The definition of beauty has changed over the ages, ranging from the Renaissance era when plumpness was considered a sign of wealth, to the 90s “heroin chic” waifs who were hailed as beautiful. Today’s rational understanding of beauty aims to distill beauty’s essence down to models and formulas. There are a few timeless truths about beauty, however, that endure today. Let us look at a few.
Until the eighteenth century, most philosophical accounts of beauty treated beauty as an object and not an experience. Augustine explicitly asks in his De Veritate Religione whether a thing is beautiful because it gives one pleasure. He chooses the second option. Aristotle’s definition of beauty involved the characteristics of an art object. For example, a sculpture created by Polykleitos could be aesthetically pleasing to the observer.
Alan Moore has also suggested that beauty is an important business strategy. According to his article “The Business Case for Beauty,” a strong sense of purpose helps attract creative talent and fosters effective leadership and decision-making. In addition, a company that fosters a positive workplace culture will attract more creative people and create a more engaged and happy workforce. In short, beauty is about more than money. There are other important aspects of success that can be leveraged to make a company more competitive.
Kant’s treatment of beauty includes elements of hedonism. Plotinus’ ecstatic neo-Platonism includes the unity of an object and the fact that it calls out for love. Other philosophers have linked beauty to the concept of value and utility, but the idea of beauty is not easily reduced to either of these factors. And in any case, it is essential to keep in mind the purpose of beauty.
The definition of beauty varies widely, but its most general definition is that it is a combination of qualities that please the eye and aesthetic senses. This is true for objects, people, animals, landscapes, works of art, and even ideas. Beauty is a broad and diverse topic, and is studied as an integral part of aesthetics and philosophy. It is distinguished from ugliness by defining it in terms of symmetry and harmonious relationships with nature.