The Philosophy of Beauty


Throughout history, the concept of beauty has been the subject of much debate. Early philosophers sought to understand the nature of beauty and its importance in the world. In the 18th century, there was a decisive shift in the way that thinking about beauty was conceived. This was reflected in the rise of post-Enlightenment confidence in human capability and the burgeoning cultures of feeling.

Beauty has an important role in contemporary culture, particularly in times of political upheaval and climate change. Its values can be found in various forms of art, from the visual to the musical. Aesthetics is the study of beauty, and it covers both the expressions of beauty in artistic creations and the values underlying those creations.

The idea of beauty was developed into an autonomous discipline in the early 1790s by Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher. Kant explored the role of aesthetic judgments in terms of the subjective feelings that the perceiver has. He discussed beauty analysis in relation to epistemology, and argued that aesthetic judgments are valid.

During the Renaissance period, plumpness was considered a sign of wealth. Nevertheless, the definition of beauty remained ambiguous. As the nineteenth century progressed, the idea of beauty was redefined and transformed from a mathematical to a subjective term.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, many thinkers struggled to reconcile the concept of beauty with the growing wars, wastelands, and genocide of the time. They were concerned that beauty could become a distraction, and they were skeptical of pacifiers in modern art.

For the Christian tradition, beauty is defined as the manifestation of God. However, Christians did not agree on a unified theory of beauty. Some scholars suggested that God creates beauty, while others argued that beauty exists as a natural phenomenon. Ultimately, Aquinas’ explanation satisfies both criteria, and it explains that beauty is a function of good design.

Unlike classical Greek philosophy, modern philosophers have moved away from the study of beauty in ontology. While earlier philosophers were interested in quantifying and measuring beauty, modern ones were more concerned with the role of the subject in the process of perceiving beauty.

During the Middle Ages, medieval Christians understood beauty as an objective part of the divine realm. But when a philosopher like Thomas Aquinas brought beauty into the sphere of human reason, they identified it with the goodness of God.

According to the Euclidean position, beauty is defined as the symmetrical relation of parts to the whole. The mathematical law of the golden ratio, for example, is used as an example of beauty.

Earlier, David Hume, in his Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary (1758), explained that beauty does not consist in the quality of things. He argued that individuals should accept their own sentiments.

Another early philosopher, Edmund Burke, read beauty as a series of qualities that give pleasure and satisfaction. But he refuted the idea that beauty could only be achieved by perfect proportion. Instead, he argued that beauty consists of a variety of qualities that offer varying degrees of pleasure.