The Meaning of Beauty
The word beauty is a subjective term. It means something you like. It could also mean having an attractive appearance. Beauty is usually defined as a natural feature of things which makes these things aesthetically pleasing to notice. These things could include sunsets, landscapes, beautiful humans and other works of art. Beauty, along with beauty and art, is perhaps the most significant part of aesthetics, among the most important branches of contemporary philosophy.
The word beauty in the wider sense of the term can be used to describe aesthetic beauty, but it is more commonly used to refer to the aesthetic quality of a thing. It can therefore be seen as the quality or character of things being looked at or the receptivity with which they are viewed. In this way beauty is a purely subjective term with no reference to any particular culture, nationality, race or even physical constitution.
What then is beauty? Beauty is a subjective idea, which has many different, though equally important, elements which make it what it is. Among the most important elements are color, line, form and the relative sizes of the visual object and its relation to the whole. Other important elements are the essential characteristics of each object, its relation to men (or to humanity as a whole), the mood that it evokes and so on. Beauty is thus a very complex concept and as such we cannot properly describe it in just one sentence.
It is for this reason that the word beauty varies according to different cultures. In one society it might be beauty in its strictest sense, while in another it might be the aesthetic experience one has after watching a beautiful film or while sipping a glass of wine. A truly objective assessment of beauty, however, would be that which is determined by the personal taste of an individual. Everyone has her own personal criterion of what she considers to be beautiful – her own idea of beauty, her own personal taste. Beauty, then, can only be subjective and therefore not actually objective.
Subjective beauty differs from objective beauty in the sense that the object is not given a value independent of the aesthetic experience that the beholder associates with it. For example, it would not be wrong to say that the beauty of a work of art is in the eyes of the beholder. Yet this is not the only criterion for determining beauty. Another important criterion is the relation between the object and the human subject. In the case of beauty there are two principles: that the human mind finds beauty in a work of art which satisfies some need that it has (the need to have a mental enjoyment) and that the work satisfies this need in some way that the creator of the work has chosen to symbolize or illustrate or represent in some way.
Thus beauty is subjective, not objective. Whether beauty exists depends on how an aesthetic person interprets beauty. Whether beauty is valuable depends on the worth of human life and, to some extent, on the worth of culture. And the value of beauty varies, sometimes enormously, from one culture and time to another. It is therefore the subject of great debate among aesthetic people of varying cultures and times.