The Philosophy of Beauty

Beauty is often defined as a subjective quality of objects which makes these objects enjoyable to see. These objects could be landscapes, sunsets, beautiful humans, beautiful works of art and artistic works. Beauty, along with individual taste and art, is the central topic of aesthetic philosophy, one of the most important branches of psychology. The word ‘beauty’ comes from the Latin ‘bluence’ meaning ‘appear’. According to the aestheticians, beauty lies in the proportion between lines and shapes and the proportions between the various sizes of the objects involved, like a flower’s shape, size, line colour, and height.


In the early twentieth century, the term beauty became associated with modernism. Modernism, a reaction against Romanticism, involved a rejection of traditionalism and sought to make everyday things into art forms. However, the avant-garde artists went even further, denying that beauty was something fixed and unchanging and instead viewing beauty as an ideal, a subjective state dependent on the emotional reaction of the viewer. In reaction, the idea of beauty became associated with Romanticism and later, with the avant-garde artist who interpreted his or her art based purely on emotion rather than on the ability to create beautiful works of art, the so-called ‘postmodern’ artists. Beauty became associated with feelings, an intangible thing, and it was believed by many in the twentieth century that beauty was subjective.

Beauty, however, remains a very strong force in our culture. Beauty is depicted not only in popular culture but also in all forms of art, literature, music, architecture, costumes and other visual communication. Beauty is used in advertising, fashion shows, cinema, commercials and in every aspect of modern day life. Beauty has become, in fact, part of our culture, and we use beauty in all aspects of our lives, from choosing our partners to choosing our groceries.