Beauty is one of the oldest concepts in Western culture. Although it is widely accepted that it is subjective, there are various ways to define it. This article will review some of the main approaches to beauty.
Classical conceptions of beauty emphasize the arrangement of parts in a coherent whole. This idea is embodied in neo-classical architecture and classical music. It is also reflected in literature and art. For instance, the statue ‘Canon’ by Polyclitus was constructed according to the specifications of his treatise.
In modern thinking, beauty depends on the interaction between the subject and the object. It is a concept of symmetry, proportion, and colour. In fact, the golden ratio, a Fibonacci sequence, is considered a form of beauty. However, this idea is not necessarily applicable to the light of the sun.
Beauty is a subjective idea, meaning that each person has a different interpretation of it. It can be defined by age, gender, race, weight, symmetry, and body shape. In addition, it is sometimes defined by how an object looks. In this way, beauty can be influenced by culture and tradition. In the late twentieth century, there was a revival of interest in beauty. In part, this renewed interest was fueled by the work of Dave Hickey.
Some of the earliest theories of beauty were concerned with quantifying it. The Greek philosopher Aristotle, for example, disagreed with Plato on the definition of beauty. Aristotle argued that beauty consists in harmony. In contrast, Edmund Burke criticized the notion that beauty could only be measured in terms of its proportions.
In the eighteenth century, a major shift in thinking about beauty took place. It moved from a mathematical conception to a more subjective one. Earlier, the study of beauty was mostly ontology-based. But in the nineteenth century, the idea of beauty became less and less dependent on scientific theory. The nineteenth century marked a time of confidence in human capabilities. It also marked the emergence of cultures of feeling and a growing sense of inalienable rights.
The twentieth century, however, saw a movement away from beauty as a central goal of the arts. Instead, it began to be associated with capitalism. This association, which had its roots in the early years of the French Revolution, had a negative effect on beauty. It caused artists to focus on urgent projects rather than on beauty. In turn, this led to the creation of art with a more trivialized conception of beauty. The result was a hedonistic expression of wealth.
The nineteenth century also saw the development of an increasingly moral and critical approach to beauty. The most well-known philosophers to make a contribution to this area were Immanuel Kant and David Hume. Kant’s approach, which has obvious hedonism influences, explains how pleasure in the beauty of objects is a disinterested form of pleasure.
In the early twentieth century, political associations of beauty began to be problematic. These associations have often been tied to race and oppression. These associations have been addressed in social justice movements. They have also been neglected in early twentieth century philosophy.