What Is Beauty?


Beauty is a universal concept, which includes both the physical and the abstract. However, it is not clear what exactly is meant by beauty. The concept can be defined as a combination of qualities and features that please the aesthetic senses. Among the things that can be considered beautiful are music, architecture, nature, literature, and art.

While most of us tend to think of beauty as an objective concept, its subjective side is just as important. For example, a painting by Cubist artist Pablo Picasso might be beautiful, even if it does not look like the real thing.

There is a debate amongst philosophers about the definition of beauty. Some argue that it is an idea, while others contend that it is a function of the mind. Still, most experts concur that there is a general consensus on what beauty is.

Aristotle defines beauty as the harmonious arrangement of the parts of an object into a coherent whole. Often, this is expressed in mathematical ratios. This conception has been embodied in classical and neo-classical architecture, as well as classical music and literature.

While hedonist conceptions of beauty are more focused on the pleasure that an object can give, classical conceptions of beauty treat beauty as a matter of relation. It is a concept that can be observed in the form of harmonious proportions in ancient Greek architecture.

Although a concept of beauty has been present for many centuries, it has only recently become a subject of serious moral criticism. This is perhaps due to the social and political associations it has developed over time. These associations have been particularly problematic, especially in the context of race and gender. Today, political associations of beauty have been addressed in social justice movements.

Thomas Aquinas offered a solution to this conundrum. He explained how a beautiful design can create rules of aesthetics, which are byproducts of good design. At the same time, he explained why such rules could exist in the physical world.

He also gave three criteria for determining what is beautiful. First, a claim needs to be meaningful. Meaningful claims are those that are empirically testable. Second, a claim must be accompanied by a relevant observation, and third, a claim must be based on a good argument.

While these criteria are not exhaustive, they can serve as a useful guide to what is considered beautiful. For example, a realistic portrait of a woman with three eyes is not an integrity-worthy image of that person. Similarly, lightning is not aesthetically beautiful.

While the concept of beauty has a history, it has never been able to fully explain how the object of our affections inspires a sense of purpose. Nevertheless, the idea that “Form always follows function” became a guiding mantra for modern aesthetic philosophy.

Beauty is a powerful tool that can be used to enrich the concept of use, but it is not the only way of achieving it. A practical activity such as performing a task in a special way, with a special degree of satisfaction, can qualify as a form of beauty treatment.