What Is Beauty?

The word beauty describes a characteristic that gives pleasure or meaning to the eye, the ear, the intellect and perhaps even the moral sense. Beauty is also the name of a type of object or work of art. It is a subjective experience, and people may have different opinions about what beauty is. Many philosophers have attempted to define beauty, and there are many theories about it. Some are objective, while others are more based on the individual’s personal preferences.

Aristotle’s classic view of beauty was based on an arrangement of integral parts into a coherent whole, using notions like proportion, harmony and symmetry. This concept is embodied in classical and neo-classical architecture, sculpture, literature and music. The idea of beauty is a primordial Western conception, and it was often linked to notions of order and perfection, sometimes expressed in mathematical ratios.

In contrast, the Romantics saw beauty in imperfection and variety. For example, the poets Shelley and Byron viewed beauty as something to be embraced, celebrated and enjoyed. Their poems used a variety of words to describe the emotions and sensations that beauty evoked, including awe, admiration, adoration and love.

It is also possible for a person to see beauty in different ways, depending on his or her environment. A person who is color-blind may see things differently than someone who is not, because colors take on a different hue to him or her. The same thing may look different to a person with jaundice, because of the way the light interacts with the skin. The same item may also look different to a person at noon and at midnight, because of changes in light and the way it reflects off objects.

The twentieth century was particularly skeptical of the concept of beauty, in part because it had become associated with hedonistic expressions of wealth, such as the Rococo designs of French aristocracy or the paintings of Fragonard. It was also often seen as a tool of propaganda and oppression.

Today, philosophers have been trying to revive the notion of beauty as a positive impulse that can be just as liberating as it has been deemed enslaving. Confident young women today pack their closets with mini-skirts and sensible suits, and female artists continue to play with feminine stereotypes in ways that make some of their feminist elders uncomfortable.

A recent Global Advisor survey found that when it comes to what makes a person beautiful, confidence, kindness, happiness, dignity and intelligence are the most important qualities. Interestingly, physical attributes like facial appearance and body weight and shape rank lower than strength. Beauty is more than a simple aesthetic, it is a state of mind and an emotional feeling that is within us all. A person who can find beauty in all of these aspects will be happy and fulfilled. This is why it is so important to spend time focusing on the inner beauty of oneself and not worrying about what size, shape or color they are.