Beauty is widely defined as a subjective quality of things that makes these things enjoyable to see. These things may be people, landscapes, Sunsets or works of art. Beauty, along with personal taste and art, is the most significant part of aesthetics, arguably one of the most important branches of human philosophy. It has been said that beauty lies within the eyes of the beholder. But how exactly does beauty arise from within the human being? What qualities do we look for in things to determine their beauty?
In general, beauty can be determined by looking at it, hearing it, tasting it, or even feeling it. However, there are some attributes that cannot be physically measured. For example, beauty is not necessarily related to size, shape, material or composition – for example a beautiful flower is a flower which are very delicate and may be damaged easily, but in no way diminishes the essence of beauty. Similarly, beauty is not always related to gender, culture or race – for example, a beautiful girl is as beautiful whether she is Pakistani, Chinese, Indian or European.
Many people compare the definition of beauty with that of beauty on other scales, including the aesthetic value of beauty and the desirability of beauty. Aesthetics are often considered to be two different concepts, though the two are often blended together in the same argument. Aesthetic beauty is beauty based on the human form. Aesthetics concerns itself with beauty as a perception and is not based on the presence or absence of anything else. The beauty of a work of art, a painting or a video game may be highly aesthetic, but its social value is surely not – a work of art is just a work of art, while a video game is just a game.
The definition of beauty, then, appears to be a personal one that is subject to cultural and social influences. It is influenced by what is considered to be beautiful in one culture, such as beauty standards in China, and more specifically, beauty standards in China and Asian culture generally, and beauty standards in Hollywood culture, which are almost certainly not formed equally in every country. Aesthetics can also be influenced by what is considered to be ugly in one culture, such as the beauty standards in Africa, or beauty standards in Turkey. In these cases, the beauty standards that one society applies are likely to be similar to the others, and are likely to vary little from country to country.
The idea that beauty is determined by appearance is not new, as many ancient societies have already demonstrated. For example, the Egyptian Papyrus vividly demonstrates how important physical beauty was to the ancient Egyptian society, because, without it, they were likely to be shunned and discriminated against. The concept that beauty is a product of human nature and that there are ‘rules’ to how humans should look has been around since the earliest times. This is why, for example, beauty is always referenced in stories, plays and novels, even when those stories, plays and novels are set in places where modern beauty might not necessarily be considered beautiful. There is something magical about stories in that they allow us to escape from the terrible realities of life and put our feet up, so to speak, and fantasize about things that might otherwise be impossible. In this way, stories provide a kind of escapism, allowing us to escape to another world that is, in fact, very much like our own, but with all the magic removed.
As social media continue to develop their access to digital images of everything that is said and done, and as social media users increasingly try to live their lives according to how they see themselves on a daily basis, we can expect that this expansion of beauty definitions will continue. While there is no arguing that the definition of beauty will continue to change as society grows and develops, there is still something undeniably interesting about the way that these changes happen, and about the ways in which beauty appears to us. This is especially true in the world of fashion and style, where every day new trends seem to crop up in the blink of an eye. With social media and fashion websites constantly post images of the latest trends, it is very much a matter of keeping up with the Joneses, and being one with the Joneses.