For many of us, beauty can be a source of great joy and pleasure. It can also lead to a sense of wonderment, a feeling that everything we see and experience is precious in its own way.
As a concept, the idea of beauty has captivated philosophers and people for many centuries. It has inspired admonitions to be good and beautiful, as well as intense debates on the topic.
Aspects of beauty vary between cultures and individuals. Some of us think that beauty is a matter of physical appearance, while others believe that beauty is a quality that comes from the inside.
If you ask many people, what makes someone beautiful, they will all answer the same things: confidence, kindness and happiness. But how does this definition of beauty differ from society’s traditional perceptions?
In the Western world, we have very specific standards of what is considered ‘beautiful’. These are typically based on outward appearance and have been created by society over the past several centuries.
For example, a woman’s face is often seen as beautiful, while the body of a man is not. This is a result of our culture’s obsession with physical appearance and the influence of advertising campaigns.
The same is true for beauty in art. Some artists choose to break away from these traditions and make work that challenges the norms. Examples include Picasso, Munch and Schoenberg.
Aesthetics are a field of study that looks at how a particular piece of art, music, or a work of architecture is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The purpose of aesthetics is to create a sense of wonder and awe.
It is a field of study that has been around for a long time and continues to grow and evolve. During the nineteenth century, the term ‘beauty’ was defined as ‘the state of being desirable’.
One of the main problems with this definition of beauty is that it ignores the pleasures that we feel when we find something beautiful. This is because beauty can be a source of delight, but also a source of annoyance and frustration.
Traditionally, the most common way that philosophers have interpreted the idea of beauty is to locate it in the qualities of an object or experience. For example, Augustine’s De Veritate Religione posits beauty in the “pleasure” that a certain kind of object or experience will give you.
Other ancient philosophers, such as Plato and Plotinus, place beauty in the Forms themselves. This account is in some ways more appealing than the ‘pleasure’ of beauty, which is more akin to the ‘good’ of the object or experience itself.
However, despite its popularity, this approach fails to explain why we should value certain objects or experiences as more beautiful than others. In addition, it fails to account for the role that beauty can play in encouraging human action or motivation, which Kant was keen to understand.