Beauty is that combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, which pleases the aesthetic senses and thus gives a perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction. It is a characteristic often admired in particular cultures for its perfection, and it is the subject of studies in aesthetics, culture, social psychology, philosophy and sociology.
Definition of Beauty
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, beauty is “a quality that reflects good taste and refinement”. It includes such things as fair skin, lustrous hair, a great figure or confidence, good health and determination to be a good human being.
There are a number of different theories about beauty that have developed over time within Western philosophical and artistic traditions. One of the most important debates in this area is whether beauty is objective or subjective.
Some philosophers believe that beauty is objective and is simply the ascription of a quality to something. This is the ‘classical conception’ of beauty, and it can be traced back to the early era of the Renaissance in Italy and in Europe at large.
Others believe that beauty is subjective and depends on the individual’s sense of taste. This is the ‘hedonism’ of Kant, for example.
Another philosopher, who is more in keeping with the neo-Platonic tradition, is Plotinus. He argues that a work of art or sculpture can be beautiful because it evokes a feeling or experience of ecstasy in the viewer.
The hedonism of Kant and Plotinus suggests that a work of art or sculpture is beautiful because it has a strong emotional impact on the viewer. This is a very different idea from the classical view that beauty can only be defined in terms of harmony and proportion.
The hedonism of Kant also points out that the beauty of a work of art or sculpture is not always in harmony with other works of art or sculpture. This is a very useful point to bear in mind when considering the aesthetic value of a piece of artwork.