From Plato to modern neuro-psychological studies, the concept of beauty has always been a topic of intense debate and passionate thought. Different aspects of beauty, from intellectual to pure physical, have received a lot of attention.
The definition of beauty is still ambiguous. Despite the many discussions, there is no one universal way to define beauty.
First, the definition of beauty is not merely a function of the human mind; it also depends on what the object looks like to the person experiencing it. The same object can be deemed beautiful to one person at noon and a different one at midnight, for example. It is this difference that makes it an elusive and complex concept.
Another defining factor in beauty is its suitedness to use; that is, its ability to function well. This means that it needs to be made of substances or materials that are inherently good.
Some philosophers, such as Moore and Santayana, identify beauty with pleasure. Others, such as Hume and Kant, have identified it with a sense of the rightness of a thing or experience.
Aristotle, in particular, viewed beauty as a property of things that are suitable for use and that have qualities which make them pleasing to the eye or the mind. The qualities that he identifies as characteristic of beauty include integrity or perfection, due proportion or consonance, and clarity.
Moreover, he argued that beauty is not an objective state but rather is a subjective state based on the viewer’s thoughts and feelings. This is why he often emphasized the importance of understanding what makes a thing beautiful, in order to be able to appreciate it fully.
In the eighteenth century, however, such an approach led to some criticisms. For instance, Hume and Kant recognized that if everything about something is a matter of opinion, beauty becomes less meaningful or enduring.
They believed that if a value is entirely relative to the person experiencing it, then it loses significance and can no longer be a basis for social or moral judgements across cultures or societies.
As a result, in the twentieth century, beauty lost its central position as a criterion of value. This decline was in large part due to a number of political and economic associations, which, among other things, tended to trivialize the concept.
These associations were primarily rooted in the idea that beauty is inherently attractive and that it can be used to enhance wealth, power, and status. The French revolutionaries in particular associated beauty with hedonist expressions of wealth and decadence, such as the Rococo style.
The twentieth century saw a number of attempts to rethink the concept of beauty. In particular, feminist-oriented reconstruals of or reappropriations of the concept emerged in art and philosophy, to some extent echoing G.E.
These reconstruals of beauty also took into account the political and economic associations of beauty, which had been largely discredited in the past. As such, they were able to offer some new insights into the meaning of beauty. They pointed to the ways in which beauty remained attached to the enjoyment of pleasure but was not directly sensible or immediate, and they stressed the responsibilities of artists to pursue works that were aesthetically good.