Beauty is a term loosely defined as an aesthetic quality of things that makes these things aesthetically pleasing to perceive. These things may include sunsets, landscapes, beautiful humans and artistic works of art. Beauty, along with beauty, is probably the most important theme of aesthetics, arguably the most important branch of visual culture. According to some, beauty is subjective; however, aesthetic beauty is universally accepted as the essence of aesthetic culture. It is argued that beauty depends on human perceptions rather than on any underlying forces or concepts. The concept of beauty varies greatly from one culture to another, as do its applications and definitions.
In the early twentieth century, an aesthetic theory known as the “classical idealism” was developed to explain how beauty could be defined and appreciated. According to this idea, beauty is determined by a set of abstract principles that are independent of personal points of view. These abstract principles are then translated into popular ideas, such as beauty being independent of gender and ethnicity, being the product of natural processes, and having nothing to do with culture. By applying the theory of classical idealism to aesthetic judgments, the twentieth century gave birth to several definitions of beauty that differ tremendously between different cultures.
The ideas of beauty are often used to criticize beauty. Because beauty is seen as a subjective concept, beauty critics seek to determine if beauty exists independently of human perspectives. According to the majority of beauty critics, beauty exists in the world and is not a subjective concept, but is a property of reality that is shared by all people, regardless of their race, color, and/or culture. Therefore, beauty is a quality that can be found in all things, regardless of race, color, or culture.
A number of philosophers define beauty – both theoretically and historically – with reference to art. According toophenomenology, beauty exists in objects because their physical nature is defined in similar ways by all objects. Furthermore, philosophers distinguish between beauty – a quality – a particular quality that one admires in objects. The beauty – a quality – is not a property of an object because it does not derive from its physical nature. Beauty then is a quality that can be learned and developed through experience.
A second definition of beauty is beauty as the summation of the qualities of a given object – a quality or some independent entity that bears the same relation to the object as do the parts that make up that object. By contrast, an object cannot be a beauty because it is not a part or a quality and cannot share a common quality with parts. This second view of beauty differs from the first one in that the quality of an object that has parts cannot be equated to the quality of the whole object.
Contemporary beauty philosophy continues to expand the range of acceptable opinion of beauty. In recent years, more philosophers have been associated with aesthetic study than in earlier times. Philosophy of beauty continues to offer a variety of new perspectives on the definition of beauty and its significance for the individual, society, and culture.