Throughout history, people have debated and thought about the meaning of beauty in different ways. This is one of the main reasons that the topic of beauty has always been so important and received such a lot of attention in both philosophy and art.
The term “beauty” is generally defined as “a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight”. It’s a word that is thrown around in many conversations and can have quite a bit of connotations.
From the perspective of philosophy, beauty is a property that cannot be directly defined or explained. Instead, it is best defined or interpreted by using normative or evaluative terms.
There is a wide range of approaches to the question of what beauty is, from the classical conception (see below) that sees it as a matter of instantiating definite proportions or relations among parts, to an approach that regards it as a principle of perfect unity. Both conceptions are in some way a critique of the classical aesthetics, which sought to make things more functional rather than beautiful by giving them a definite shape.
Another approach to beauty is one based on the idea of pleasure, which links it to the object or experience that causes enjoyment. This is an interpretation that has a long history and has developed in the west, in particular.
George Santayana, for example, held that the most basic definition of beauty is that it is a certain sort of pleasure. But he also stressed that beauty is not an immediate sensuous experience, but something that requires intellection and practical activity to understand.
He then goes on to describe the various forms that beauty can take: a flower, for example, can be beautiful in its symmetry, but it is not necessarily the same thing as a pretty face or even being kind and compassionate.
A beautiful work of art, on the other hand, can be aesthetically pleasing in many different ways. A sculptor, for example, could find great satisfaction in creating an aesthetically attractive figure and would be very proud of their work.
The concept of beauty is not only important in the visual arts, it can be applied to all sorts of other areas as well, including the world of business. Alan Moore, for example, a former designer and typographer who now works as a consultant to companies such as Patagonia, argues that beauty can be achieved in business through a sense of purpose across the whole organisation.
In his opinion, this sense of purpose is crucial in attracting talented employees, ensuring that decisions are made and leadership is effective. By encouraging generosity, positivity and a culture of caring, Moore says, businesses can attract people who are more motivated to get on with their jobs and deliver results for the company.
In the context of design, beauty can be seen in everything from the look of the typeface and the selection of Pantone colours to the way a website is laid out. It can be used to inspire creativity and self-expression in the work place, but it can also be used to create a sense of community and belonging within an organisation.