Beauty is the quality of something that is pleasing to the eye or gives pleasure. It can be found in a beautiful person, a stunning landscape, or an artistic work of art.
It is defined by a combination of qualities that are considered to please our senses, and often it is a combination of symmetry, proportions, harmony and colour. These are not the only criteria for beauty, but they are commonly thought to be important or necessary.
There are several different interpretations of the concept of beauty within Western philosophical and artistic traditions. They can range from completely opposing ones to those that are more or less compatible with one another.
The classical conception, which is embodied in the architecture and sculpture of ancient Greece and Rome and in much of classical and neo-classical art and literature, conceives of beauty as an arrangement of integral parts into a coherent whole according to proportion, harmony, symmetry, or similar notions. It is this idea that was espoused by Aristotle, and it remains central to the idea of aesthetics as an activity that seeks to create and arrange things in order to make them pleasing to the eye and senses.
This view of beauty has a long tradition in the West, and it is embodied in the ideas of philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato. It has been adapted to the world of music, painting, and sculpture in the nineteenth century.
It is a subjective experience, but it can also be objectively assessed by others. The question of whether a thing is or is not beautiful can be a difficult one, and many philosophers have struggled with this issue.
Some philosophers have argued that beauty is an objective value that can be evaluated by others, without relying on the senses of the experiencer. Kant, for example, argues that if something is deemed to be beautiful, then it is either suited to use or not, and this can be assessed by others.
The twentieth-century, however, has seen the development of various approaches to the concept of beauty that are very different from those of the past. This is in large part due to the emergence of political and social entanglements that are not entirely compatible with the purity and transcendence associated with traditional theories of beauty.
In many cases, the entanglements that arise in these debates are based on a tendency to make beauty into a kind of “political object,” a thing that is at once aesthetically pleasing and also a means of promoting or undermining political power. This has led to an emphasis on the objective nature of beauty, which tends to be quite different from the subjective sense of the term that was once a hallmark of aesthetics.
For Schiller, however, beauty is more about integrating the natural and the spiritual, or the sensuous and the rational, into a single, seamless entity. In the same way that Plato conceived of beauty as an ascending ladder, this approach aims to take us from the physical, immediate reality of the senses and body to the spiritual or abstract realm of the mind.