Generally speaking, beauty refers to objects that excite the senses and stimulate our sense of pleasure. However, many philosophers have argued about what exactly constitutes beauty, and what its qualities and properties are. Historically, there are several distinct conceptions of beauty.
Ancient thinkers saw beauty as a form of sensual pleasure and delight. For example, Plotinus wrote about beauty in terms of ecstasy. ‘Beauty’ was also a term used by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato to describe the relationship between creation and universal essence.
Aristotle said that living things must present order in their arrangement of parts. He also claimed that all beauty is a result of faith in a loving God. The Greeks also believed that the most beautiful woman in the world was Helen of Troy.
The classical conception of beauty is embodied in classical and neo-classical architecture, sculpture, music, and literature. For example, Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, which depicts the incarnation of Venus, is a work of art that reflects the classical conception of beauty.
Similarly, the classical conception of beauty requires harmony, proportion, and clarity. For example, the beauty of an object may be reflected in the colors it exhibits. For example, the same object can be perceived as different colors at noon and midnight. It is important to keep in mind that some people are color-blind.
The hedonist conception of beauty also focuses on value and function. For example, an object may be considered to be beautiful if it displays a loving attitude towards the subject. Likewise, the same object may be perceived as beautiful even if it is a bad picture. It may also be beautiful if it is useful.
A number of contemporary thinkers have explored the topic of beauty. For example, Arthur Danto has authored a book titled The Abuse of Beauty. This book explores how the word beautiful has been used in recent years. In the 1990s, feminist-oriented reconstruals of beauty were also popular.
The first requirement for beauty is integrity. Socrates believed that beauty is not a product of appearance, but rather a result of the practical situation. He believed that everything we use is good.
The second requirement is proportion. In ancient Greece, symmetry and proportion were the foundations of architecture. Similarly, in neo-classical art, beauty is a product of the harmonious balancing of elements within a structure.
The third requirement for beauty is consonance. The hedonic conception of beauty equates pleasure with beauty, and considers beauty to be a reflection of an object’s value. For example, a song might be beautiful because it is a piece of music that expresses the viewer’s positive attitude. Likewise, George Santayana suggests that ‘beauty’ is an objectified version of pleasure.
The fourth requirement for beauty is clarity. This is important because, if an object is not clearly defined, it can be misinterpreted or misunderstood. For example, a yellow color cast could be caused by jaundice. In the twentieth century, the term ‘beautiful’ was largely abandoned in favor of more urgent projects.