The early philosophical tradition sought to understand beauty. It often used mathematical techniques to quantify and categorize beauty. It sought to identify and explain the qualities of beauty and how the world works. Beauty was also connected to love, longing, and ecstasy.
In the twentieth century, thinkers struggled to reconcile beauty with the modern age. They were concerned with how to make sense of beauty in an age of war, genocide, and wastelands. Some were unsure whether beauty was a subjective pleasure or an objective requirement for good art. Others felt that the notion of beauty was a distraction and a pacifier. Nevertheless, the concept of beauty remained important in politics and literature.
Although he emphasized the subjective side of the aesthetic experience, Santayana believed that the concept of beauty could be an enduring one. He argued that an experience of beauty is profound and could even be a kind of meaning in life.
Hedonist conceptions of beauty define beautiful objects in terms of function and value. For example, the same object can be perceived as different colors at different times of day, or at different locations. Similarly, the shape of an ideal female body can change over time depending on social expectations.
While the classical tradition of the arts defined beauty as a harmonious whole, hedonist conceptions define beauty in terms of function, value, and loving attitude. These concepts are based on the idea that beauty is the result of the interaction between pleasure and the objects being experienced.
David Hume defended the idea of beauty and criticized tyrannical conceptions of taste. His account of the beautiful is characterized by gentleness and willingness to accept a range of variation. But he also argued that individual will was essential, and he questioned the power of society to impose a standard of beauty.
Berkeley’s definition of beauty includes knowledge of the use of the thing being perceived, which he believes is necessary to appreciate it. He also asserts that the beauty of something is dependent on the pleasure that it gives to the observer. If the observer finds a beauty that does not please him, then he can reject it. This idea of beauty is very similar to Moore’s.
Throughout the twentieth century, the concept of beauty became increasingly skewed. In the early twentieth century, capitalism and the French revolution were associated with beauty, as were the Rococo style of painting. By the late twentieth century, the idea of beauty was questioned because it was becoming increasingly subject to political and economic pressure. As a result, artists were pursuing more urgent projects.
Aquinas, on the other hand, formulated the requirements for beauty in a typically Aristotelian pluralist formulation. He argued that form and function could be simultaneously present in an object and that beauty is a product of good design.
Plotinus, on the other hand, wrote about the ecstasy of love and wonderment, and also described the delight of trembling. He also said that ‘formedness’ – a word referring to a definite shape – is a factor in the experience of beauty.