The Question of Beauty


The question of beauty has been at the heart of a great many philosophical debates over time. This has ranged from questions about how it is conceived to the physical aspects of beauty, and it continues to attract a significant amount of attention.

The definition of beauty can be quite ambiguous, and is subject to considerable apprehension on both sides. In particular, there has been much debate about whether it is objective or subjective.

A common assumption is that beauty can be defined by a set of criteria, such as shape, form and colour. This is an approach to beauty which developed within the Western philosophical tradition and is reflected in classical and neo-classical architecture, sculpture, literature, and music wherever it appears.

For example, the philosopher Aristotle, in his Poetics, defines beauty as “A combination of qualities which pleases the aesthetic senses”. He goes on to say that “to be beautiful, a living thing, and every whole made up of parts, must present a certain order” (volume 2, 2322 [1450b34]).

In this view, beauty is a kind of ordered ‘formedness’. The object must be ‘in true proportions’, and the ‘parts’ must be ‘adjusted to one another’ as they may ‘best conspire to the use and operation of the whole’.

This conception is largely incompatible with a neo-Platonic account of beauty, which focuses on ‘form’ and the ‘unity of things’ (see, for example, Plotinus), and which, by its most obvious expressions, associates beauty exclusively with disinterested pleasure. It has also been argued, for example by Kant, that beauty can only be experienced in an immediate and sensible way, requiring intellection and practical activity.

It is therefore perhaps no surprise that, despite its strong associations with pleasure, the concept of beauty became associated in modernity with a moral and political critique. Typically, these critiques have been motivated by wealth and power: for example, the French revolutionaries in the seventeenth century tended to associate the notion of beauty with the Rococo style, with its hedonist expressions of wealth and decadence.

However, this has been disputed by many twentieth-century philosophers and by feminists in recent years, who have tried to make more use of the concept in their theories of taste and value. For instance, in the 1990s, many art critics and philosophers of gender reworked or reappropriated the concept of beauty, often in the context of critiques of contemporary art.

A woman who is confident about herself can be a beautiful person, and that confidence will shine through no matter what the outside appearance might look like. A beautiful woman understands that she is enough and radiates with a positive energy that makes others want to be around her.

A woman who is passionate about life, shows compassion, pursues learning, keeps a sense of adventure, refuses to give up, and believes that she is worthy, creates an energy that many would consider beautiful. Having this attitude can help a woman to overcome her obstacles and achieve her goals.