The Concept of Beauty


Beauty is a subjective state, the experience of which connects observers with objects and communities of appreciation. It can be described by colours, body shape, age, race and popular culture. Sometimes, people have a difficult time defining beauty, and controversies over the definition of beauty often emerge.

The classical conception of beauty is based on the idea that beauty consists in the relationship of parts to one another and the whole. This notion is expressed in classical and neo-classical architecture, as well as classical and classical-influenced music. Some classical treatments of beauty describe the pleasures of beauty in ecstatic terms.

Another conception of beauty is that of hedonists, who see a connection between pleasure and beauty. These conceptions have defined beautiful objects in terms of value and function. They also see the connection between beauty and love. However, these concepts have been neglected in Western art. In the twentieth century, the interest in beauty began to revive. Several theorists attempted to address the antinomy between beauty and taste.

An influential eighteenth-century philosopher was David Hume, who wrote Essays, Moral, Political and Literary (1758). Hume believed that beauty is a subjective state. He said that an individual’s will is important. And he argued against tyrannical notions of taste. His account of the beautiful is gentle, yet willing to allow variation in perception.

Later on, David Hume was influenced by the work of hedonists, who saw a connection between pleasure and beauty. George Santayana, for example, articulates the connection between beauty and pleasure.

Early on, the concept of beauty was shaped by the mathematical notions of Euclid. For example, the concept of beauty is linked to the idea of symmetry. A line divided into two unequal parts would be considered beautiful by Euclid. Similarly, the light of the sun is not beautiful because it is symmetrical. But a compound, such as gold or a cubist painting of a woman, is beautiful because it is a whole.

The concept of beauty became more and more subjective in the eighteenth century. During this period, British empiricists treated color as a phantasm of the mind. They argued that color experiences vary from person to person, and that there are no fixed, universal qualities of color.

Eventually, this type of thinking shifted to a more subjective approach, and the focus shifted from beauty to pleasure. Theorists such as Benjamin Franklin and John Locke argued that each person’s perception of color is unique.

In the nineteenth century, a new sense of inalienable rights grew in Europe, and the concept of beauty was a sign of this. In the twentieth century, thinkers struggled with how to reconcile the concept of beauty with the era of wars and genocide. Many of them were suspicious of the distracting effect of beauty.

In the early 1990s, the concept of beauty was again rediscovered. This renewed interest in beauty was partly centered on the work of art critic Dave Hickey. As part of the revival, feminist-oriented reconstruals of beauty were also popular.