A Quick Guide to the Definition of Beauty
Beauty is commonly defined as a subjective feature of objects which makes these objects enjoyable to see. These objects include sunsets, landscapes, humans and other artistic works. Beauty, along with personal taste and art, is perhaps the most significant part of aesthetics, probably the most significant branch of humanities theory. We usually think of beauty when we see or meet someone who is attractive, but the concept of beauty is much broader than that.
The concept of beauty has a history, going back to at least the eighteenth century. One of the first definitions of beauty was provided by the Roman poet Ovid, in his treatise on aesthetic philosophy, where he characterised beauty as the beauty of clothes, in the sense of what satisfies the eye. According to this definition, beauty could be judged by physical attractiveness and by its conformity with the standards of etiquette, fashion and sentiment. Ovid’s definition of beauty is highly controversial, as his style is often regarded as having little aesthetic value, and even his ideas about love and marriage are questionable. The romanticism of the age, in which everything is related to nature, and its belief that emotions come before logic, also contribute to the confusion, making the definition of beauty more uncertain and vulnerable to the claims of those who look down on artists and other creative people.
Other philosophers have offered less definitive definitions. In ethics, Aristotle tells us that beauty is the proportionate balance between strength and weakness, beauty being a synonym of goodness. He goes on to say that beauty consists in the soul and that the most beautiful persons are the ones with the strongest will, for “nothing lovely can be put into the world without a good will.” In political Philosophy, Plato teaches that beauty is determined by the relation of a thing to its own sensible reality, and the ideal beauty is a perfect synonym for justice, sincerity and truth. These and other definitions of beauty have been variously presented throughout the history of philosophy, but the central meaning remains the same. Beauty is a subjective quality, and its definition is determined by our personal preferences and tastes.