Beauty – An Emotionalism
Beauty is commonly defined as the subjective perception of pleasing qualities that makes such objects enjoyable to see. Such objects may include sunsets, landscapes, beautiful humans and artistic works of art. Beauty, along with beauty, is perhaps the most important area of aesthetics, among the major fields of philosophy. In aesthetic theory, beauty is a principal constituent of culture, with culture being the primary source of social meaning and interpersonal significance.
There are three broad perspectives on beauty in aesthetic theory. The first is classical idealism which believes that beauty is independent of human cognitive and emotional experience and is independent of any physical basis. The second is pragmatism, which believes that beauty exists as a product of human interaction with the external world and thus independent of any physical criteria. The third is objectivist idealism which believes that beauty is inherent to the mind of the observer and not something that can be measured. All three theories share a common anti-realism, which rules out the possibility of determining beauty through any objective means.
According to the philosophers, beauty is a subjective experience and not an objective reality. For this reason, an aesthetic evaluation of a work of art does not attempt to objectively measure the aesthetic quality or value of a work by its creator, the critics or the audience. For aesthetic appreciation to occur, there must be a subject and an object. Thus, an aesthetic evaluation of a painting or a sculpture does not refer to the beauty factor attributed to a work by a critic, a painter or the audience, but to the subject created by the artist which is the object of aesthetic appreciation.
Modern aesthetics differs from ancient aesthetic theories in several important respects. In the first place, although the object of aesthetic appreciation is largely the physical beauty of things, the emphasis in modern aesthetics is on the presence and value of the human element in the creation of beauty. This is a logical development of the philosophy of beauty from Plato who argued that the only important thing is the beauty of the Socrates. In the Phaedrus, the pre-Socrates Greek philosopher, Plato argued that only beauty was legitimate art because it had some divine element, unlike logos which was merely the arts generated by man.
In the post-Socratics, aesthetics became a philosophical study concerned with the representations of the human subject as seen through the human eye. Because the physical world cannot be represented visually, man developed the faculty of seeing beauty in the world rather than merely in objects of sight. As a result, aesthetic concepts including beautifulness, ugliness, and truth became important aspects of philosophical study.
Beauty is thus a subjective concept, and it differs from, and in some ways precludes, the objective view of beauty in the form of quantitative values such as beauty classifications or aesthetic tastes. Beauty therefore may be defined in various philosophical viewpoints as an abstract quality, a representational quality, a relation between things that are observed or described, or even as an emotional state that involves joy, sorrow, and satisfaction. No matter how these different definitions are chosen, beauty remains the most meaningful and important of all aesthetic concepts for the modern person.