The Concept of Beauty

Beauty is an important and often elusive concept. It is sometimes seen as a combination of qualities, such as symmetry, proportion and harmony, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially sight. It can also be viewed as something that is intangible, such as a feeling of well-being or pleasure. It is a subject that has been addressed by many philosophers and writers.

Philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and Hume have explored the concept of Beauty. They have each offered different definitions and ideas on its nature and origins.

In Plato’s view, the beauty we experience comes from a realm beyond our physical world, which he calls the Realm of Forms. This makes it more objective than the physical world we live in. In contrast, Hume suggests that beautiful objects are subjective and that everyone has a unique interpretation of beauty. He proposes that great examples of good taste emerge, and that people with wide experience tend to agree on what is beautiful.

As female consciousness gained a critical edge in twentieth-century societies, it became clear that beauty had been bound up with oppressive images of the feminine subject. Women were often objectified and defined by cultural fetishes, for example the idealised image of the virgin Mary, or the perfect (sexualized) body shape.

Contemporary aesthetics does not generally treat Beauty as a central concern, and it can feel as though the concept has been banished from human experience. However, there are serious endeavours to restore Beauty to its place in the pleasurable enjoyment of nature and artistic creations. Beauty is also an important concept for businesses, as the Temkin survey shows that customers who experience a company’s beauty are more likely to buy more and recommend it to friends.

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