Philosophy of Beauty
The word beauty has many meanings. But in this article I will be using the word beauty broadly, including artistic beauty. Beauty is often defined as a subjective quality of certain objects, which makes these objects pleasant to see. These objects include sunsets, landscapes, people and other works of fine art. Beauty, along with personal taste and art, is perhaps the most important theme of aesthetics, among the major branches of psychology. According to Carl Jung the meaning of beauty was determined by the function a thing serves, whereas the meaning of beauty was determined by the function that a human attribute had in relation to the society in which he lived.
philosophers have been debating the meaning of beauty for centuries. In ancient days’ beauty was seen as an ideal and philosophical concept. Later philosophers started using the term ‘beauty’ to mean the aesthetic quality, which they ascribed to the objects of their philosophical theories. According to John Locke aesthetic beauty was the beauty that comes from the soul and not from the physical nature. It should be noted here that Locke considered beauty as something subjective and only dependent on the individual’s point of view.
Modern aesthetics has become a much broader concept than Locke’s idealism. Modern aesthetics now includes a whole range of ideas and perceptions related to beauty. It includes culture, literature, color, form, aesthetic appreciation, and the history of artistic development. In recent years, contemporary aesthetic theory has included notions of communication and society and the methods by which we make and receive beauty through art, literature and cinema.
In the late nineteenth century French philosophers including Sartre and Camille Bothel came out with the idea that beauty could be given a rational definition, by means of a set of criteria. These definitions included a person’s ability to recognize beauty, their place in the social hierarchy, and their personal interests. These were not, however, mere subjective definitions. Rather, they were taken from philosophy, science and art which had already been established in earlier days. So although these philosophers did not introduce a positive philosophy of beauty, their attempt to define beauty contributed greatly to the present day philosophical aesthetics.
The French were among the first people to use the term ‘Beauty’ to refer to aesthetic concepts. In the following centuries, other philosophers used the term beauty widely, including German philosopher Martin Heidegger who used the term ‘geistikeness’ to define beautiful and ugly things. In the Twentieth Century French philosopher Immanuel Kant provided a complex set of ideas concerning the nature of beauty, including an ideal type of beauty, an objective meaning of beauty, and an ethic of beauty. According to Kant, beauty was a specific kind of goodness and was subject to a standard of aesthetic quality.
Philosophers have also been in debate about what is beautiful and what is not. Some may worry that if there is no ultimate definition of beauty then we may be forced to choose between ugly and beautiful. Others may worry that beauty may be nothing more than a subjective feeling or the effect of the surrounding environment. No matter what your view on beauty is, you will want to remember that beauty truly is defined by those who see it, and in the case of philosophical beauty, by the philosophers that see it.