Beauty is defined as an object, experience, or phenomenon that satisfies a particular sense. It can be a physical object, an artistic creation, or a cultural practice. In most cases, beauty is characterized by certain qualities that offer pleasure to the aesthetic or intellectual senses. The qualities associated with beauty vary from person to person.
A classical conception of beauty is characterized by an orderly arrangement of integral parts, which are said to bring the whole together. For example, a beautiful mathematical pattern is expressed in the arrangement of the leaves on a plant stem.
Some definitions of beauty also include the aesthetic, the fine art, or the craft. These can be used to criticize the distinction between fine art and craft. However, these definitions tend to equate the aesthetic with visual appearance.
The classic conception of beauty was also embodied in classical and neo-classical sculpture, architecture, and music. During the early twentieth century, the idea of beauty became conflated with economics, capitalism, and hedonism. As a result, beauty lost its central role in art and culture.
Several theorists have tried to address the antinomy between taste and beauty. While Hume defended the individual’s right to decide for himself, other philosophers like Moore and Kant believed that beauty was bestowed upon a thing by the gods. Others, such as the French revolutionaries, regarded beauty as a social trait, akin to wealth and status.
Among the most important things to understand about beauty is that it is not simply a feeling. It is also an objective concept. This is not to say that people cannot debate the merits of a work of art. Instead, the beauty of something is not so much in what it looks like, but in the emotional reaction of its observer.
For instance, it is impossible to say that a flower is beautiful, because we do not know how each person perceives it. But, an interesting fact about the experience of beauty is that each individual’s perception is unique. That is, the color of an object may be different at noon than at midnight, and a flower can look more beautiful when viewed in a bright light than when in its natural surroundings.
In addition, there are various forms of orderly beauty. One example is Islamic geometric design. Another is ecstatic neo-Platonism.
Plotinus wrote about the art of love in ecstatic terms. He also noted that an object is “beautiful” in a neo-Platonian sense. Unlike the classical conception, which focuses on the arrangement of parts, ecstatic neo-Platonism treats beauty as a participation in Forms.
A recent study in the history of science found that a variety of aspects contribute to a feeling of beauty. Although most accounts of beauty treat the concept as a subjective sensation, some people are color-blind, while others can detect the beauty of an object using scientific instruments.
Of course, a great deal of controversy has accompanied the discussion of beauty. Despite the best efforts of many of the major figures of the past, there are still several unanswered questions about its significance.