an object to be grounded in a relation to itself. Do you know whether 1D have addressed this issue in other work?

    P.S. Great site.

  2. Yes, I agree with Jonathan. It's not an epistemic claim. Not knowing that you're beautiful is a sufficient condition for beauty. Presumably, more specifically it must be that not *believing* that you're beautiful is what makes you beautiful, thinking about the JTB account of knowledge. In fact, if not knowing that you're beautiful is not only a sufficient condition for beauty, but a necessary one, then it must be impossible to know that you're beautiful. Don't know where that leaves LMFAO if the same goes for sexiness...

  3. Thank you for the comments :)

    I should've focused more on the metaphysical thesis. I think you're both right: they're more concerned with grounding beauty in ignorance of beauty. I think I focused more on whether they were justified in holding that belief. The standards they've set for thinking that ignorance of beauty grounds beauty seem, intuitively, weak. While I can't say that the metaphysical claim is wrong, I think the reasons 1D has offered for holding the metaphysical thesis are too weak.

    Oh, and I've been searching through 1D's discography to see if they've addressed grounding relations in any of their other songs. I'm sure they're thorough in keeping the content of their songs coherent and consistent, so once I find those pieces of work I'll send them along :)