The Idea of Beauty in Art and Philosophy

Aestheticians and philosophers have tried to find a definition of beauty, but no definition has been universally accepted. The idea of beauty is a complex concept because it includes both objective and subjective aspects. Some people have a natural sense of what is beautiful, while others need to learn to appreciate beauty. Some believe that beauty is something you must work at, but others argue that it’s in the eye of the beholder.

It is possible to define beauty in terms of the characteristics that make it pleasing to the human eye, such as proportion, harmony and symmetry. The classical philosophical sense of beauty was based on these concepts and is reflected in many works of art, including architecture, sculpture, literature and music.

A more subjective view of beauty considers that it is a matter of judging how well a thing or person functions for its intended purpose. This treatment of beauty avoids sheer philistinism by enriching the notion of function, so that it can include not just a thing’s ability to perform its practical task but also its capacity to inspire its user. It is this sense of beauty that is often invoked to criticize the distinction between fine art and craft.

In a more psychologically oriented sense, studies show that certain facial features are rated as more attractive than other facial features. For example, the eyes are considered to be a very important feature in beauty and are rated as more beautiful when the face is smiling or showing an expression of contentment or happiness. These psychological features are thought to be important in the evolutionary process because they signal that a person is healthy and able to produce offspring.

There has been a revival of interest in beauty in both art and philosophy beginning in the 1990s, particularly within feminist and anti-racist theory. Artists have used the critique of beauty to call attention to the ways in which social conventions and cultural stereotypes shape a person’s appearance and determine her value as a member of society. The vernacular norms of beauty have shifted since the 1980s, as young women pack their closets with mini-skirts and confident young female artists toy with feminine stereotypes in ways that shock their feminist elders.

The challenge for the contemporary philosopher is to reclaim a sense of beauty that is not based on cultural or social expectations. To do this, he or she must start by learning to appreciate what is beautiful without the fog of comparisons, accusations and judgement. This may mean taking a long look in the mirror and removing all the societal influences that have shaped the way we see beauty. Only then will we be able to see our own true beauty.