Beauty is defined as something that arouses the aesthetic senses. The definition is not fixed but is usually agreed upon by experts. Beauty has been associated with various things such as gender, race, body shape, colour, and age.
For example, symmetry is often cited as one of the criteria of beauty. But if you look at the same object at different times of the day, you will probably see different colors. This is due to the fact that symmetry is considered a form of beauty.
Besides the objective characteristics of an object, beauty can also be a subjective state of mind. David Hume’s Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary (1758) defines beauty as “a gentleness, a gentleness of will and sentiment. It is an acquiescence in one’s own sentiment, a will that is so inseparable from the sentiment that it is a kind of sentiment.”
A similar idea is expressed in the concept of the golden ratio. This is a Fibonacci sequence, which is also associated with the golden color. It expresses the beautiful numerical pattern in the length of limbs of well-proportioned people.
As a result of the political and social associations of beauty, it has been subject to critique and even destruction in the twentieth century. In an age of war, genocide, and wastelands, thinkers were uncertain how to reconcile beauty with these realities. They were suspicious of beauty’s distractions, and the notion that it had a higher status than entertainment sparked moral debate.
Several theorists sought to address the antinomy between taste and beauty. Kant, for example, argued that the pursuit of disinterested pleasure could be a model for achieving the unity of beauty. Hedonism is implicit in his treatment of beauty.
Another philosopher, George Santayana, espoused a view that viewed beauty as a form of pleasure. Santayana argued that the experience of beauty could be so profound that it was the meaning of life. At the same time, he pointed to a broader perspective on what constitutes the beautiful, and he emphasized that beauty is not a quality but a combination of qualities.
Finally, in a later period, theorists like Arthur Danto criticized the abandonment of beauty, particularly in the context of modernity, an era characterized by suspicion of pacifiers. Danto, who is a well-known feminist philosopher, was able to describe the phenomenon of beauty’s detachment from society in 1992.
Although the politics of beauty have been neglected in the early twentieth-century philosophy, it has become an important issue in late-twentieth-century social justice movements. Throughout the twentieth century, thinkers struggled to reconcile beauty with the age of wars and genocide, and the rise of capitalism.
Historically, treatments of beauty have tended to take ecstatic, poetic, or neo-Platonic terms. Plotinus, for instance, wrote about beauty in relation to love and longing. His account of ecstasy includes the fact that beauty calls out for love. And even the most traditional treatments of beauty have their own limitations.
However, in the 1990s, interest in beauty again grew. A large part of this revival was based on the work of art critic Dave Hickey, and there was a rise in feminist-oriented reconstruals of beauty. During this period, the art of Picasso and Schoenberg were examples of artists who challenged the conventional beauty standards.