As I sit here playing fetch with an almost frustratingly eager to please Labrador I am once again confronted with cute.  I’ve been thinking a lot about cute lately, after starting my new job, and trying to figure out its place in aesthetics.  I’m not sure any philosophers have tackled cute, but I will try.  Certainly cute is pleasing.  Most people would rather look at cute than ugly.  But it’s not the same as beauty – just ask someone who’s been called cute instead of beautiful.  They seem very similar, but yet somehow worlds apart.  I feel certain that Kant would dismiss cute as part of the pleasant and not the beautiful.  And maybe he’s right.  Or maybe cute is kind of a subset of the beautiful.  The cute has a way of getting to you, sometimes in a way similar to beauty.  Maybe it’s a biological thing.  Beauty may inspire art, but cute inspires nurturing.  Both can invoke a sense of wanting to capture and preserve.  When you see beauty, you want to have it. When you see cute you want to cuddle it.  Cute can melt your heart while beauty can set it aflutter. 

            But why does beauty get so much more attention than cute?  I think cute is getting more attention these days than it did previously, with websites like http://cuteoverload.com and http://icanhascheezburger.com.  But beauty still seems to be above cute in the hierarchy of things.  I suppose at its core it really could be a biological thing.  Beauty gets more attention because it’s more closely related to reproduction.  Or going the more romantic route, beauty gets more attention because it’s more closely associated with love. Not that you can’t love cute things, but it tends to be a different, less romantic, more nurturing love. 

In the end, maybe it all comes down to awe-inspiring versus aww-inspiring.  I think cute does have a place in aesthetics though, even if it’s not as highly regarded as beauty.  There is room for both of them and I think it’s time that cute claim its place. 

(photo borrowed from cuteoverload)

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