Aristotelian, Classical, and Plotinus’ Conception of Beauty


Beauty is a word that has many interpretations. Some people think it means perfection, absolute precision and the essence of purity. Other people believe that beauty is something that calls to our hearts, souls and minds. And some people think that beauty is what society has decided it is.

There are different philosophical conceptions of beauty, and it is important to distinguish these views. Some of them are very similar, while others are quite divergent and incompatible with one another.

The Aristotelian View

This conception of beauty is based on the principle that all things must have integrity and proportion. Consequently, anything that is defective or inharmonious is ugly. This is why Aristotle’s description of beauty is a little difficult to understand, and why it sometimes leads to the suspicion that beauty must be defined through harmony between parts, rather than through the objective properties of a thing itself.

The Classical Conception

This classical conception of beauty has a strong connection to the Platonic account. It is important to note that Plato himself regarded beauty as an objective fact of the world, albeit one that cannot be experienced directly by human beings. This is a very different concept from the modern conception of beauty, which holds that all human experiences of beauty must be subject to the subjective judgments of the perceiver.

The Aristotelian view of beauty also takes into account the fact that human beings often have many different kinds of experience, and some will be more beautiful than others. For example, some people find a particular kind of music or visual art to be beautiful, while others find the same thing to be not so beautiful.

Moreover, some people might find an object to be beautiful because it is in a certain way interesting, good, or usable. Other people might find it beautiful because it is different from other objects or from their own previous perceptions of such items.

Plotinus, on the other hand, viewed beauty as a unity in which all aspects of a work of art or sculpture are connected and are related to each other through a set of abstract rules. In his treatise, Plotinus argues that the elements of beauty must be harmoniously combined to produce a single effect.

In this view, the pleasures of aesthetic appreciation arise from the activity of combining the elements of beauty. Hence, the activity of experiencing beauty can be divided into two distinct phases: the pleasure of seeing and the pleasure of enjoying the results of the process.

Kant, on the other hand, conceives of beauty as a disinterested pleasure, as the result of a process that does not require any specific action or reaction on our part. The pleasures that come from the process are called hedonism and are described in quite ecstatic terms, as in the neo-Platonic accounts of Plotinus: “wonderment and a delicious trouble, longing and love and a trembling that is all delight” (Plotinus 23, [Ennead I, 3]).

This distinction between pleasures and processes can be very useful to philosophers because it helps them to make sense of the fact that some works of art or other objects bring about more satisfaction through their actions than other things do. It can also help to explain the difference between art and life. For instance, some paintings and sculptures are beautiful in that they are pleasing to the eye, but they might not be good for our health or well-being.