Definitions of Beauty

Beauty is the characteristic of having qualities that provide pleasure or appeal to the senses and can be found in humans and objects. It is also the quality that “exalts the mind or spirit” and “is excellent.”

Many people have different definitions of beauty, but it usually involves being physically attractive to the eye, having qualities that can give pleasure or interest to the intellect, or having qualities that can provide moral satisfaction. In addition, there are some people that have an appreciation for other forms of art such as music and literature.

Classical conceptions of beauty: proportion and harmony

Until the eighteenth century, most philosophical accounts of beauty treated it as an objective quality: they located it in the beautiful object itself or in the qualities of that object. For example, Augustine asks whether things are beautiful because they give delight or because they are beautiful; Plato’s account in the Symposium and Plotinus’s in the Enneads connect beauty to a response of love and desire.

classical notions of beauty: order and symmetry

The most widely accepted Western conception of beauty is the notion that it is a matter of arrangement of integral parts into a coherent whole according to proportion, harmony and symmetry, in which the parts combine with elegance and a unified purpose. This theory is reflected in classical architecture, sculpture and literature wherever it appears.

This theory can be understood as a form of proportionalism, but it also reflects a particular view of human nature that seeks order and patterns in the world around us. This view of beauty was developed in ancient times by the Pythagoreans, and has been adopted by many other philosophers, particularly those who are influenced by the ideas of Plato.

Aristotle says that there are three requirements for beauty: integrity, definiteness and proportion. These requirements make the difference between something being beautiful and something being ugly.

Beauty can also be a psychological benefit for some individuals, including enhancing self esteem and giving them a boost in confidence. For example, if you know that you look good, you might feel more comfortable taking risks and putting yourself out there.

Theological definitions of beauty: God’s glory

A theological approach to beauty, as articulated in theology by Karl Barth and others, takes God himself as the foundation of beauty. This approach sees God as a being who has the power and will to produce what is considered to be beautiful, and who, in his own divine perfection, exhibits the ultimate instantiation of harmony and symmetry.

Theological understandings of beauty can also be broader, focusing on the Tri-une nature of God as expressing in his creatures what is best and most pleasing to him. The Tri-une nature of God is a concept that has a variety of applications in theology, from the creation of a perfect universe, to the eternally-manifested love and goodness of God.