Beauty is the idea of perfection, elegance, and purity. It is a value that humans hold dear to their hearts and are often engaged in a quest to achieve it.
The idea of beauty is a complex subject, and there are many different ways to conceptualize it. Here are some of the main approaches to beauty within Western philosophical and artistic traditions:
In classical aesthetics, beauty is conceived as a relation between parts that are supposed to stand in the right proportion to each other. This is typically expressed in terms of mathematical ratios or proportional relations between particular elements, and this theory finds a definite expression in the classical sculptor Polykleitos’s famous Doryphoros (fifth/fourth century BCE).
This conception of beauty can be seen as a way of creating an objective form of perfection, which is embodied in the rhythm of the universe. This is also the basis for a religious interpretation of beauty, which in Christianity, Islam and other religions takes the form of geometric designs that are thought to be modelled in the image of a perfect God.
Hume and Kant
David Hume, in his Essays, Moral, Political and Literary (1758), articulated an important position on the issue of beauty, arguing that it is a subjective matter, one that each person must acquiesce in a way that is not incompatible with individual volition. This is a delicate and gentle approach to the topic of beauty, and one that resists the tyrannical and imposition of a single standard of what constitutes beautiful.
Santayana, in The Sense of Beauty, offers another account that emphasizes the pleasure that we experience from things or experiences that have certain qualities. This is a radically different way of thinking about beauty than many other approaches.
Aquinas and Plotinus
Aquinas and Plotinus believed that beauty is a physical phenomenon, that it is the result of design and that it is the result of the marriage of good and truth (i.e., good design). This explanation satisfied some of the criteria for a unified theory of beauty, but it didn’t address some of the other issues that plagued aesthetic philosophy in the eighteenth century.
The Aesthetic Principle and the Object View
There are a number of important aesthetic principles that have been developed over time. These include proportions, harmony, shape and symmetry, color, line, texture, and balance.
The concept of beauty is also a foundation for the idea of good design and is a way of ensuring that we will be able to create useful objects. A good design will have beauty and function at the same time, and this will make it easier for us to build beautiful things.
Aquinas and Plotinus were not the first to think of beauty as an element of good design, but their work has influenced many modern aesthetic theories, including those of the Italian Renaissance and modern art movements such as surrealism, which reject conventional standards of beauty in favor of the unexpected and improbable. This is a particularly important approach because it allows for creativity and improvisation. It also makes it possible to repurpose existing objects and design new ones.