How Do Philosophers Define Beauty?


During the ancient Greek and Roman periods, philosophers sought to define beauty and quantify it. They took a mathematical approach, identifying beauty as the proportion of parts to the whole. Euclid equated beauty with the golden ratio (a fibonacci sequence). According to this view, beauty is an object of a harmonious ratio.

Until the eighteenth century, most philosophical accounts of beauty focused on the aesthetic qualities of objects. Augustine, for instance, asks directly in De Veritate Religione whether things are beautiful because they are pleasing to the eye, or because they give the viewer pleasure. He chooses the latter. Other philosophers, such as Plato, posited that beauty is a series of qualities that must present order.

The political entanglements of beauty complicate the traditional conception. Beauty is integral to commerce, politics, and concrete dimensions of oppression. It becomes irrelevant to define beauty from a classical perspective if it reflects a world that is oppressive. Consequently, beauty is not simply a ‘nice’ thing to look at.

Beauty is different for every individual. It can be something as simple as a painting or a work of architectural art, such as a bridge or a highway, or it can be a piece of music, such as an opera or a rock song. It can also be dance, such as ballet or a music video. It can also be a work of theatre, such as a play, a film, or even a television commercial.

A compound can be beautiful, but only if it is whole and all parts are beautiful. It can’t be constructed from ugliness, and the beauty law must run throughout the entire thing. In the case of a painting, colour is a compound, and a complex cannot be beautiful by itself. Gold, silver, and platinum are examples of materials that are beautiful but do not consist of parts.

Beauty can be described as a combination of qualities that please the senses and the soul. It is a multifaceted concept that encompasses aesthetics, race, gender, body shape, and weight. Beauty can be a physical quality or a mental one, and can be a reflection of a person’s character.

Cultures have different definitions of beauty. People who are a part of a dominant culture may go to extremes to conform to it. For example, in the movie Crazy Rich Asians, the protagonist Rachel Chu is rewarded for emulating European beauty standards. Similarly, Asian American women remove their monolids by using eyelid tape. This reinforces a standard that excludes individuality and encourages conformity to this ideal.

Ancient thinkers defined beauty according to its form and spirit. In Greek mythology, the most beautiful woman was Helen of Troy. The Greeks also used symmetry and proportion to create buildings. In the Renaissance, the concept of beauty took on a more romantic and religious aspect, as a part of a divine order. In the Christian tradition, beauty is a manifestation of truth.