The Different Approaches to Beauty


Beauty is a complex idea, with a number of different approaches and theories developed within Western philosophical and artistic traditions. It is a subject that has been the object of many controversies, both between and among philosophers and artists, and a subject that has been an important focus for social justice movements over the past several centuries.

The First Approach to Beauty

Traditionally, philosophy has treated beauty as an objective phenomenon. This was the position held by such figures as Kant, Leibniz, and Humboldt. In the nineteenth century, beauty was reconceived as a subjective phenomenon.

According to this view, beauty is a result of certain qualities or attributes in an object that are provoking an aesthetic pleasure or ethical response in the observer. This definition is often accompanied by a rejection of the existence of anything outside of the perceiving subject that triggers this response.

The second approach to beauty, which was arguably more popular in the twentieth century, posits that beauty is the product of an inner experience by a perceiving subject. The idea is that something might be beautiful because it is pleasing to the eye or arouses an emotion; this would seem to be the case with objects in which a person has an emotional investment, such as music or paintings, or even the human body.

This account echoes a common hedonistic approach, which takes pleasure as the key to beauty, and suggests that beauty is not simply an objective property of things, but a function of the individual mind that responds to a set of qualities. The hedonistic view, however, has some problems.

A third way to think about beauty, which is a variant of the traditional hedonistic account, involves identifying beauty with an aptness to use. The ancient hedonist Aristippus, for example, believed that everything that we use is considered both good and beautiful from the same point of view, namely its suitability to us.

Although this view has some problems, it has been a powerful influence on philosophical aesthetics. It is a useful account of beauty that avoids the philistinism associated with some other views.

It also explains why there can be a wide variety of experiences of beauty. For example, many people around the world find different kinds of music, art and performance to be beautiful.

The concept of beauty is also linked to ideas about the nature of humans, in particular the notion that we have inalienable rights and are capable of experiencing joy and beauty. It is an idea that has influenced many cultures and is particularly important in the Western world, where the rise of confidence and an emerging culture of feeling have led to a wide range of experiences of beauty across all areas of life.

It is also an idea that has a strong religious and spiritual component. In the Islamic tradition, for instance, beauty is understood as a representation of God’s limitlessness and perfection. This concept has been incorporated into many aspects of the Islamic art and design world, where the rhythm and repetition of patterns are taken as a metaphor for God’s infinite potential. In addition, in Christian and Jewish thought, the beauty of an object is often attributed to a divine creator.