Beauty is an important concept in our culture. It refers to a wide range of experiences and phenomena, such as music, art, performance, and even physical attributes, that are found to be beautiful by people from around the world.
Historically, however, there has been considerable debate over what makes something beautiful. Some philosophers have interpreted beauty as an objective quality, whereas others have seen it as a subjective response to an object.
The first conception of beauty, which largely survives into modern times, involves the idea that it can only be defined through harmony between parts; that is, an object will only be considered beautiful when its parts stand in the right proportion to each other and when they all form a harmonious whole. This conception was popular in the Renaissance, and it dominated Western thinking about beauty until the eighteenth century.
This conception is also echoed in the ancient Greek tradition of hedonistic philosophy. The hedonist Aristippus of Cyrene, for example, argued that anything that was used could be considered both good and beautiful; that is, it had to satisfy the desire for use.
Later, St Thomas Aquinas introduced a formalist account of beauty that emphasized the integrity of an object, the proper proportion of its parts, and the brightness or clarity of its appearance. Aquinas also emphasized the beauty of things like the sun and lightning by night, and the fairness of gold, silver and other metals.
In this way, Aquinas attempted to synthesise the two different conceptions of beauty: one based on hedonistic pleasure, and the other based on a more objective and less hedonistic approach. Aquinas also recognized that an object might be both good and beautiful at the same time, but this could only happen if it was used or used for certain purposes.
Many modern philosophical accounts, on the other hand, attempt to locate beauty in the qualities of an object, or in the participation of that object in the Forms. For example, Plato argues in the Symposium that beauty is a response to love and desire, while Plotinus focuses on the aesthetic enjoyment of objects’ participation in the Forms.
The problem with this kind of approach is that it essentially devalues the experience of beauty. The experience of beauty is a complex interaction between the senses and the intellect, involving a wide variety of sensory impressions. Moreover, it is often subjective and highly personal; it requires an individual to make a conscious choice to enjoy the particular sensations involved in experiencing a beautiful object.
During the twentieth century, however, there was a revival of interest in beauty as an objective quality. This reflected the re-emergence of classical philosophical approaches to beauty, as well as feminist and disability arts reappropriations.
As a result of these new developments, the idea that beauty can be an objective quality has begun to be questioned, and some philosophers have suggested that it should be replaced with a more abstract term such as happiness or bliss. These new terms may be able to more accurately reflect the experience of happiness and bliss. In addition, they can be more readily associated with a positive attitude towards a person or event, which would allow them to function as an alternative to traditional conceptions of beauty.