What Is Beauty?


Beauty is the quality of a thing that makes it appealing. It can be objective or subjective, but it is usually perceived as a physical phenomenon. In the classical conception of beauty, symmetry and proportions are considered important. In this conception, something is beautiful if it is symmetrical and harmonious.

Throughout history, philosophers have discussed the relationship between beauty and pleasure. Generally, they have argued that beauty is the most desirable of all goods because it gives pleasure to the person experiencing it. However, the concept of beauty has also been used in a negative sense to justify violence and cruelty.

Aristotle argues that beauty is the ability to make things pleasing by arranging them in an ordered and coherent way. He believes that beauty is a reflection of the goodness of God.

The classic definition of beauty in Aristotle’s writings is that it consists in “the arrangement of parts, so as to produce a pleasing form,” and in this sense, beauty is a kind of order (in contrast to chaos). It is an innate property of all things.

Plato identifies beauty with the idea of love. In the Symposium, he explains that beauty is the enchantment of a thing. Similarly, Plotinus in the Enneads argues that it is a response to God’s love for humanity.

In the eighteenth century, philosophers started to question whether or not beauty should be viewed as an objective characteristic of objects. In particular, they began to realize that if beauty were only relative to the experiences of individual people, then it would lose much of its importance as a common value and as a guiding principle for behavior.

One reason for this was that the eighteenth century saw a number of disputes about whether or not certain objects were beautiful, and many philosophers felt that beauty could not be a good guide in these disputes because it was subjective.

Another reason that this idea of a non-relative beauty was rejected was because of the possibility of determining whether or not something was beautiful by scientific methods. If we were able to determine what was beautiful, then perhaps beauty could be detected by science and therefore eliminated as an element of human life.

Despite these objections, philosophers did not entirely abandon the idea of beauty as an objective characteristic of objects. In fact, Aristotle’s theory of beauty is not that different from the one held by Plato and Plotinus, who believed that beauty was a receptive concept, a perception of the object by the mind.

In this context, Plotinus, for example, says that beauty is the “reflection of a principle of perfect unity.” This principle is the symmetry of parts toward each other and towards a whole. The symmetry of a part’s proportions towards other parts and toward the whole is a principle of beauty, as are many others.

Although there are a variety of concepts of beauty in philosophy, all of them share the same core qualities and characteristics. These include symmetry, harmony, and proportion; a clear eye; a pleasing face; a gentle body with good posture and movement; and the use of natural colours and materials.