The Definition of Beauty


Beauty is an experience that evokes pleasure, joy and inspiration in the soul. Whether it is a piece of art, a landscape or the beauty of one’s own body. It has long been a subject of debate among philosophers, poets and artists.

The earliest definitions of beauty emerged from Ancient Greece, where they were associated with the golden ratio. In Renaissance and Humanist thought, this concept was refined by the Platonists, who developed a model for the distinctive pleasure of symmetry, proportion and harmonious balance that is found in the aesthetic pleasure of beauty.

Classical Definitions

The classical conception of beauty, as first articulated by Pythagoras and later by Plato and Platonists, focuses on the harmony between the parts of an object or art form that forms a whole that is beautiful. This is seen in architecture, music and maths, as well as the loveliness of colours or light (the sun and lightning being examples).

Various views have tried to account for this idea. Some take a more abstract approach, while others are more focused on the individual subject.

A hedonistic view of beauty is often embodied in a definition such as that of American philosopher Santayana, who asserts that “Beauty is ‘objectified pleasure’”: the judgment that something is beautiful responds to a particular sort of pleasure – but this is attributed to the object, as though the object had subjective states.

This hedonistic view, based on the idea of disinterested pleasure, is often combined with a sense of ecstasy in neo-Platonism as formulated by Plotinus and Plato. The result is a theory of beauty that accounts for the harmony and symmetry that provokes the unique aesthetic pleasure that is inherent in the human mind.

Beyond this hedonistic view is a more philosophically informed, theological conception of beauty. Karl Barth, for example, sees the divine glory as the sum total of the perfection in irresistible self-manifestation.

Other theological views of beauty, such as those of Thomas Aquinas, see the unity of all persons in God as the ultimate instantiation of harmony and symmetry in nature. These theological views of beauty are also concerned with how to conceive of the relation between symmetry, proportion and the divine.

Aspects of Beauty

Despite the fact that we live in a culture that has a great tendency to judge people primarily on their outward appearance, many of us are able to find a deeper meaning for beauty. I personally believe that beauty is about being kind and compassionate towards other people. I also believe that it is about balancing the complexity of the character of a person.

It is not easy to define beauty because it varies from person to person. It depends on the person and what he/she is willing to accept and appreciate. It can also be a reflection of an ideal that society tells us we should have. It is important to have a deep appreciation for our bodies and not let society define it for us. It is also important to have a sense of self-worth and confidence in yourself.