Beauty is a term that refers to any object or experience that is pleasing to the eye and makes the viewer enjoy it. It includes landscapes, sunsets, humans and works of art.
The concept of beauty can be a powerful tool for people to express their own identities and self-image. It also allows them to express their feelings and emotions. In addition, it can provide a sense of comfort and peace.
Historically, there has been a wide variety of ways that beauty has been defined. However, there are a few basic ideas that have remained constant.
1. The classical conception of beauty:
This approach to beauty was introduced into the western world by Aristotle in the 2nd century BC. It posits that a beautiful object is composed of parts that should stand in proportion to each other and be harmonious with the rest of the body, as a whole. This definition was particularly influential in the Renaissance and early modern periods.
2. The Christian conception of beauty:
In the Christian tradition, Thomas Aquinas has developed a theory of beauty that connects it to the Second Person of the Trinity. Aquinas says that a thing is beautiful when it has integrity (i.e., it is complete by its own interior logic). This can include being realistic and resembling a real person; or it could be something that looks completely different from the real thing but still has integrity, such as a cubist painting of a woman.
3. The subjectivist conception of beauty:
In contrast to the classical conception, the subjectivist conception of beauty posits that a thing is beautiful when it has some kind of emotional response. This is a more dispassionate, rational approach to beauty than the classical one.
4. The political conception of beauty:
In this regard, beauty is often linked to power. This connection is especially apparent in politics and economics, where an object or image can be associated with power. It can be seen, for example, in the way that a beautiful sculpture can increase a person’s sense of power.
5. The philosophical conception of beauty:
The philosophers who have developed the most sophisticated theories of beauty, such as Aristotle and Plato, have often looked at it as an objective quality rather than a subjective one. Aristotle, for instance, argues that a beautiful object is not a mere matter of taste or preference but must be composed of parts that are in proper proportion and arranged in a way that is harmonious with the rest of the body, as in the classical conception.
6. The hedonist conception of beauty:
In addition to the classical approach, hedonists such as Aristippus of Cyrene have argued that a thing is beautiful if it satisfies a moral desire. This can be a more direct approach to the concept of beauty than other philosophers have taken, and it has a certain plausibility, as the ancient hedonists tended to identify things that were good with those that were beautiful.