The Philosophy of Beauty


Beauty is a human emotion that is often associated with feelings of love and appreciation. It is a value that can be found in many different forms, from fine art to music and dance.

The concept of beauty is a complicated one that has been studied for centuries by philosophers and artists alike. There are a number of different philosophical approaches to this concept and it is difficult to say what is the best way to approach this question.

Aesthetics (or ‘artistic philosophy’) is the study of the aesthetic experience and the creation of beauty. This is a field of philosophical inquiry that is a direct descendant of ancient Greek philosophy.

Modern philosophers have shifted the focus of aesthetics from ontology to the sphere of human sensibility and perception. This shift allowed for the development of a theory of aesthetics that could separate out beauty from other ontological components such as truth, goodness and being, and it also created a space for philosophers to develop counter-beauties that were in response to oppressive norms and practices related to beauty.

Beauty is a complex and subjective experience that can be experienced by both individuals and groups of people across cultures. A person can experience beauty by simply taking in a beautiful landscape or listening to a piece of music. However, some people are more sensitive to beauty than others and may even find it difficult to identify something as ‘beautiful’ because they do not like the sound or feel of the object.

Some of the most interesting and challenging areas in which this debate has been explored are in relation to race, gender and sexuality. As a result, the concept of beauty has been subject to many forms of political association throughout the centuries.

Until the eighteenth century, most accounts of beauty treated it as an objective quality. They argued that it is akin to other ‘qualities’ and were either located in the beautiful object itself or in the qualities that made the thing beautiful. For example, Plato and Plotinus believed that things were beautiful because they reflected the essence of their Forms, which are unchanging and true.

Augustine, for his part, argues that things are beautiful because they give pleasure and delight to the person experiencing them. In De Veritate Religione, he writes that “what is beautiful is that which engenders in him the feeling of delight, the response of love and desire.”

The most compelling responses to oppressive standards and uses of beauty have been the creation of what are known as counter-beauties, or subversive pleasures. These have been used in social justice movements and subsequently in anti-racist and feminist philosophy.

According to the research of Semir Zeki, a professor of neuroesthetics at University College London, what makes something beautiful for someone is activity in the medial orbital frontal cortex, the brain’s reward and pleasure center. This is a process that occurs all the time, but can be particularly pronounced in times of stress or trauma.