Philosophy of Beauty
Beauty is often described as the aesthetic quality of certain objects which makes these objects aesthetically pleasing to see. Such objects may include sunsets, nature, humans and artistic works of art. Beauty, along with beauty, is the most significant consideration of aesthetics, one of, if not, the most important branches of visual philosophy. The word ‘beauty’ is derived from the Latin ‘gaudium’, which means enjoyment or delight. It is believed that the term was first used in relation to art, and has since then been expanded to include all the aesthetic values regarding the human form, including emotions, attitudes, behavior and the like.
Philosophy concerning aesthetics is generally divided into two areas: naturalism and aestheticism. Naturalism regards the world as it is, unadulterated and without any supernatural entities such as gods, demons or aliens having an influence on its description and structure. According to this school of thought, all forms of beauty are purely physical, thus rejecting the existence of emotions, moods or subjective states in determining the beauty of things. The other school of thoughts is known as aestheticism, which upholds the existence of a distinction between the object’s being beautiful for the purposes of human tastes and being beautiful for its own sake.
We may classify all aesthetics in two general styles: subjective and objective. Subjective aesthetics are the personal and subjective standards of beauty established by the beauty beholder. On the other hand, objective aesthetic value is the standard of beauty established by scientific methods, such as experimentation, scientific methodology and analysis of data. Beauty, in this sense, is considered to be a primary, and not secondary, quality. Beauty, according to this line of thought, exists independent of the wishes, inclinations or personal experiences and can only be known through experience. Thus, Beauty can only be universally defined by the person who has experienced it.
Aesthetic experience is one of the basic preoccupations of mankind since antiquity; it is a way of approaching life that seeks to define and appreciate it. Philosophy of art therefore is an important part of any comprehensive philosophical study of aesthetics. The history of aesthetic philosophy can be traced back to early Egyptian, Greek and Roman days. The concepts of beauty expressed in the works of these ancient cultures prove to be influential to present-day aesthetic theories. Through the ages and across cultures, different definitions and interpretations of beauty evolved, with each culture drawing on examples from the works of the other.
During the 19th century, however, there was a movement towards rationalism when aesthetics became associated with scientific inquiry and criticism. The discipline became better known as the study of nature and man’s place in it. In the 20th century, the French romanticist Albert Camille coined the term ‘analytical’ to describe the search for the ‘beauty’ in things. The French school of aesthetic philosophy denies the existence of an aesthetic meaning or purpose in art, believing that beauty is something that arises out of the given environment. The work of such philosophers as Sartre and de Saussure lays the basis for much of our modern aesthetics. The concepts of beauty express universal ideas about the human condition.
The search for the beautiful has become as famous as the quest for God. When someone seeks to find the beautiful, what they are really looking for is something that belongs to the natural order of things, just as the aim is to look like something that belongs to the natural order of things. Philosophy of beauty therefore becomes a sort of religion as it paves the way for many different understandings of beauty. Modern aesthetic theories continue to discuss the relationship between aesthetic objects and the culture they represent. It also examines how a technological object can fail to meet the standards of beauty. Aesthetic philosophy continues to influence artistic standards across genres, as new ideas are discovered and critiqued.