Beauty in the Twentieth Century

Beauty is defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary as beauty is a mentally pleasant or unattractive quality or attribute of a thing. Beauty is widely regarded as a natural aspect of things, which makes these things aesthetically pleasing to see. These things include sunsets, landscapes, beautiful humans and other artistic works of art. Beauty, along with beauty and art, is perhaps the most important theme of aesthetics, among the major branches of applied philosophy.


According to Max Weber, beauty can be defined as the proportionate distillation of all the aesthetic qualities into a single, universal quality. Beauty, for Weber, is largely an object of desire, with its goal being to enhance a person’s life as much as possible by improving his or her beauty. Beauty then, in Weber’s view, is essentially a subjective state dependent upon the cognitive responses that human beings have towards it, both prior to and after a particular situation or activity. Beauty as such then, does not have a concrete definition; instead, beauty is largely an attitude or a state of mind. In this way, the beauty in the twentieth century can be seen as largely an intangible quality, with the beauty of the visual arts and culture being the more common examples.

However, this twenty-first century may see a significant role for the concept of beauty in our everyday lives. The increasing cultural gap between rich and poor has led to the debate on whether beauty is important to us, and if so, how we define beauty. It has been argued that beauty criteria may have lessened in the twentieth century, and that beauty criteria no longer play an important role in the lives of many people. However, aesthetic evaluation remains a powerful and continuing force in the world of art and culture, as people continue to search for the aesthetic beauty that escapes categorization, and finds expression in the works of great artists.