Why is beauty important to humans? We seem to seek out beautiful things, whether visually beautiful such as a location or a painting, or beautiful music. Why does beauty tend to calm and soothe?

Your question has many dimensions. First of all, it might be taken as asking why our species seeks out beauty while others do not. If that is the question, then one point to note is that it might be the case that other species seek beauty as well. For instance, males in other species of animals produce exotic ornamentation in order to gain an advantage with females in sexual selection. Do those females seek out beauty? I would be hard pressed to show that they don't.

Second, and leaving that question aside, one might take this question as asking why we like things that are beautiful. But if you reflect on that for a moment, it might seem a bit strange. Imagine someone trying to figure out why we don't like pain. Perhaps all that can be said is that painful things hurt, which by definition we don't like. On the other hand, assuming that beauy is pleasant, one may still ask the question: Why do we find beautiful the things that we do? For example, anthropologists, psychologists and aestheticians are curious why we find some human faces beautiful and others not, such that even though there's some cultural variation there seem to be some universals as well. Are we "hard wired" to seek out symmetry, for instance, in faces? If so, why? One suggestion is that symmetry is a sign of health, and thus an indicator (not guarantee) of good genes. The notion of Fluctuating Asymmetry is used in evolutionary biology to refer to a measure of a potential mate's viability.

Of course, all this has no obvious application to inanimate objects, which are part of your question. On the other hand, some would hold that we can explain what is beautiful about a building, a painting, or a symphony in terms of a single condition that applies to the human case as well. For more on this see George Dickie's clear and insightful book, _Evaluating Art_.

Read another response by Mitch Green
Read another response about Beauty