The Softness Effect

Animals probably like the texture of soft things such as breasts and tongues because we have similarly soft brains.

Thermoaesthetics

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This is a photo of a painting by J.M.W. Turner from the 1800’s called “The Devil’s Bridge, St. Gothard.” It’s a blurry landscape mostly made up of rocky mountains with a stream running through it and a rainbow over the stream.
J.M.W. Turner’s “The Devil’s Bridge, St. Gothard.” Photo from WikiArt. Public domain.

“I scarcely closed my eyes all night long. Goodness knows what was in my bed. I lay upon something hard, so that I am black and blue all over. It is quite dreadful!”

— H.C. Anderson, The Princess and the Pea (Scudder 1909)

There’s nothing soft, or very little softness to speak of anywhere in the universe except on Earth where life transforms fluids and solids into the liquid crystalline material that makes us up. Living things absorb environmental fluids and deconstruct the crystalline structure of solids, incorporating matter into an intermediate, fleshy condition with special capacities like moving around without falling apart, perceiving the environment and expressing preferences. The softness of life has gone unnoticed in science and philosophy, perhaps because it’s so familiar. We usually treat it as unimportant despite the fact that it’s arguably more fundamental than any of life’s other properties.

An animal’s body is made of material spanning a range of physical states, from fully crystalline to fully fluid and everything in between. Brains are right in the middle, with maximum softness. The most extensively liquid crystalline or softest part of the body is simultaneously the most sentient. This consistency of the brain apparently causes an automatic preference for soft things and the evolution of soft sexual characteristics to satisfy it.

Biology today doesn’t have an explanation for kissing, making out, foreplay and much of the business of sex other than the transfer of genetic material. Breasts, lips, tongues and hips are soft parts of bodies we like to engage with for amusement. Other animals have similar features, some of which appear only during the breeding season. Outside the body there are human cultural examples including stuffed animals, chewing gum, ice cream, various foods, flower petals, clay, Play-Doh, toy slime and other things.

Softness bias is probably a special case of a more general bias for mixtures of fluidity with solidness. We subconsciously select for language, poetry and art containing juxtapositions of these qualities. In paintings, one…

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Thermoaesthetics

A concept of aesthetic complexity based on universal animal preferences for mixtures of simple, more and less exciting physical and psychological opposites.