The Nature of Beauty
Beauty is widely defined as a mental or subjective feature of things which makes these things enjoyable to see. These things include sunsets, landscapes, beautiful humans and artistic works of art. Beauty, along with personal taste and aesthetics, is also the primary topic of aesthetics, another of the main branches of philosophy.
The twentieth century art movement, which emerged in the European countries after the First World War, took up the issue of beauty extensively. It attempted to define the aesthetic sensibility and the values associated with beauty. The beauty concept was associated primarily with the idea of beauty in the social, political and intellectual realms. The concept of beauty changed throughout the century; however, it remained fundamentally the same. This is because, through time, people began to correlate different qualities of beauty with unique social problems and needs. In the twentieth century, the word beauty became associated with the new, mass-marketed, consumer culture.
If you want to know what beauty actually is, you may worry that you cannot answer that question, because beauty is a subjective quality and there are no objective qualities which may be measured. But that is not true. Beauty exists and is relative to a person’s current thoughts about beauty and to his/her own ideas about beauty. For example, if a person thinks that the sun is beautiful, he/she will be seen as beautiful. Similarly, a beautiful painting may be completely valueless as a work of art because the viewer’s opinion of beauty is based on his/her idea of beauty.
Beauty is a very complex concept, but it can be broken down into several key aspects. The first aspect of beauty is the actual physical aspect of an object. An object’s form and its composition – color, texture, pattern, and so on – all play a major role in determining its beauty. A perfect, symmetrical shape; a round, brilliant, well-defined color; a simple but intricate pattern; and a graceful speedily rising or falling action from a fixed point can all contribute towards beauty.
The second aspect of beauty is its affective nature. It is this aspect that gives beauty its meaning and purpose. A work of art or a beautiful scene in a painting all have an affective quality – they give pleasure to the person viewing them, or they can make another person feel something other than merely attracted by the beauty of the object. So beauty has both psychological and emotional elements. Beauty also has a physiological element: in the real world, all beautiful objects eventually become seed material for the next generation of plants or creatures. Thus, the very act of creation itself constitutes a beautyful act of beauty.
Beauty is therefore a subjective quality. Everyone has a different idea of beauty, and these ideas will differ from those held by others. The beauty standards that we hold to determine beauty are generally socialized and cultural, and are not static or universal. Beauty varies according to culture and each culture has its own definition of beauty.