What Is Beauty?
Beauty is widely defined as a subjective feature of objects which makes these objects enjoyable to see. Such objects may include sunsets, landscapes, humans and other works of art. Beauty, along with art and psychology, is perhaps the oldest discipline of aesthetics, among the major branches of science. In the broadest sense, beauty includes the pleasantness of an object, however in more complex psychological terms, it also includes the proportionate ratio of parts to their respective values.
A number of theories exist to explain what constitutes beauty. According to some theories beauty is considered art, especially if it reveals a certain ability to form or generate new or pleasant mental states. Some of these theories concern the representational aspect of beauty such as colors, forms or textures. Others consider beauty to be a physiological or psychological characteristic such as an innate quality that can be developed through training or exposure.
However, many philosophers and aestheticians have argued that beauty is nothing more than an aesthetic experience. According to them, beauty is not something we can construct or shape according to our will, but is rather a basic, inherent quality of things. According to these ideas, beauty is not a desire, something that can be attained or appreciated by the exertion of our will, but rather something which is experienced in and through the eye of the beholder.
According to recent research, the most universal definition of beauty remains that of a beautiful object. This is because beauty, as an aesthetic experience, has been found to differ across cultures and between individuals. Researchers have found, for instance, that while many American women tend to rate beauty highly, many French women place less importance on beauty – relying instead, for instance, on a simple object’s ability to stand up to wear and tear. Similarly, in India, while beauty is often associated with Hinduism, it is believed by many to be a purely aesthetic experience and not a spiritual one. Some have even gone so far as to define beauty as the absence of all meaning. Beauty, they believe, is only a subjective, superficial quality.
But although beauty is not something that we can easily pin down and measure, it does have an effect on our lives. It can determine our level of stress and anxiety, for instance, and can affect the choice and impact of various choices that we make in regard to purchasing a new car, a house, a holiday, or a new education. Beauty – independent of other criteria – gives meaning and purpose to our lives. It gives us purpose, a reason to follow our instincts and to love ourselves and others.
This is just one of many areas where the study of beauty opens up a world of exciting ideas, from the history of aesthetics to the present day, and allows us to view beauty as a complex, interdependent phenomenon. Beauty, art, and nature – each of these – have a direct effect on our emotions, our sense of well-being, and the quality of our lives. Understanding this helps us understand more fully the concepts and practices of beauty – and makes it easier to appreciate its true essence.