In the early days of philosophy, there was great effort to quantify and understand beauty. The classic concept of beauty is the one that identifies a harmonious whole by identifying parts in the proper proportion. Sometimes this is expressed mathematically, such as the golden ratio. However, the simplest way to define beauty is a perceptual experience. It may be perceived as something aesthetically pleasing by the senses or it may be viewed as a quality that contributes to a piece of art’s overall aesthetic appeal.
Aside from the classical concept of beauty, there are some other concepts that are worth considering. For example, does beauty have an ethical value? Interestingly, it does, but not in the way that we usually think of it.
One of the most notable and important discoveries of the late nineteenth century was that beauty is not all about looks. Although there is certainly a hierarchy of tastes and styles, a beautiful object needs to have a certain magnitude and a certain level of integrity. Some examples of this include the cubist painting of a woman with three eyes. Similarly, a realistic portrait of a woman does not have the same level of integrity if it is portrayed with only two eyes.
The same object can be perceived as different colors under different conditions, such as noon vs. midnight. The same object can also be seen as a golden ratio if it is divided into a golden ratio sequence.
Another interesting tidbit is that in classical times, the word “Beautiful” was a pejorative for men, but it was widely used to describe women. And the term was more than a mere adjective – it was a word of praise.
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy that deals with the meaning and purpose of beauty. The earliest discussions of beauty were based on the theories of Greek philosophers. They viewed it as a combination of the finest and the simplest of the things. This included harmony and the ecstatic. Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato were some of the first philosophers to address the subject.
In the early twentieth century, it was not uncommon for thinkers to be stumped by the question of what is beauty. As wars, genocide, and wastelands threatened the Western world, many grappled with how to reconcile beauty with these modern disasters. Beauty was not an easy topic to tackle, but it was an important one. Unlike the past, where the concept of beauty was seen as a matter of fashion, in the modern era it was an object of sabotage.
The most obvious and simplest definition of beauty is a perceptual experience, but the best explanations of this are more complex. Generally, the simplest means to understand a concept is to consider it in the context of other aspects of the same. We should not be surprised, then, that the most important aspect of beauty is not the most tangible or the most useful.