Beauty is a concept that has long been theorized about by a wide variety of philosophers. From the Ancient Greeks to the post-modernist Nietzche, humans throughout history have had differing perceptions of beauty. In this essay, we will examine the nature of beauty and try to formulate a working definition for it.
Among the first persons to examine the idea of beauty in writing, the Ancient Greeks had a very interesting conception of what it consisted of. Their term for beauty can perhaps best be described as connoting youthfulness. Although this correlation of beauty with youthfulness may seem wise, we can easily “poke holes” in this over-simplistic theory. In truth, a person can have an appearance that is not in the least bit aesthetically pleasing, with that same person also possessing a great deal of youthfulness. Due to this fact, we cannot say that beauty exclusively refers to youthfulness, although we must admit that youthfulness is often a component of beauty.
Other Ancient Greeks, particularly the Pythagoreans, conceived of beauty as connoting balanced ratios and proportions. Specifically, the Pythagoreans asserted that items or persons who exhibit the “golden ratio” seem to be more “beautiful.” In light of such theorizing on the Pythagoreans’ part, many Ancient Greek architects and sculptors sought to portray the golden ratio in their work. With this information in mind, we may be able to say that the presence of golden ratios connotes beauty, although this statement on our part should not be seen as being unchallengeable.
Beautiful face golden ratio
Later on in history, particularly during the era of the Enlightenment, beauty began to be more associated with metaphysical concepts. For example, several Enlightenment philosophers and artists strove to tie beauty to the idea of truth. They asserted that if something was true, then that thing was beautiful. As attractive as this philosophy may seem, we can once again find some room for error in this formulation. We can easily conceive of “ugly truths,” facts that possess a great deal of veracity but which are unpleasing to contemplate or behold. Due to this, we must come to the conclusion that “beauty as truth” may be a situational concept.
A common modern theory of beauty relates it to justice. With this viewpoint, something is beautiful if it portrays a sense of justice in ethics, academics, art, or a number of other mediums. Closely related to the idea of the golden ratio, justice can be seen as encapsulating balance, aesthetically-pleasing proportions, and moderation. In truth, it can be seen as an admonition to temperance in all things.
So we have seen some of the common theories concerning beauty. We have seen that, despite there being a general consensus that beauty exists, definitions of this concept are very different from each other. Perhaps we must conclude with the admission that beauty is one of those indefinable concepts that mankind will wrestle with for millennia to come.
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The word “beauty” can mean an unlimited amount of things to so many people. Some people see beauty as a woman with a small figure, with her hair and makeup done like that of a model in a magazine. Others may see beauty as more of an internal asset, such as a woman giving more to this world than she knows she’ll ever get back. Still, many others may see beauty as something that is unattainable because the definition of it is so ironically undefined and ambiguous, that it may even be seen as non-existent. Beauty is extremely versatile and its definition is often debated because beauty has unlimited definitions. No one’s definition of beauty is wrong. However, it does exist and can be seen with the eyes and felt with the heart.
The first and most commonly referred to definition of beauty is external beauty, or superficial beauty. “Beauty is only skin-deep”, as some people may say. The general public typically views beauty as something that often must be seen to be believed; a girl is not pretty unless she can prove it with appearance. “In the perpetual “body image debate” on Xanga and in the world, there are frequently posts that say, basically: “All sizes can be beautiful! It’s what’s inside that counts anyways!” Multiple commenters will agree with them, and everyone descends into gooey e-group-hugs.
What they’re trying to do… is nice. I won’t argue with “all sizes can be beautiful”– I have my preferences and you have yours, and ideally we won’t bash one group or the other despite those preferences. I also won’t argue with “what’s inside counts,” because it’s obvious that one’s personality directly affects the way one is able to bond with people over time. But, to those who try to proclaim “looks don’t matter,” I say: Bullshit.” (Walker 2010). Whether this mentality is seen as ethically wrong or not, it IS a mentality and it IS acknowledged. If a person believes beauty is solely defined by physical appearance, then that is their individual opinion, and cannot be taken away from them, or marked as “wrong”.
The second form of beauty, most naturally comes to mind as what’s known as “internal beauty”. You’ll most often hear things like “It’s what on the inside that matters!” “Happy girls are the prettiest!” and the infamous “You have a great personality and that’s what matters!” Internal beauty IS what’s on the inside, obviously. Internal beauty is personality, charisma, lovingness, generosity; all the characteristics that typically make a person “beautiful” on the inside. “As I grew up, I began to realize outer beauty was not so important to make someone good. I remember a friend of mine who was so beautiful that every classmate wanted to talk with her, but she was very arrogant. She believed that she could do everything she wanted because she was so beautiful, but she lost friends one by one. My poor friend! But she learned a good lesson: inner beauty is more important than outer beauty. After she learned that, she changed her attitude and made friends again.” (Ji 2010). Many people still believe that inner beauty is as important as outer beauty, while still some believe it is more important. This mentality is not wrong because it makes sense to the people that believe it. It must be acknowledged whether people think personality is more important than makeup, or not.
And still, some people believe and feel that beauty can only be defined by the person who feels it. In other words, my internal and external beauty is examined and defined by the rest of the world, without me having anything to say about it. This particular definition says that that individual person, in this example being me; that I get to say whether I’m beautiful or not based off of how I feel, not the rest of the world, based off of one or both of the previous definitions. It is simply, what you define yourself as. “I know I looked beautiful that morning. Perhaps not to the young man holding his toddler in his arms who rode the elevator with me; perhaps not to the friend I met for lunch, a true believer in Botox; perhaps not to passersby on the street; but I knew it for a certainty. I was beautiful. I don’t believe that inner beauty is sufficient in this cruel world.
That’s the pap one tells a child. I don’t believe that positive thinking improves your skin tone or that loving or being loved changes the shape of your nose or restores the thickness and color of hair, but I do know that there is a way of being beautiful, even as age takes its toll, that has something to do with the spirit filling with joy, something to do with the union with another human being, with the sense of having done well at something enormously important, like making happy a man who has made you happy often enough.” (Roiphe 2012).
Beauty cannot be defined as a single thing. It has no bounds; no limits as to say how beautiful something or someone can be, or if it’s beautiful or not. Beauty can’t be erased because it is forever living. No person sees it the exact same way. No one’s definition of it is incorrect because it has many definitions. Beauty exists, and can be felt more and more ways every day of our lives.
Ji, EunSuk. “Inner Beauty Is the Real Beauty – TOPICS Online Magazine | ESl/EFL | Sandy and Thomas Peters.” Inner Beauty Is the Real Beauty – TOPICS Online Magazine | ESl/EFL | Sandy and Thomas Peters. N.p., 07 Dec. 2010. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. .
Roiphe, Anne. “What Makes Me Feel Beautiful.” Real Simple. N.p., 13 Aug. 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. .
Walker, Alexia. “Outer Beauty Totally Matters (Don’t Try to Deny It).” lovelyish.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov 2013. .