What Is Beauty?

Beauty is usually defined as a subjective aspect of perceived aspects of objects, which makes these perceived aspects pleasant to see. Such perceived aspects may include humans, landscapes, art and works of fine art. Beauty, along with art and aestheticism, is perhaps the oldest of the major branches of human aesthetics, one of the more popular branches of psychology. It is also one of the most debated, with some claiming it is nothing more than a subjective construct, and others arguing it is as important to the human condition as language or money. Beauty is also one of the most common traits found in many of the greatest painters, although their personal views on beauty differ greatly.


The word ‘beauty’ is derived from Greek mythology, where the goddess Aphrodite took the form of a beautiful young girl in order to seduce the mortal man of her household. In later traditions, she was transformed into the goddess Eostre, who was the goddess of beauty. Over the centuries, various definitions of beauty have been used, some historical, others rational, and some owe to the philosophy of aesthetics. The work of Michelangelo is most famous for his renaissance paintings of the idealistic description of Beauty.

According to philosophers of aesthetic theory, beauty is an objective quality, something that can be objectively measured and appreciated. Aesthetic experience is subjective, resulting from and dependent upon the ideas, attitudes, and beliefs of the beholder. For instance, an object that an objectifying creature would find beautiful would not be considered beautiful by another without this creature’s personal experiences and beliefs.

Aesthetic experience differs from physiological experience in that the former does not depend on the survival of life, while the latter does. If survival of life and bodily pain were the only factors shaping aesthetic values, beauty would likely have a relatively static definition across all cultures and eras. Fortunately, the beauty we seek is not always physical; it can be an emotional value, or it may stem from our ability to appreciate the aesthetic qualities in objects beyond our material concerns. Beauty is subjective, and just as the definition of beauty varies among different cultures, so do the ideas and emotions that constitute beauty.

Historically, beauty has been seen as feminine, graceful, civilized, serene, and obedient, while the unsavory orugary is ugly, primitive, base, and disorderly. In modern times, ugly has often been seen as representative of low intellect, while beautiful is typically associated with brilliance and sensuality. Beauty has also been associated with the status of women in society, particularly the sexual form of beauty. Beauty can therefore be associated with the desire for social status, while an unattractive face might mean that the beholder lacks the intelligence, money, social power, and beauty needed to achieve a certain level of societal approval.

Beauty, like language and music, is subjective. Just as beauty varies among individuals, beauty varies among cultures, and even between times and places. Beauty can therefore be subjective, and while the idea of beauty can never truly be defined, the sense of beauty is subjective to a great degree. Beauty is subjective, and it is up to each person to judge for themselves the degree of beauty they find in themselves, in others, and in works of art and culture.