Ancient Philosophers and Modern Aesthetics


Beauty is a quality or aggregate of qualities that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit. It is a quality that we should all have and respect.

A person is beautiful when they have the confidence to look at themselves in the mirror and feel good about what they see. This confidence is the key to a life filled with love and self worth. People are putting more emphasis on this as society has become more inclusive and valuing difference over conformity.

The concept of beauty has been around for centuries, as is evidenced by many classic works of art. However, in modern times, it has taken on new meaning and has become an important topic for both philosophers and artists.

Ancient Philosophers on Beauty

The classical conception of beauty consists of an arrangement of integral parts into a coherent whole, according to proportions, harmony and similar notions. It is a primordial Western conception that is embodied in both classical and neo-classical architecture, sculpture, literature and music.

This form of aesthetics is often referred to as the ‘golden section’ and was used by Plato and Aristotle, who said that a ‘beautiful’ thing must have definite proportions and harmonious or symmetrical arrangements. Aristotle, for example, wrote in his Poetics that to be beautiful is “to present a certain order and harmony in its parts” (volume 2, 2322 [1450b34]).

Aristotle’s formulation was a major influence on both Greek and Western philosophy and is still widely used today. It has been criticized for being too reductionist, but it is still a powerful idea in terms of the underlying philosophical assumptions about beauty.

Hume and Kant took a less reductionist approach to beauty, and they also regarded it as an objective pleasure. Kant, for instance, argued that the judgment of beauty entails a response to an object that induces a kind of disinterested pleasure, and that it should therefore be judged as objectively as other kinds of pleasure, like pleasure in eating or hearing.

Some other nineteenth-century philosophers (such as Santayana) took a more subjectivist view, arguing that the judgment of beauty should be judged as ‘objective pleasure’ in the sense that it would elicit a response from an objective agent. Others, such as Schopenhauer, argued that it should be judged as an emotion rather than a rational concept.

In contrast, modern philosophies have moved away from the classical views of beauty and towards an idea that it is a state of being that is shared by many people. This has been argued by philosophers such as Plotinus, who argues that it is an ecstatic experience that connects us with the things we see.

The modern conception of beauty has a number of different aspects to it, but its most important is that it is an objective pleasure that is shared by many people. This is a powerful idea that has been resurrected in the 1990s and has become more popular with feminist-oriented thinkers.