The Philosophy of Beauty


In the history of Western philosophy, there have been many different conceptions of beauty. Whether it’s in art, design or human form, what is considered beautiful has changed throughout the ages.

Some philosophers viewed beauty as a matter of harmonious proportions, while others believed it was simply a feature that made something pleasurable to see or experience. In each case, however, the concept of beauty has been treated with some degree of seriousness or importance by its authors.

Classical Conception

In the classical tradition, beauty is a concept that has many different meanings, but the main idea is that it depends on the right proportion of parts to produce an overall harmonious whole. In particular, the symmetry of a human body is regarded as an essential feature of beauty.

Thomas Aquinas interpreted the quality of beauty as being connected to the Second Person of the Trinity. According to this theory, beauty requires three qualifications: integrity (being complete by its own interior logic), purpose and manifestation.


In Aquinas’s understanding, a painting or sculpture should be beautiful if it follows its own rules of realism, even if it does not look like the real thing. If, on the other hand, the artist’s intentions are unrestricted and the result has a shockingly unrealistic element, it might not have integrity.


In Thomas’s view, beauty is also the manifestation of Goodness as Truth. He argues that Goodness is the ordered and purposed nature of objects, people, and ideas. This can be understood as a reflection of God, who created these things.


Aquinas further explains that a work of art can be beautiful only when it reveals the unique qualities that make it distinct from the rest of the world. This includes features such as colour, form, and texture.

Lastly, Thomas suggests that a piece of artwork should be beautiful if it is pleasing to the eye. This can be achieved by a combination of color, form and texture that is both naturalistic and artistic.

The value of beauty is often associated with aesthetics, a discipline within philosophy that deals with the study of aesthetics and taste. It is often compared to the value of ugliness, which is the opposite of beauty and can be found in objects that are distasteful or not pleasant to look at.