Is Beauty Objective Or Subjective?


Beauty is a common topic in philosophy and art, and there’s a lot of debate over whether it’s objective or subjective. The question, though, is not always easy to settle.

Traditionally, philosophical accounts of beauty treated it as an objective quality or as the manifestation of Goodness as Truth. The idea was that something was beautiful because it had the qualities of beauty, and that these qualities were in turn an expression of God’s love.

Aristotle, for example, says that there are three qualities that make something beautiful: integrity or perfection; due proportion or consonance; and clarity. He also mentions symmetry and a certain charm of color as the key requirements.

Augustine, in De Veritate Religione, suggests that beauty may be linked to a response of delight (Augustine, 247). But he also connects it to a sense of divine order and purpose, in terms that were later adopted by Plato and Plotinus.

Early modern philosophers like Hume, Locke, and Kant believed that beauty was a product of pleasure, and argued that pleasure had to be present in order for something to be beautiful. This position explains why many people say, for instance, that a certain song is beautiful, and why a particular piece of art might be considered beautiful.

The nineteenth century, however, saw a shift in attitudes towards the connection between pleasure and beauty. Although Locke still tended to identify pleasure with beauty, others were less interested in this relationship, and some were beginning to see that it was no longer a necessary condition of beauty.

Contemporary philosophers have reclaimed the concept of beauty in an effort to dismantle some of its negative associations. In the 1990s, for example, theorists such as Peg Zeglin Brand began to argue that “the idea of beauty in the arts has often been trivialized, and that its rehabilitation is not only desirable but necessary.”

A number of studies have found that we tend to associate positive attributes with beautiful people. These include confidence, kindness, happiness, dignity and intelligence, and they’re generally ranked higher than physical characteristics such as facial appearance, body weight or shape, and sexiness.

In fact, according to a recent study published in Global Advisor, men consider strength and sexiness the least attractive features of women. This is despite the fact that women are generally perceived as more kind, loyal and sociable than men.

Interestingly, though, the same study found that physically beautiful women were viewed as more intelligent and sociable than their less-beautiful counterparts. These findings are likely to reflect a tendency among people to confer these attributes on those who seem more similar to them.

Another reason why we find beauty in different things is that it often requires a certain level of experience or awareness to recognize it. It’s often difficult to recognize a harmonious painting or a beautiful sunset without experiencing them first-hand, and this is why they’re so frequently associated with a kind of spirituality.

Some philosophers are even more concerned with beauty’s effect on our mental well-being. It can help us to think more clearly and be more aware of our surroundings, for example. And psychologists have found that it can even improve our lives, by making us more patient, happier, and better at solving problems.