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Definition Essay on Beauty

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Argumentative essay: What Is Beauty? Essay Sample
Definition Essay on Beauty
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One important source of the concept of aesthetic disinterestedness is the Third Earl of Shaftesbury's dialogue The Moralists , where the argument is framed in terms of a natural landscape: If you are looking at a lovely woman and considering her as a possible sexual conquest, you are not able to experience her beauty in the fullest or purest sense; you are distracted from the form as represented in your experience.

And Shaftesbury, too, localizes beauty to the representational capacity of the mind. For Kant, some beauties are dependent—relative to the sort of thing the object is—and others are free or absolute. The idea in particular that free beauty is completely separated from practical use and that the experiencer of it is not concerned with the actual existence of the object leads Kant to conclude that absolute or free beauty is found in the form or design of the object, or as Clive Bell put it, in the arrangement of lines and colors in the case of painting Bell By the time Bell writes in the early twentieth century, however, beauty is out of fashion in the arts, and Bell frames his view not in terms of beauty but in terms of a general formalist conception of aesthetic value.

Since in reaching a genuine judgment of taste one is aware that one is not responding to anything idiosyncratic in oneself, Kant asserts , section 8 , one will reach the conclusion that anyone similarly situated should have the same experience: Built conceptually into the judgment of taste is the assertion that anyone similarly situated ought to have the same experience and reach the same judgment.

In ethical judgments, however, the universalization is objective: The judgment conceptually entails a claim to inter-subjective validity. This accounts for the fact that we do very often argue about judgments of taste, and that we find tastes that are different than our own defective.

The influence of this series of thoughts on philosophical aesthetics has been immense. One might mention related approaches taken by such figures as Schopenhauer, Hanslick, Bullough, and Croce, for example.

We have now reached our definition of beauty, which, in the terms of our successive analysis and narrowing of the conception, is value positive, intrinsic, and objectified. Or, in less technical language, Beauty is pleasure regarded as the quality of a thing. An object cannot be beautiful if it can give pleasure to nobody: It is much as though one were attributing malice to a balky object or device. The object causes certain frustrations and is then ascribed an agency or a kind of subjective agenda that would account for its causing those effects.

Now though Santayana thought the experience of beauty could be profound or could even be the meaning of life, this account appears to make beauty a sort of mistake: It is worth saying that Santayana's treatment of the topic in The Sense of Beauty was the last major account offered in English for some time, possibly because, once beauty has been admitted to be entirely subjective, much less when it is held to rest on a sort of mistake, there seems little more to be said.

What stuck from Hume's and Kant's treatments was the subjectivity, not the heroic attempts to temper it. If beauty is a subjective pleasure, it would seem to have no higher status than anything that entertains, amuses, or distracts; it seems odd or ridiculous to regard it as being comparable in importance to truth or justice, for example. And the twentieth century also abandoned beauty as the dominant goal of the arts, again possibly in part because its trivialization in theory led artists to believe that they ought to pursue more real and more serious projects.

However, there has been a revival of interest in beauty in both art and philosophy in recent years, and several theorists have made new attempts to address the antinomy of taste. To some extent, such approaches echo G. One interpretation of this would be that what is fundamentally valuable is the situation in which the object and the person experiencing are both embedded; the value of beauty might include both features of the beautiful object and the pleasures of the experiencer.

Similarly, Crispin Sartwell in his book Six Names of Beauty , attributes beauty neither exclusively to the subject nor to the object, but to the relation between them, and even more widely also to the situation or environment in which they are both embedded. He points out that when we attribute beauty to the night sky, for instance, we do not take ourselves simply to be reporting a state of pleasure in ourselves; we are turned outward toward it; we are celebrating the real world.

On the other hand, if there were no perceivers capable of experiencing such things, there would be no beauty. Beauty, rather, emerges in situations in which subject and object are juxtaposed and connected. Alexander Nehamas, in Only a Promise of Happiness , characterizes beauty as an invitation to further experiences, a way that things invite us in, while also possibly fending us off.

The beautiful object invites us to explore and interpret, but it also requires us to explore and interpret: And Nehamas, like Hume and Kant, though in another register, considers beauty to have an irreducibly social dimension. Beauty is something we share, or something we want to share, and shared experiences of beauty are particularly intense forms of communication.

Thus, the experience of beauty is not primarily within the skull of the experiencer, but connects observers and objects such as works of art and literature in communities of appreciation. Aesthetic judgment, I believe, never commands universal agreement, and neither a beautiful object nor a work of art ever engages a catholic community.

Beauty creates smaller societies, no less important or serious because they are partial, and, from the point of view of its members, each one is orthodox—orthodox, however, without thinking of all others as heresies.

Each of the views sketched below has many expressions, some of which may be incompatible with one another. In many or perhaps most of the actual formulations, elements of more than one such account are present.

For example, Kant's treatment of beauty in terms of disinterested pleasure has obvious elements of hedonism, while the ecstatic neo-Platonism of Plotinus includes not only the unity of the object, but also the fact that beauty calls out love or adoration.

However, it is also worth remarking how divergent or even incompatible with one another many of these views are: The central idea of the Italian Renaissance is that of perfect proportion. In the human figure as in the edifice, this epoch strove to achieve the image of perfection at rest within itself.

Every form developed to self-existent being, the whole freely co-ordinated: In the system of a classic composition, the single parts, however firmly they may be rooted in the whole, maintain a certain independence. It is not the anarchy of primitive art: For the spectator, that presupposes an articulation, a progress from part to part, which is a very different operation from perception as a whole. The classical conception is that beauty consists of an arrangement of integral parts into a coherent whole, according to proportion, harmony, symmetry, and similar notions.

This is a primordial Western conception of beauty, and is embodied in classical and neo-classical architecture, sculpture, literature, and music wherever they appear. And in the Metaphysics: This view, as Aristotle implies, is sometimes boiled down to a mathematical formula, such as the golden section, but it need not be thought of in such strict terms. The Canon was not only a statue deigned to display perfect proportion, but a now-lost treatise on beauty. It also refers precisely to the sorts of harmonious and measurable proportions among the parts characteristic of objects that are beautiful in the classical sense, which carried also a moral weight.

For example, in the Sophist c-e , Plato describes virtuous souls as symmetrical. The ancient Roman architect Vitruvius gives as good a characterization of the classical conception as any, both in its complexities and, appropriately enough, in its underlying unity:. Architecture consists of Order, which in Greek is called taxis , and arrangement, which the Greeks name diathesis , and of Proportion and Symmetry and Decor and Distribution which in the Greeks is called oeconomia.

Order is the balanced adjustment of the details of the work separately, and as to the whole, the arrangement of the proportion with a view to a symmetrical result. Proportion implies a graceful semblance: This is attained when the details of the work are of a height suitable to their breadth, of a breadth suitable to their length; in a word, when everything has a symmetrical correspondence.

Symmetry also is the appropriate harmony arising out of the details of the work itself: As in the human body, from cubit, foot, palm, inch and other small parts come the symmetric quality of eurhythmy. Firstly, integrity or perfection—for if something is impaired it is ugly. Then there is due proportion or consonance. Francis Hutcheson in the eighteenth century gives what may well be the clearest expression of the view: A very compelling series of refutations of and counter-examples to the idea that beauty can be a matter of any specific proportions between parts, and hence to the classical conception, is given by Edmund Burke in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Beautiful and the Sublime:.

Turning our eyes to the vegetable kingdom, we find nothing there so beautiful as flowers; but flowers are of every sort of shape, and every sort of disposition; they are turned and fashioned into an infinite variety of forms.

But what shall we say of the peacock, who has comparatively but a short neck, with a tail longer than the neck and the rest of the body taken together? There are many ways to interpret Plato's relation to classical aesthetics. The political system sketched in The Republic characterizes justice in terms of the relation of part and whole. But Plato was also no doubt a dissident in classical culture, and the account of beauty that is expressed specifically in The Symposium —perhaps the key Socratic text for neo-Platonism and for the idealist conception of beauty—expresses an aspiration toward beauty as perfect unity.

In the midst of a drinking party, Socrates recounts the teachings of his instructress, one Diotima, on matters of love. She connects the experience of beauty to the erotic or the desire to reproduce Plato, —59 [Symposium c—e]. But the desire to reproduce is associated in turn with a desire for the immortal or eternal: Because this is the one deathless and eternal element in our mortality.

What follows is, if not classical, at any rate classic:. The candidate for this initiation cannot, if his efforts are to be rewarded, begin too early to devote himself to the beauties of the body.

First of all, if his preceptor instructs him as he should, he will fall in love with the beauty of one individual body, so that his passion may give life to noble discourse.

Next he must consider how nearly related the beauty of any one body is to the beauty of any other, and he will see that if he is to devote himself to loveliness of form it will be absurd to deny that the beauty of each and every body is the same. Having reached this point, he must set himself to be the lover of every lovely body, and bring his passion for the one into due proportion by deeming it of little or no importance.

Next he must grasp that the beauties of the body are as nothing to the beauties of the soul, so that wherever he meets with spiritual loveliness, even in the husk of an unlovely body, he will find it beautiful enough to fall in love with and cherish—and beautiful enough to quicken in his heart a longing for such discourse as tends toward the building of a noble nature.

And from this he will be led to contemplate the beauty of laws and institutions. And when he discovers how every kind of beauty is akin to every other he will conclude that the beauty of the body is not, after all, of so great moment. And so, when his prescribed devotion to boyish beauties has carried our candidate so far that the universal beauty dawns upon his inward sight, he is almost within reach of the final revelation. And if, my dear Socrates, Diotima went on, man's life is ever worth living, it is when he has attained this vision of the very soul of beauty.

Plato, —63 [Symposium a—d]. Beauty here is conceived—perhaps explicitly in contrast to the classical aesthetics of integral parts and coherent whole—as perfect unity, or indeed as the principle of unity itself. Plotinus, as we have already seen, comes close to equating beauty with formedness per se: Plotinus specifically attacks what we have called the classical conception of beauty:. Almost everyone declares that the symmetry of parts towards each other and towards a whole, with, besides, a certain charm of colour, constitutes the beauty recognized by the eye, that in visible things, as indeed in all else, universally, the beautiful thing is essentially symmetrical, patterned.

Only a compound can be beautiful, never anything devoid of parts; and only a whole; the several parts will have beauty, not in themselves, but only as working together to give a comely total. Yet beauty in an aggregate demands beauty in details; it cannot be constructed out of ugliness; its law must run throughout. All the loveliness of colour and even the light of the sun, being devoid of parts and so not beautiful by symmetry, must be ruled out of the realm of beauty.

And how comes gold to be a beautiful thing? And lightning by night, and the stars, why are these so fair? In sounds also the simple must be proscribed, though often in a whole noble composition each several tone is delicious in itself.

Plotinus, 21 [Ennead 1. This gave rise to a basically mystical vision of the beauty of God that, as Umberto Eco has argued, persisted alongside an anti-aesthetic asceticism throughout the Middle Ages: In the sixth century, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite characterized the whole of creation as yearning toward God; the universe is called into being by love of God as beauty Pseudo-Dionysius, 4. Eco quotes Suger, Abbot of St Denis in the twelfth century, describing a richly-appointed church:.

Thus, when—out of my delight in the beauty of the house of God—the loveliness of the many-colored gems has called me away from external cares, and worthy meditation has induced me to reflect, transferring that which is material to that which is immaterial, on the diversity of the sacred virtues: This conception has had many expressions in the modern era, including in such figures as Shaftesbury, Schiller, and Hegel, according to whom the aesthetic or the experience of art and beauty is a primary bridge or to use the Platonic image, stairway or ladder between the material and the spiritual.

For Shaftesbury, there are three levels of beauty: For we ourselves are notable architects in matter, and can show lifeless bodies brought into form, and fashioned by our own hands, but that which fashions even minds themselves, contains in itself all the beauties fashioned by those minds, and is consequently the principle, source, and fountain of all beauty. Schiller's expression of a similar series of thoughts was fundamentally influential on the conceptions of beauty developed within German Idealism:.

The pre-rational concept of Beauty, if such a thing be adduced, can be drawn from no actual case—rather does itself correct and guide our judgement concerning every actual case; it must therefore be sought along the path of abstraction, and it can be inferred simply from the possibility of a nature that is both sensuous and rational; in a word, Beauty must be exhibited as a necessary condition of humanity.

Beauty … makes of man a whole, complete in himself. For Schiller, beauty or play or art he uses the words, rather cavalierly, almost interchangeably performs the process of integrating or rendering compatible the natural and the spiritual, or the sensuous and the rational: But Schiller—though this is at times unclear—is more concerned with integrating the realms of nature and spirit than with transcending the level of physical reality entirely, a la Plato.

It is beauty and art that performs this integration. In this and in other ways—including the tripartite dialectical structure of the view—Schiller strikingly anticipates Hegel, who writes as follows.

The philosophical Concept of the beautiful, to indicate its true nature at least in a preliminary way, must contain, reconciled within itself, both the extremes which have been mentioned [the ideal and the empirical] because it unites metaphysical universality with real particularity.

Beauty, we might say, or artistic beauty at any rate, is a route from the sensuous and particular to the Absolute and to freedom, from finitude to the infinite, formulations that—while they are influenced by Schiller—strikingly recall Shaftesbury, Plotinus, and Plato. That is, the natural world is born of God, but the beauty of art transforms that material again by the spirit of the artist.

This idea reaches is apogee in Benedetto Croce, who very nearly denies that nature can ever be beautiful, or at any rate asserts that the beauty of nature is a reflection of the beauty of art.

As we have seen, in almost all treatments of beauty, even the most apparently object or objectively-oriented, there is a moment in which the subjective qualities of the experience of beauty are emphasized: For example, we have already seen Plotinus, for whom beauty is certainly not subjective, describe the experience of beauty ecstatically.

In the idealist tradition, the human soul, as it were, recognizes in beauty its true origin and destiny. Among the Greeks, the connection of beauty with love is proverbial from early myth, and Aphrodite the goddess of love won the Judgment of Paris by promising Paris the most beautiful woman in the world.

There is an historical connection between idealist accounts of beauty and those that connect it to love and longing, though there would seem to be no entailment either way. We have Sappho's famous fragment Plato's discussions of beauty in the Symposium and the Phaedrus occur in the context of the theme of erotic love.

Love is portrayed as a lack or absence that seeks its own fulfillment in beauty: Love is always in a state of lack and hence of desire: Then if this state of infinite longing could be trained on the truth, we would have a path to wisdom. The basic idea has been recovered many times, for example by the Romantics. It fueled the cult of idealized or courtly love through the Middle Ages, in which the beloved became a symbol of the infinite. Recent work on the theory of beauty has revived this idea, and turning away from pleasure has turned toward love or longing which are not necessarily entirely pleasurable experiences as the experiential correlate of beauty.

Both Sartwell and Nehamas use Sappho's fragment 16 as an epigraph. He calls it a fundamental condition of a finite being in time, where we are always in the process of losing whatever we have, and are thus irremediably in a state of longing. I think of beauty as the emblem of what we lack, the mark of an art that speaks to our desire.

Thinkers of the 18 th century—many of them oriented toward empiricism—accounted for beauty in terms of pleasure. In Hutcheson it is not clear whether we ought to conceive beauty primarily in terms of classical formal elements or in terms of the viewer's pleasurable response. The only Pleasure of sense, which our Philosophers seem to consider, is that which accompanys the simple Ideas of Sensation; But there are vastly greater Pleasures in those complex Ideas of objects, which obtain the Names of Beautiful, Regular, Harmonious.

Thus every one acknowledges he is more delighted with a fine Face, a just Picture, than with the View of any one Colour, were it as strong and lively as possible; and more pleased with a Prospect of the Sun arising among settled Clouds, and colouring their Edges, with a starry Hemisphere, a fine Landskip, a regular Building, than with a clear blue Sky, a smooth Sea, or a large open Plain, not diversify'd by Woods, Hills, Waters, Buildings: And yet even these latter Appearances are not quite simple.

So in Musick, the Pleasure of fine Composition is incomparably greater than that of any one Note, how sweet, full, or swelling soever. But of course the idea of pleasure could come apart from Hutcheson's particular aesthetic preferences, which are poised precisely opposite Plotinus's, for example. That we find pleasure in a symmetrical rather than an asymmetrical building if we do is contingent.

But that beauty is connected to pleasure appears, according to Hutcheson, to be necessary, and the pleasure which is the locus of beauty itself has ideas rather than things as its object.

Beauty is such an order and construction of parts as, either by the primary constitution of our nature, by custom, or by caprice, is fitted to give a pleasure and satisfaction to the soul. Indeed, by the time of Kant's Third Critique and after that for perhaps two centuries, the direct connection of beauty to pleasure is taken as a commonplace, to the point where thinkers are frequently identifying beauty as a certain sort of pleasure.

Santayana, for example, as we have seen, while still gesturing in the direction of the object or experience that causes pleasure, emphatically identifies beauty as a certain sort of pleasure. Hume and Kant were no sooner declaring beauty to be a matter of sentiment or pleasure and therefore to be subjective than they were trying to ameliorate the sting, largely by emphasizing critical consensus.

But once this fundamental admission is made, any consensus is contingent. Another way to formulate this is that it appears to certain thinkers after Hume and Kant that there can be no reasons to prefer the consensus to a counter-consensus assessment.

It follows…that there is no sense attributing objective validity to aesthetic judgments, and no possibility of arguing about questions of value in aesthetics.

All meaningful claims either concern the meaning of terms or are empirical, in which case they are meaningful because observations could confirm or disconfirm them. It merely expresses a positive attitude of a particular viewer; it is an expression of pleasure, like a satisfied sigh.

The question of beauty is not a genuine question, and we can safely leave it behind or alone. Most twentieth-century philosophers did just that. Philosophers in the Kantian tradition identify the experience of beauty with disinterested pleasure, psychical distance, and the like, and contrast the aesthetic with the practical.

Edward Bullough distinguishes the beautiful from the merely agreeable on the grounds that the former requires a distance from practical concerns: On the other hand, many philosophers have gone in the opposite direction and have identified beauty with suitedness to use. According to Diogenes Laertius, the ancient hedonist Aristippus of Cyrene took a rather direct approach. Is not then, also, a beautiful woman useful in proportion as she is beautiful; and a boy and a youth useful in proportion to their beauty?

As attractive as this philosophy may seem, we can once again find some room for error in this formulation. A common modern theory of beauty relates it to justice. With this viewpoint, something is beautiful if it portrays a sense of justice in ethics, academics, art, or a number of other mediums. Closely related to the idea of the golden ratio, justice can be seen as encapsulating balance, aesthetically-pleasing proportions, and moderation.

In truth, it can be seen as an admonition to temperance in all things. So we have seen some of the common theories concerning beauty.

We have seen that, despite there being a general consensus that beauty exists, definitions of this concept are very different from each other. Perhaps we must conclude with the admission that beauty is one of those indefinable concepts that mankind will wrestle with for millennia to come. If you would like me to write your homework essay — order here a unique custom paper written just for you! Fill in the form with your requirements and the system will give you a quote for your order.

Lindsay works as freelance writer for 8 years and is a great expert in copy-writing, editing and marketing. One of the top writers at PaperHelp. Because you are using an outdated version of MS Internet Explorer. For a better experience using websites, please upgrade to a modern web browser. Order Essay About me. Definition Essay on Beauty. Beautiful face golden ratio. Dec 17, Lindsay Fares.

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Is beauty both skin deep and in the eye of the beholder? Nehamas distinguishes between surface beauty and deep beauty. Kant thought that if we think something is beautiful then .

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Definition Essay on Beauty Beauty is a concept that has long been theorized about by a wide variety of philosophers. From the Ancient Greeks to the post-modernist Nietzche, humans throughout history have had differing perceptions of beauty.

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The nature of beauty is one of the most enduring and controversial themes in Western philosophy, and is—with the nature of art—one of the two fundamental issues in philosophical aesthetics. Beauty has traditionally been counted among the ultimate values, with goodness, truth, and justice. Beauty begins with confidence. Confidence begins with inner peace. This inner peace influences natural beauty which is all about the body and face given by God. Among women, natural beauty is merely embellished and enhanced by make up. Make up does not alter the original symmetry of the face or body.

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Although during the 20th century beauty was more likely to be conceived as an evaluative concept for art, recent philosophical interest in beauty can again be seen to exercise arguments pertaining to metaphysics, epistemology, meta-ethics, philosophy of meaning, and language in addition to philosophy of art and environmental aesthetics. This view of beauty not being universal was presented by Plato. According to his views, beauty is something that Continue reading › Definition Essay on Beauty. By Lauren Bradshaw. August 27, Sample Essays. A common English saying is that “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”. This statement is accurate in the sense that.