Beauty is the subjective state of being pleasing to the senses. Beauty is typically defined as the aesthetic quality of certain objects, which makes these objects pleasant to see. Such objects may include nature, humans, landscapes and artistic works of art. Beauty, along with beauty and art, is the basis of aesthetics, one of mankind’s oldest fields of philosophy. It is also one of the most difficult topics of study for those who have not experienced it.
In the history of Western Philosophy, several different philosophers addressed the question of beauty with varying levels of sophistication. Plato argued that beauty was a mental state which required to be intellectualized, while others like Aristotle argued that beauty was a physical quality that could be objectively measured and appreciated. In recent years, however, some new aesthetic concepts have surfaced in literature and arts which challenge both the scope and necessity of the philosophical approach to beauty.
According to some new philosophies of aesthetics, beauty is something that can be found in nature, in the work of art of an artist and in the interactions of human beings in the world around them. By using a variety of tools such as science and computers, these philosophers argue that we can easily appreciate the beauty of the natural world without having to approach Philosophy from a purely subjective perspective. Other philosophers suggest that we can appreciate beauty without having to commit to any particular philosophy or view of beauty. The idea behind this approach to aesthetics is that there are no hard and fast rules with regards to the definition of beauty.
Aesthetic experiences are subjective, therefore, they cannot be objectively measured. However, some philosophers note that even when an aesthetic experience can be objectively measured, the subjective nature of such measurements makes them meaningless because an aesthetic object may still be perceived as beautiful in its untutored state. This suggests that the very definition of beauty itself can be subjective. Another way to look at this problem is that while philosophy may offer some definition of beauty through the use of logos, these symbols can themselves be subject to personal interpretation and thus fail to provide a complete picture of beauty.
One of the most common and least problematic of the three approaches to aesthetics is that which suggests that beauty can be found in the everyday world. Theories of aesthetic experiences to draw on the idea that we can find beauty in the things that are encountered in our day-to-day lives, in the natural world, in architecture, in art and in interaction with other people. Some of these theoretical aesthetic concepts draw on the work of Sigmund Freud, who suggested that the basis for determining beauty lies in the desire for distinction, and that the definition of beauty depends on what separates the worst from the best. Other aesthetic concepts draw on ideas of romanticism and representational art.
The other two main theories of aesthetics – representational and cognitive – argue that beauty is determined by the human ability to understand and make sense of the world around us. Thus, these theories postulate that beauty is a mental state that can be understood and appreciated. In this way, it is meant that those with a greater ability to engage with the objects around them will be more aesthetically satisfied than those who cannot relate to, comprehend, or appreciate the beauty presented to them. The other approach to aesthetics – progressive aesthetics – makes use of technological innovations to create new experiences in its study. These newer aesthetic concepts relate to such technologies as computers and video games to create a deeper understanding of beauty.