Beauty Essay

1251 words - 5 pages

Beauty: Universal or Subjective? "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder;" this "˜beholder' theory represents a subjec-tive view of beauty. Throughout the course of history, the debate over whether judg-ments of beauty are subjective or universal has troubled many philosophers. Are judg-ments of beauty "objective statements about genuine features of the world or purely sub-jective expressions of personal attitudes?" (Kemerling).Beauty is a "quality philosophers find hard to define." Although the standard definition of beauty is that it is the "quality of things which pleases or delights the senses or intellect" (xrefer"""˜Beauty'), most philosophers are not so quick to assign a standard definition to this puzzling term. For instance, George Santayana, an American philoso-pher, said, "Beauty as we feel it is something indescribable; what it is or what it means can never be said" (Garofalo).In an attempt to explore the topic of beauty, a new division of philosophy was formed; Aesthetics is the study of beauty and "the nature of the values which are found in the feelings aspects of experience" (Butler, 46). Aesthetics is concerned with the "es-sence and perception of beauty and ugliness" ("˜Aesthetics').In Proverbs 31:30, the New International Version of The Holy Bible says, "Beauty is fleeting," which is a subjective view that many theorists have held. They say that beauty is subjective, not objective, stating that "concepts of beauty vary"¦from per-son to person, [and] ideas of beauty are closely entwined with values and expectations held in particular communities" (xrefer"""˜Beauty'). Aesthetic preference varies not only with individuals and cultures, but also with different historical eras. An object might be "appreciated by one society or in one period and be rejected by another society or in an-other period" (Kovach, 68).The subjectivist insists that beauty "resides in the feelings of individual men," and if this is true, beauty also varies by culture because "the feelings of individual men are molded by the culture in which those men reside" (Jarrett, 30). However, modern objec-tivist philosopher Pete Wagner believes that "beauty in the subconscious wouldn't be in-consistent with the slightly varying standards of beauty existing across different cul-tures." He says, "The true nature of beauty must be more fundamental"¦beauty must have to be in some way a universal concept" (Wagner).The first aesthetic theory was that of Plato ("˜Aesthetics'), who once said that beauty "manifests itself only in rare and fleeting instances" (Solomon, 650). Plato came up the most logical of all the aesthetic philosophies, that beauty could not be defined, and "western ideas about beauty may be traced back to Plato" (xrefer"""˜Beauty').3rd Century philosopher Plotinus said, "When we encounter beauty, we must real-ize that its source is within, and leave the physical world behind to see the beauty of the...

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