Aristotle and Plato’s Views of Beauty


Beauty is an emotion that has long fascinated philosophers, poets and artists. It has a way of triggering reactions in the soul and mind that bring pleasure never experienced before.

There are many ways to define beauty, but it is a quality that is often associated with harmony of form, color, proportion, authenticity and originality. It is also a word that is used to describe works of art, architecture, and music.

Most of the Western philosophical and artistic traditions have developed various accounts or theories of beauty. The most popular of these is a view that argues that beauty is objective and that it has an ontological priority over particular Forms or objects.

This view, though logically correct, may be difficult to apply to everyday life or art. It is also difficult to reconcile with other views that associate beauty with hedonism and other purely subjective pleasures.

Some of the most prominent treatments of beauty in the Western literature have taken on a form that is less objective, and which locates the value of a beautiful object more in the pleasures that it gives than in its Form or qualities. Augustine’s account in De Veritate Religione and the ecstatic neo-Platonism of Plotinus are typical examples.

Kant’s treatment of beauty is perhaps the most celebrated of these, because it combines the disinterested pleasure and humanism of hedonism with an aesthetic sense of purpose that is centered around the goodness and well-being of mankind. But Kant’s own intuition that beauty evokes a sense of purpose was difficult to explain, and it is also possible that his theory is incompatible with other approaches to the subject.

Aristotle, on the other hand, is often credited with developing an account of beauty that is much more dispassionate and scientific than Plato’s. He sees beauty as an expression of skill, not a metaphysical might; he considers the most beautiful things to be those that possess “a certain magnitude” and that have been arranged and combined in a “certain orderly manner.”

Still, Aristotle’s theory is not without its dangers. It is often criticized for its tendency to place too much importance on external forms and not enough on internal functions or processes; however, it is sometimes held to be the most accurate.

The most important problem with Aristotle’s approach is that it does not account for the hedonistic impulses that are usually regarded as a feature of beauty. It is therefore not a very good basis for understanding how beauty can be both pleasurable and objective, or for explaining why it should have a higher status than any other feeling.

Nevertheless, there is little question that the concept of beauty has been central to most Western literary and artistic traditions for several centuries. It has shaped the way that people think about and experience the world, and it has provided the subject for many of the most significant discussions of philosophy and aesthetics.