The Concept of Beauty

Beauty is a quality or combination of qualities that gives pleasure to the mind and/or senses. It is often associated with properties like harmony of form or color, proportion, authenticity, and originality.

In Western philosophy, the study of beauty was formerly considered a subordinate part of ontology and is now generally treated as an autonomous discipline within the realm of aesthetics (the study of human sensibility). The term “aesthetics” is from the Greek for art.

The concept of beauty has been a topic for debate since ancient times. Some philosophers believed that beauty was an objective fact, while others believed that it was subjective.

Historically, the concept of beauty has been defined as the arrangement of parts in a coherent whole. This is a classical conception that is found in many works of classical architecture, sculpture, literature, and music.

It is a fundamental aspect of aesthetics, and it is often regarded as the source of a work’s value. It is also an important factor in the formation of personal taste and opinion, which can affect the quality of life of an individual or a society.

Aristotle’s concept of beauty is that it consists of an arrangement of integral parts in a coherent whole, according to the concepts of proportion, harmony, and symmetry. This concept is still used in modern architectural and artistic design, as well as in the study of aesthetics.

This approach, known as the “classical conception” of beauty, was introduced by Aristotle in his Poetics and Metaphysics. It is based on the idea that beauty is best exemplified in art and design by those objects which are harmonious, symmetrical, and unified.

Some of the earliest attempts to define beauty involved a careful study of natural objects, especially those that evoked a symbiotic, organic, or other harmonious response in humans. This led to the philosophies of “aesthetic psychology” and “aesthetics of nature”.

The philosopher Thomas Aquinas distinguished between beauty and good, but recognized that they were indistinguishable in reality. He identified beauty and good as being in oneness, and enumerated their elements: perfection (integritas sive perfectio), harmony (debita proportion sive consonantia), and clarity (claritas).

In the eighteenth century, the idea that beauty is entirely subjective came into widespread use. It was argued that this approach would avoid controversies about beauty, which often occur when people disagree about its meaning or values. Nevertheless, it was felt that a fully subjective conception of beauty would be inadequate.

Consequently, the concept of beauty became a central issue in debates about the morality and ethics of art. For example, many critics saw the Rococo style of painting and sculpture as a hedonist expression of wealth and decadence, which was unfit for the social order.

In contemporary times, the concept of beauty has become a source of debate about a range of social issues, including the ethics of consumption and environmental degradation. It has also been a political issue in some countries, as in the case of the French revolutionaries’ association of beauty with the aristocracy and the Rococo style of painting.