Beauty is commonly defined as a subjective aspect of human things, which makes these things pleasing to see. These objects include sunsets, landscapes, humans and artistic works of art. Beauty, along with beauty, is perhaps the most important topic of aesthetics, among the major branches of psychology. In aesthetic psychology, beauty is considered to be a psychological quality or trait, which is determined by human cognitive processes. Beauty has various components and each of these components plays an important role in human behavior. The components include the physical appearance of an object, its appealing features or its unique qualities, its status in the human social and cultural life, and the emotions it evokes in the viewer.
The word beauty itself is derived from the Greek work “osmos” meaning “beings.” From this root word emerges the idea that beauty is not something objective and analyzed, but subjective. According to the late German philosopher Martin Heidegger, beauty is based on the idea of logos, or representations. Logos in Heidegger’s system is primarily the distinction between the things that appear as logos for certain concepts, and the objects themselves.
It may concern us to know whether beauty is only subjective or objective, but we needn’t worry too much about this. Beauty depends upon what things have already appeared and on what we have yet to conceive. Beauty therefore is relative, at least to some extent. While it may concern us to know if something is beautiful, we should not make it our ultimate yardstick. We should instead rely on the judgment of others who may perhaps be more qualified to say whether something is beautiful than we are ourselves.
Beauty then is largely a matter of perception, and how we see it depends on how we think. We may marvel at a work of art – an exquisite vase, a marble countertop – and immediately feel its splendor. Yet our very thoughts concerning beauty may cloud the truth behind it. An art gallery may display works of Picasso and Monet, but our own judgments of their beauty may preclude their being real. Many aestheticians and art historians argue that there is no one universally valid definition of beauty – that different people bring to the table different definitions, often contradictory, of beauty.
Thus beauty as an object is a subjective concept. We can say that Descartes’ notion of beauty was the first real attempt to define beauty – although many other people, including artists and critics, have offered opinions about beauty throughout history. In recent years the debate among aestheticians has intensified. Some have argued that true beauty lies more in the deeper psychological aspects of a being, while others have seen beauty as having to do with the physical attributes of a thing.
Still others say that beauty is nothing more than a given psychological state, one that can be achieved and maintained by any human being through the processes of personal growth and imagination. Some people say that we are all born with a sense of beauty, while others say that beauty is a product of culture and experience. So beauty – as an aesthetic object – is a very personal concept. The word beauty itself points to a vague and indeterminate quality that cannot be quantified in a scientific way. And yet the quest for beauty continues, and even after centuries of study, science, and technology have still not found a way to define beauty completely.