Beauty is commonly defined as a subjective aspect of natural objects which makes these objects aesthetically pleasing to view. These objects could be natural landscapes, sunsets, beautiful humans or magnificent works of art. Beauty, along with individual taste and art, is the most important topic of aesthetics, among the various branches of modern philosophy.
The definition of beauty as determined by the personal taste of an individual has been around for over two thousand years. In the late eighteen hundreds the term was first used by the poet Coleridge. According to Coleridge, beauty was a “swan’s song”, a quality that could be possessed by all humans irrespective of race or religion. According to Coleridge, beauty is an intangible and subjective quality that can be perceived, measured and appreciated. Although the beauty of a thing may be the idea of beauty according to some people, the notion of beauty as such cannot be quantified or even tested.
The very concepts of beauty are highly subjective. This suggests that beauty is something that is individually personal and thus not subject to any standard or convention. It is therefore not a concept that can be objectively measured or studied. Beauty therefore is not a concept that we can construct in any way. We cannot even identify an exact and measurable quantity that would classify a work of art as being beautiful.
Defined as a personal and subjective concept, beauty is thus difficult to define. In fact, the ideas of beauty are so varied that beauty itself is difficult to locate. There is no universally accepted meaning of beauty that can be assigned to a collection of artistic creations. Defined as an emotion, beauty can also vary widely between individuals, cultures, genres, and time periods.
Beauty however is not a purely emotional concept. Emotions are usually connected with mental processes and the process of evaluating the aesthetic value of something can also involve the thoughts and feelings of a person about the value of that object. Thus the concept of beauty as something that is purely emotional is not strictly true. Beauty can depend on both cognitive and emotional elements and thus we find that beauty can be defined through the application of a number of different psychological theories.
An artistic value can be derived from the aesthetic value of a work of art or from the appreciation of the visual beauty of a painting or sculpture. A value system may be defined as the evaluation of the beauty of a work based on its cultural, social, and political context. Another important aspect of beauty is beauty’s affective meaning. According to this concept, beauty has psychological and emotional elements that are independent of the beauty object. Beauty therefore can be defined as a subjective concept that depends on and impacts on the individual definition of beauty.