The Philosophy of Beauty


Beauty is one of the most fundamental concepts in human experience. It is the combination of qualities such as shape, color or form that pleases the aesthetic senses. It can also be a response to love and desire, as in the case of Michelangelo’s “David” or a Van Gogh self-portrait.

Until the eighteenth century, most philosophers treated beauty as an objective quality: they located it in the beautiful object itself or in the qualities of that object. But in the seventeenth century, a new way of looking at beauty emerged, and this led to some important developments in philosophical account of the phenomenon.

At the end of the eighteenth century, most philosophers began to treat beauty as a subjective quality, not an objective one. George Santayana, in his influential work The Sense of Beauty (1896), articulated an idea that has become commonplace among aestheticians: that beauty is a form of pleasure.