What Is Beauty – Philosophy and The Body
Beauty is widely defined as an attribute of certain objects which makes those objects pleasurable to see. Such objects may include sunsets, landscapes, humans and creative works of art. Beauty, along with personal taste and aesthetic sense, is the most significant part of aesthetic science, among the major branches of psychology. It is also considered the most significant factor in creating art.
According to the three aesthetics perspectives: the aesthetic objectivity view, the emotional approach and the communicative approach, beauty lies in the subjective experience of the beholder. The objectivity approach takes no account of personal attributes of the object being aesthetically evaluated; the emotional approach examines the emotional response one feels upon having the opportunity to view or appreciate a beautiful object; while the communicative approach considers both the aesthetic and verbal elements of communication, as well as other relevant factors such as emotions, gestures and tone of voice when forming an evaluation of a beautiful object. The three aesthetics perspectives also share some similar ideas about the meaning of beauty. For instance, in aesthetics science, beauty is determined not only by physical aspects such as shape and color, but also by cultural traditions and personal expectations. In some cases, beauty is also understood to be the product of human imagination and creativity.
According to the classical view, beauty consists in the proportion and symmetry of the parts in a work of art or in a physical arrangement of things in nature. In this system, art and beauty are essentially the same thing. Aristotle’s definition of beauty in his “Philosophus Autodidactus” as “the sweet and wonderful image or representation of things divine” fits perfectly into the classical aesthetics system. Later, Christopher Alexander, using the language of mythology and art, defines beauty in his “Metaphysica”, a work of post-classical poetry.
A more progressive view on the relationship between aesthetics and philosophy is attributable to the work of Jean-Martin Charcot, who became famous for his critique of anatomy. Unlike Aristotle, whose philosophy emphasized the idea of creation ex nihilo (from the word species being the first derivative of a genus), philosophers of modern aesthetics agree with Charcot that beauty is a natural function. The primary function of aesthetic values is to regulate the functioning of the visual system, so that it may adjust itself to the changes in the external environment.
According to Max Weber, we do not see beauty because we can enjoy certain pleasures without pain, but because we cannot avoid seeing objects as they truly are. He claims that the “view of beauty” is not based on any sort of emotion at all, but on reason, and he says that the emotional element of pleasure is decisive for the appreciation of beauty. According to Weber, we see beauty when there is harmony between sight and feeling, and when the objects of sight are in accord with what they are intended to convey. Beauty, then, does not consist in the attainment of a particular aesthetic quality by the human eye, but consists rather in the ability of the human mind to recognize and respond to beauty.
Philosophers have offered many different responses to the question ‘what is beauty?’ Some have said that beauty consists in the bodily features of a person or in the bodily defects that a person might be born with; others have said that beauty consists in virtue and in the end only in ability and in intelligence, while some have said that the only thing we can actually measure is beauty, and that the others are merely labels or concepts. In his book The Wounded Healer, David Shannon asks, “What is Beauty? “.