The Concept of Beauty

The word “beauty” can conjure images of a radiant smile or a perfectly symmetrical face, but there is so much more to beauty than what meets the eye. A recent survey found that the top attributes people consider beautiful in others are confidence, kindness, happiness and dignity. Physical attributes like facial appearance, body weight and shape, and sexiness ranked much lower. These results underscore the importance of a diverse understanding of beauty, as it contributes to a more inclusive society.

Throughout history, philosophers and artists have used the concept of beauty to explore a wide variety of topics. During the Renaissance, famous painters such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo sought to capture the ideal human form by emphasizing symmetry and proportion. In the 19th century, Impressionist painters like Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir challenged traditional notions of beauty by focusing on fleeting moments and the play of light. These shifts in artistic representation contributed to the evolving definition of beauty, demonstrating that beauty is a complex and personal experience.

While the concept of beauty has evolved over time, its basic elements remain unchanged. According to Aristotelian philosophy, beauty requires three things: integrity, proportion and clarity. For example, Aristotle explains that beautiful objects are “perfect in their parts and fit together to make an integrated harmonious whole.” In the eighteenth century, empiricists like Hume and Kant viewed beauty as an experiential state, which is dependent on the individual’s perception.

However, they also recognized that if beauty was solely a subjective matter, it would lose its value. Beauty is a part of culture, and it is in the nature of humans to compare and evaluate beauty. Thus, a person’s perception of beauty is often informed by the values and beliefs they have acquired throughout their life.

The notion of beauty has also been influenced by social movements, such as the feminist and anti-racist attacks on dominant beauty standards. This has helped to revitalize the concept of beauty in modern culture. Today, art continues to challenge societal norms and expectations of beauty through a wide range of mediums. Whether through painting, sculpture, or photography, contemporary artists use beauty to highlight the diversity of our world.

Despite its enduring significance, the concept of beauty can be dangerous for some individuals. The pressure to conform to certain standards of beauty can be overwhelming, resulting in feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt. This is especially true in the age of social media, where curated images can reinforce unattainable standards. These unrealistic beauty standards can create a vicious cycle of self-loathing and insecurity. It is important to remember that the beauty we see on our screens is manipulated by a system of oppression and discrimination, and it is therefore essential to approach these standards with discernment. By recognizing the pitfalls of this culturally constructed concept, we can create a more compassionate and accepting society.