Identifying Beauty

Beauty is commonly defined as a subjective feature of things which makes these things pleasurable to see. These things include sunsets, landscapes, beautiful humans and creative works of art. Beauty, along with beauty, is the primary topic of aesthetic, one of the most important branches of fine arts, one of the few branches of psychology. According to the many schools of thought on this matter, we come into existence as distinct beings having certain attributes which are defined as physical and mental qualities. These attributes, however, are not unique to human beings; other animals display similar characteristics. A common theme running through all the arguments is that beauty is an emotion, and that the aesthetic sense is a more refined form of emotion which react to the physical and the natural environment.

Aristotle defines beauty as beauty in the form of beauty of form. According to him, the beauty is the true value of a thing, which, when seen in real form, arouses in the beholder an emotion of pleasure which he calls ’emotion of beauty’. This view of beauty, adopted by most modern philosophers, appears to contradict the traditional view of beauty as something entirely dependent on the physical appearance of an object. In fact, the modern philosopher John Locke said that the only thing that is beautiful is the absence of anything which could be seen as beautiful; beauty being, according to him, something emotional and personal, and not something physical.

In recent years the word ‘beauty’ has become associated with all those appealing or attractive things that make the world go round; and the definition given by many aestheticians includes in it all the lovely objects that can be found in nature. It also includes, however, the attractiveness of a person, his/her dress, and his/her behavior. Beauty, as the aesthetic thinker defines it, consists of several subjective qualities – the ability to be seen in real form, the ability to be appreciated, the ability to please, and the ability to survive. Beauty also includes several subjective qualities, such as the quality of health, happiness, strength and vigor, beauty found in bodily features, and the beauty of simplicity, harmony and cleanliness.

Subjective theories of beauty differ widely from the objective theories of beauty. For instance, while some aestheticians believe that beauty lies mainly in the facial expression, some others deny this. Others regard symmetry as an important constituent of beauty, while many philosophers deny beauty altogether. It is often difficult to find a middle ground between these various theories, especially when confronted face-to-face. Thus most aesthetic experiences are, on the one hand, subjective and individual, and on the other hand, objective and empirical.

Beauty is also a subjective experience; therefore, the beholder of beauty may differ greatly from the beholder of skin disease. We all come with a predisposition to what is beautiful, irrespective of our race or nationality. In addition, the aesthetic experiences of individuals vary as they grow older. This has led dermatologists to develop complex concepts of beauty, including the idea that there is something genetically or physiologically specific about the way in which our skin reacts to certain stimuli.

These days, the discussion about beauty continues to rage between those who would define beauty and those who would define it. There is no easy way to settle the debate. Some claim that beauty is a given, inherent quality, while others insist that it is a personal preference. The arguments will likely continue until a consensus emerges that beauty is largely a subjective experience, determined by the beholder.

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