Aesthetics and Philosophy


Beauty is a quality of objects and human beings that is pleasurable to perceive. It is typically associated with works of art, landscapes, and sunsets. It is often contrasted with ugliness, which is usually considered an undesirable aesthetic quality.

Aesthetics is one of the major branches of philosophy, concerned with defining and discussing the concept of beauty. It has an important influence on many other fields of thought, such as psychology and sociology.

Historically, many philosophers have held opposing views about what constitutes beauty. The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, for example, defined beauty as an objective property that can be attributed to an object without relying on subjective feelings and opinions. This view was opposed to the hedonist Aristippus of Cyrene, who claimed that things are only beautiful if they are suited for use or pleasure, as in a dung-basket or a woman’s dress.

The eighteenth-century British philosophers Hume and Kant argued that if an object is only considered beautiful by its own particular experiencer, it will become inaccessible to common standards. This is a serious problem because people disagree about the meaning and importance of beauty, especially when it comes to works of art.

Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic thinker who had a significant impact on Aristotle’s aesthetics, was especially influential in defining what is considered to be beauty. He connected it with the Second Person of the Trinity, who is said to “enjoy all good things.”

Aquinas also believed that something should have integrity, or be complete in its own interior logic. A realistic portrait of a woman, for instance, would not have integrity, because it violated the rules of realism. A cubist painting of the same woman, however, might have integrity, even if it was painted in a very abstract manner, because it followed its own logic of design.

Some philosophers, including George Santayana, have held that a thing is only beautiful if it makes us feel good. This is a subjectivist view that assigns subjective feelings to a thing, making it impossible to distinguish between the feeling of pleasure and the object itself.

This view was also held by the nineteenth-century French philosopher Jean-Paul Bourget, who argued that a thing is only beautiful if its qualities are conducive to enjoyment. Similarly, the 19th-century Swiss philosopher Edmund Husserl argued that a thing is only beautiful when it is suited to its purpose.

These two ideas of a thing’s use and its beauty were further developed by the 19th-century French philosopher RenĂ© Descartes, who was known as the father of modern aesthetics. He interpreted beauty as an aesthetic quality that is “pleasant to the eye and pleasing in form.”

The French philosopher Jean-Paul de Rougemont, on the other hand, took a more neutral position. He argued that a thing is only beautiful to the extent that it appeals to our senses, and therefore its appeal to us must be determined by some innate tendency, whether natural or psychological.

Another approach to defining beauty was taken by philosophers such as Edmund Husserl and John Stuart Mill. These philosophers, who were deeply influenced by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Bourget, saw that beauty could be both pleasurable and a matter of euphoria. They were also concerned with moral and political issues, arguing that the value of beauty could be derived from a deep commitment to social justice.