The Ancient Greeks and Modern Aesthetics


The Ancient Greeks valued beauty highly. Aristotle described the chief forms of beauty, defining them as order, symmetry, and definiteness. Aristotle’s definition is often translated as the ‘Golden ratio’, a set of proportions found in nature and applied to visual culture. Modern aesthetics takes the Golden ratio one step further by defining it as:

A classical conception of beauty consists of the arrangement of integral parts into a coherent whole. This is the original, earliest conception of beauty in the Western world, and it is reflected in classical architecture, sculpture, literature, and music. According to Aristotle in his Metaphysics and Poetics, order and symmetry are the chief forms of beauty. Beauty is also a way of life; it connects the individual to their surroundings and to the communities of people who value beauty.

The ancient Greeks believed in the idea of beauty in spirit and form. Helen of Troy was regarded as the most beautiful woman in Greek mythology. In addition to beauty in form, ancient Greek architecture is based on symmetry and proportion. The Ancient Greeks recognized the importance of symmetry and asymmetry in architecture, which still inspires modern designers. This concept of beauty has been interpreted as an important theme throughout history. With the advent of digital technology, we can now create a more beautiful world.

The concept of beauty varies from culture to culture. Various philosophers have explored the concept of beauty in different ways. Kant’s treatment of beauty is characterized by hedonism, while Plotinus’ ecstatic neo-Platonism focuses on the unity of the object and the fact that it calls for love. Other philosophers associate beauty with function or use. For example, some say that beauty is the ability to make an object useful, while others say that beauty is the object of the eye.

In Aristotle’s time, most philosophical accounts of beauty treated beauty as an objective quality and found it in the beautiful object itself. However, Augustine explicitly asks in De Veritate Religione whether things are beautiful because they give the observer delight. Augustine chose the second option. While both Plato and Aristotle emphasized the importance of aesthetic experience, their views are fundamentally different. Both philosophers emphasized the importance of identifying beauty as a characteristic of art objects.