Beauty is a subjective concept that can be interpreted in many different ways. Some of these different interpretations are more traditional than others. For example, some philosophers have suggested that beauty is a sense of harmony and symmetry.
Plato and Aristotle have a variety of views about what it means to be beautiful. Both of these philosophers agree that beauty is objective, but their views differ in how they define it.
One of the most prominent theories of aesthetics in ancient Greece comes from Plato, who believed that beauty is objective in that it does not depend on a spiritual connection with some ultimate Form of Beauty. Instead, he argued that beauty is the product of skillful craftsmanship. He saw beauty as a way of communicating with the world around us.
Another influential aesthetic theory in the ancient world comes from Aristotle, who argued that beauty is not something to be worshiped but to be crafted. In Aristotle’s view, beauty is the art of creating things that are symmetrical, orderly, and harmoniously related. He also believed that beauty was a universal characteristic of the natural world.
Aristotle’s aesthetics are Christianized in the works of Thomas Aquinas, who connected the quality of beauty to the Second Person of the Trinity. He gave three qualifications for something to be considered beautiful: it must have integrity, it must be complete by its own interior logic, and it must have a certain magnitude.
These ideas were incredibly important in the world of philosophy. But they also led to a lot of controversy about what they meant.
Early eighteenth-century philosophers, such as David Hume and Immanuel Kant, saw that if beauty is only relative to individual experiencers, then it loses its value as a universal characteristic. They also noticed that when beauty is merely a matter of individual opinion, the subjectivity of beauty becomes the primary factor in controversies about works of art and literature.
In contrast, the more traditional aesthetic theory of beauty that arose in ancient Greece and is most familiar to us today holds that beauty is an objective and essentially symmetrical quality. It is a sense of harmony and symmetry that exists in the natural world.
The classical view of beauty is based on mathematical proportions, where the arrangement of parts of an object is a pattern that creates a harmonious rhythm. This idea of beauty is particularly pronounced in the Islamic world, where it is thought to reflect the perfection of God.
For example, the Islamic tradition of geometric design in mosques and other sacred buildings is believed to be a representation of a pattern of perfect unity. The same concept is also held to apply to paintings and sculptures in religious traditions, where the art of creating a symmetrical composition is thought to convey the perfection of a Creator.
In the modern era, however, some artists have explored the nature of beauty and its capacity to subvert dominant cultural norms. These artists often use their work to counteract patriarchal gazes and emphasize women’s physical and psychological strengths. Georgia O’Keeffe and Judy Chicago, for instance, have created works that aspire to turn beauty into an instrument of feminist resistance.