What Is Beauty?


Beauty is the quality or state of being pleasing. It is the pleasure that a person experiences from looking at something, hearing it spoken about, or reading about it. The experience of beauty is a subjective one, which means that everyone has a different response to it.

The concept of beauty is a complex one and has been around for thousands of years. It has also been re-examined by philosophers in the past few decades, especially within feminist philosophy.

In classical aesthetics, beauty is the state of something being in perfect proportion to its parts. This conception of beauty grew out of the work of Aristotle, who viewed a thing as beautiful if its parts stand in the right proportion to each other.

However, this conception of beauty is not universally accepted, and it has been criticized in many ways. Some eighteenth-century philosophers, for example, such as Hume and Kant, saw that this approach to beauty tended to make it a subjective and private experience.

David Hume argued that beauty is a state of mind rather than an object. He saw that it was possible for a person to love a particular object and to be unhappy about it at the same time, but this was not true of beauty.

The reason why a person is not happy about a certain object is that there is something about it that does not suit them. It could be because they are not fond of its shape, or it might be because it does not look like them.

This view of beauty is called antinomy of taste, and it is a source of controversy in many fields of philosophy and art. It has been the subject of a number of critiques, such as that by Rougemont in the 1970s and 1980s.

A more orthodox account of beauty is found in Plato, who views beauty as the ultimate goal of human life: “It is the most desirable of things in that they are beautiful and symmetrical” (Symposium I, 61). He argues that beauty is the “origin of all existing things,” as a synthesis of the natural and spiritual realms. He traces this to a particular God, who “made every kind of being for the sake of the Beautiful” (Symposium II, 46).

In Aquinas’s Aristotelian pluralist formulation, there are three requirements for something to be considered beautiful: it must have integrity–that is, it must follow its own interior logic; it must be due to its proportions; and it must have clarity. For example, a realistic portrait of a woman does not have integrity, because it violates its own rules of realism and portrays her as having three eyes.

The idea that beauty is an objective value was also defended by Kant, who in his Metaphysics of Morals argued that a work of art must be beautiful if it is aesthetically praised. This is a more rational approach than that of Hume, who said that a work of art must be beautiful to those who appreciate it; but Kant’s stance does not save the concept from relativism or emotivism.