Beauty is a term used to describe something that makes us feel good, or aesthetically pleasing. It is also a value, one that we prize in our lives.
The concept of beauty has been debated for thousands of years. It is a central topic in the philosophical and artistic traditions, and there are many different interpretations of it.
Ancient philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato and Plotinus often interpreted beauty in terms of its order or symmetry. For example, a beautiful statue is described as displaying perfect proportion by the physician Polyclitus in his lost treatise The Canon (quoted in Pollitt 1974, 15).
While this conception of beauty may seem objective and logically consistent, it does not address the fact that we all experience different things as beautiful depending on our cultural contexts and personal taste. This is why there are so many different interpretations of beauty today, and why the concept of beauty has had to undergo a lot of evolution.
Modern philosophers, like William Wordsworth and Edmund Burke, disagreed with this classical conception of beauty, and they instead thought that beauty is a set of qualities that act on the human mind through the senses. This was especially true in the British Isles where, from the eighteenth century onwards, people began to identify pleasure with beauty rather than identifying it as an effect of beauty.
In a similar vein, philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas and Friedrich Schiller saw beauty as an art form that performed a kind of integration between the sensuous and the rational, the natural and the spiritual. For Schiller, the human person exists on two levels of reality: the physical and the psychological, and we are only free when our mental lives are integrated into our bodies.
This integration is achieved through the use of a variety of aesthetic principles, and it is these aesthetic principles that are the focus of this article. Nevertheless, the question of whether or not beauty is objective remains a major debate in philosophy.
Until the twentieth century, many philosophers believed that beauty was an objective quality that was present in the physical world and was an expression of the divine. The dominant philosophy of the twentieth century, however, tended to abandon this view and move away from beauty in favor of a more abstract idea of beauty.
In many ways, this shift is a natural response to the growth of social justice oriented philosophy and movements, particularly in the nineteenth century, that were confident in the capacity of human beings to develop and use their powers in new and innovative ways. Moreover, this approach was also in line with the rise of anti-racist and feminist thought in the twentieth century.