Philosophy of Beauty

Beauty is an integral part of our lives. For ages, philosophers have been wondering how to define beauty and ugliness. Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? How does the ancient concept of beauty compare to concepts of beauty in contemporary aesthetics and society?

Beauty is an integral part of our lives. For ages, philosophers have been wondering how to define beauty and ugliness. Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? How does the ancient concept of beauty compare to concepts of beauty in contemporary aesthetics and society? What is the role of beauty in our images/perceptions of bodies, and how does this motivate critical feminist theories of beauty?


Until the 18th century, beauty was the most important aspect of aesthetics. Socrates thought you felt pleasure from objects that were intrinsically beautiful.  He found pleasure in simple geometric shapes, single colors, and musical notes.  Plato, however, believed that beauty was an ingredient property within things. Relative beauty exists only in comparison to ugly things. Plato thought that beauty was defined by a property of the whole object.


As described in Plato's Philebus, the measure of beauty was structured and related to intelligence. Beauty is symmetry and exactness. Aristotle believed that there was no absolute beauty, but that it was based on perception. As a general term, the Greeks perceived beauty as interchangeable with excellence, perfection, and satisfaction.   Plotinus believed that beauty did not include symmetry.  However, "beauty is that which irradiates symmetry, rather than symmetry itself."

In the 16-17th centuries conditions of beauty became specific and formal.  The beauty was supposed to "arouse" the appropriate response, which was pleasure or delight.

In the 18th century Addison came up with a statement that "the taste is not to conform to the art, but the art to the taste." Focus of what beauty was changed based around a person's reaction to what the object was. Beauty was no longer the main concept in aesthetics. There were now other factors involved, basically referred to as the aesthetic perception.

A significant realization in aesthetics was sublimity. Beauty was described as an experience of "joy or cheerfulness." 

However, with a more general meaning of today, beauty is defined by an individual response to an object.

The modern philosophy of health and beauty requires a wholeness of the body, mind, and soul. Therefore, while taking care of your body you have to cultivate the inner beauty, trying to achieve the harmony of body and soul.  The physical beauty is a combination of healthy eating habits, massage and regular exercise. Beauty look comes from within and it requires good health condition.

If you are stressed and are feeling miserable and unhappy, no beauty treatment will be effective. Cristina Carlino, head of the Philosophy cosmetic company, is convinced that an unhappy person will never feel or look beautiful. Only happiness smoothes out the wrinkles and puts the thoughts in order. Happiness, according to beauty professionals, is more effective than a deluxe beauty treatment.

However, some people tend to go to another extreme - a constant self-criticism, which causes a low self-esteem. To look better these people have to take it easy on themselves and get rid of negative thoughts, and then the body and soul will come to harmony. 

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