During the early twentieth century, philosophers, artists and poets debated the concept of beauty. Beauty is the combination of qualities that appeal to an aesthetic sense, resulting in positive emotional response. There are two aspects to beauty: the objective and subjective aspects. The objective aspect includes the physical aspects, while the subjective aspect includes the emotional response of an individual.
Most philosophical accounts of beauty treated it as an objective quality, identifying it with the idea of symmetry or proportion. For example, the classical writer Euclid defines beauty as the ratio of a line divided into two unequal parts. Beauty is also associated with symmetry, which is defined as the relation of the parts to the whole. A color is considered beautiful if it is symmetrical. The same object can be perceived as different colors at noon and midnight, demonstrating the symmetry of the world.
Beauty is also associated with consonance. For example, the golden ratio is considered to be beautiful. Similarly, a painting with a golden ratio is considered beautiful. In addition to symmetry and proportion, beauty also requires clarity and integrity.
Beauty can also be defined by race, gender, body shape, colour and age. Although most accounts of beauty use objective criteria to identify beauty, it can also be defined by a popular culture or the emotional response of an individual. For example, a woman’s face may be considered beautiful if it is symmetrical and if it looks youthful.
A number of philosophers have also argued that beauty is subjective. Some examples of this include the eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume, who argued that the beauty of the natural world depends on the individual’s sentiment. Another example is the nineteenth-century writer John Keats, who imagined men or gods chasing each other around the world in a frenzy of beauty and pleasure.
Another philosopher, Plotinus, argued that beauty is an aspect of participation in the realm of Forms. He thought that the experience of beauty could be profound. The experience of beauty connects an individual with an object and connects the object with other communities of appreciation.
In the twentieth century, philosophers and artists wrestled with the idea of beauty, especially during the time of war and genocide. They were also concerned with the effects of beauty on societies. Beauty was also associated with capitalism in the early twentieth century, and in some cases was considered to be a distraction to more important goals. The beauty of nature and the beauty of the arts were subject to both amoral and moral criticism.
In the eighteenth century, philosophers such as John Locke, David Hume, and Augustine were concerned with the meaning of beauty. While Locke was skeptical about the concept, Hume was willing to admit that there is a range of human experiences when it comes to color. He also believed that individual will is important.
Other twentieth-century thinkers, such as Naomi Wolf, were concerned with the ways women are represented in Western popular culture. Wolf suggested that we need to re-construct the concept of beauty in order to overturn the gender hierarchy in our society.