The Meaning of Beauty
Beauty is often described as the aesthetic quality of beautiful things which make these things pleasurable to see. These things can be nature, humans, landscapes and works of art in general. Beauty, along with taste and art, is probably the most important consideration of aesthetics, among all the other branches of science. Aesthetics touches upon how we perceive and appreciate beauty in all its forms.
In aesthetic studies, beauty is defined as the essential characteristic of the things which makes us value them and are able to make a distinction between poor and good. This definition does not contemplate the importance of beauty to our being or psychological well-being, but only our aesthetic sense. We recognize beauty in things, places, and people. Subjective esthetics, which concerns the attributes of a particular object, or its essential nature and position in the natural world, is then introduced. In this way, beauty is related to the knowledge of a priori aesthetics, which concerns the study of aesthetic experience.
Defined in this way, beauty is a subjective concept and is therefore not objective in any way. Beauty however is used by some as an adjective rather than an analytical concept. Beauty has often been used to justify certain actions and expressions, such as the prejudice against beauty found in many cultures around the world. When an action or expression satisfies an aesthetic requirement, it is viewed as having beauty, regardless of whether the requirement is reasonable or not. In the case of words, beauty is used as a word meaning something desirable, pleasant, or attractive.
Beauty is therefore seen as something which some people find attractive or pleasing, while other people find it unattractive or disagreeable. Most people, however, fall somewhere between these positions, making beauty a subjective experience dependent upon the individual’s own tastes and desires. The beauty of a work of art, for example, will appeal to the aesthetically-inclined, while an object with no aesthetic appeal will appeal to the otherwise-inclined. Aesthetic beauty is therefore relative, with each individual being able to describe his or her own personal aesthetic experience in different ways. Beauty, as an aesthetic object, can only be objectively defined, and there are no underlying subjective qualities that can be considered to define beauty.
One way to understand how different theories concerning beauty relate to each other is to consider how each defines beauty. Most theories about beauty present a priori criteria, such as how objects with certain qualities are regarded to be beautiful. The theories concerning beauty most closely resemble a standard moral judgment, which makes a distinction between what is beautiful and what is not, while also examining the aesthetic experience in terms of whether or not the chosen standard of beauty is reasonable.
An interesting tension exists between beauty and aesthetic appreciation, as some believe that beauty is purely subjective and therefore not related to the person who sees it, while others believe that beauty is a necessary and integral part of the person’s experience. In the last few decades, however, new methods of research have attempted to prove that beauty is something that is objective and dependent on the person who perceives it. These theories suggest that beauty is not a matter of opinion or personal preference but something that is inherent to the physical world. If so, then beauty would be a type of electromagnetic field or wave, for instance. However, as these theories still have not been completely verified, the debate between beauty and truth will probably continue.