The concept of beauty has been a subject of debate for centuries. Some of the most disputed claims to be found in literature pertain to the question of what is the best way to define beauty. This article will outline some of the major theories and controversies of the subject.
In the early days of philosophy, beauty was defined as a quantitative apprehension of the inexorable mathematical law of proportion. An example of this is the golden ratio, a Fibonacci sequence. Similarly, the Greek philosopher Euclid identified the beauty of a line by its symmetrical relation to the parts of the whole. Interestingly, a line isn’t symmetrical if the part isn’t equally divided from the whole.
A more recent and much simpler definition of beauty is that of an object whose appearance is pleasing to the eye. For example, a brightly colored flower might be a delight to the eye. However, some people may be color blind. It’s also possible to perceive an object as one color at noon and another at midnight.
In the era of the French revolution, an individual’s physical beauty was equated to their status in society. For instance, the plumpness of a person was considered a sign of wealth. During the Renaissance, the notion of beauty was a component of divine order.
While the earliest philosophical treatises aimed at describing the concept of beauty sought to quantify it, modern philosophy took a different approach. In the 18th century, a new sense of inalienable rights came into being, and beauty was no longer seen as an objective property, but a subjective one.
This is a good reason for a discussion of the various approaches to the subject. Nevertheless, the most important thing to note is that the definition of the best beauty is a matter of opinion. Several theorists attempted to address this antinomy.
One such theory is the Plotinus theory of beauty. Essentially, Plotinus’ account makes the idea of beauty matter in the form of ‘formedness’. According to Plotinus, it is the process of acquiescing to the esoteric, albeit beautiful, ‘form’ of something that counts as a worthwhile accomplishment.
Another is the Santayana theory of beauty, which identifies pleasure as a fundamental aspect of beauty. He suggests that an experience of beauty might even be the meaning of life. Moreover, it might be the most profound of all experiences.
Despite these advances in the subject, beauty hasn’t been free from controversy over the years. Especially over the last few centuries, political associations have been problematic, particularly in connection with race and gender. Nonetheless, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, a number of social justice movements have grappled with these issues, as well as the question of whether the concept of beauty is objective or merely a matter of human perception.
Regardless of the debates of the past, the concept of beauty has been a topic of great interest. The question of what is the best way to define it has always been a divisive issue. But it was the 1990s, when feminist-oriented reconstruals of the subject were all the rage, that ushered in a revival of interest in the subject.