Throughout history, various philosophers have attempted to define what beauty is. Most philosophical accounts locate it in the object of beauty, but some thinkers have associated it with other qualities and purposes. These associations have led to the discrediting of beauty. In the 1980s, a revival of interest in the concept of beauty began. This interest was particularly notable in the 1990s, when a number of feminist-oriented reconstruals of the concept of beauty began to emerge.
According to the most common definitions of beauty, it is a quality that provides perceptual experience to the senses and intellect. It includes qualities that give pleasure, meaning, and satisfaction. Unlike the classical conceptions of beauty, which defined it as a harmonious whole, hedonist conceptions focus on beautiful objects as objects of value, function, and loving attitude.
Unlike classical and hedonist conceptions, Plotinus’ view of beauty does not depend on physical attributes. Rather, it is the response of the human desire for beauty, which he saw as akin to participating in the Forms. He wrote about love, longing, and wonderment. He made the distinction between a ‘being’ and ‘function’, which is an important element of the Aristotelian pluralist formulation of beauty requirements.
Kant’s treatment of beauty in terms of disinterested pleasure is reminiscent of hedonism. Despite its hedonistic elements, Kant’s treatment of beauty in terms that emphasize the idea of integrity and clarity carries a much stronger hedonic tone than Locke’s. The difference between the two treatments of beauty is that Kant’s treatments focus on heroic attempts to temper subjectivity.
In the nineteenth century, the word ‘aesthetics’ was coined, to describe the study of the sensibility of humans. Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy that deals with the beauty of the world and the value of things. The word was also used to describe the art of expressing the essence of nature.
Modern philosophy, which shifted its focus from ontology to human faculties, developed beauty as an autonomous discipline. Immanuel Kant, one of the founders of modern aesthetics, was the first major philosopher to develop beauty as a self-sufficient discipline. In his treatment of beauty, he enumerated its components, including: integrity, proportion, consonance, and clarity.
In modern aesthetic philosophy, “Form always follows function” became the mantra. Aesthetics has an objective and subjective aspect, and there is often a tension between individual tastes and popular acceptance of a work. Some theorists have attempted to address the antinomy between beauty and taste, while others have associated beauty with uselessness.
The subjective component of beauty is often referred to as the’sense of taste.’ It is a perception that responds to an object that produces pleasure, and is usually attributed to the mind. However, it is possible for an object to be beautiful even if the experience of it is not in the mind. Some people are color-blind, and they cannot perceive an object as a particular color. This is because the experience of colors depends on the mind of the person that experiences it.