How to Define Beauty

Beauty is often defined as a subjective feeling, the view or opinion about beauty, that makes those persons who see such objects more enjoyable to experience. These objects could be sunsets, landscapes, beautiful humans and artistic works of art. Beauty, along with personal taste and aesthetic awareness, is the most important theme of aesthetic studies, among the major branches of psychology. It has become a de facto approach towards understanding human nature and has even influenced social sciences and humanities in general to some extent.

Aesthetic theories are based on the notions that beauty is a subjective idea or concept. The most prominent of these theories are the psychoanalytic theory, the aesthetic theories, the cognitive theories and the representational theories. All these theories argue that the meaning of beauty varies depending on the cultural and individual psychological makeup of an individual or society. Beauty thus is not a universal quality that can be found in all cultures, although the physical nature of beauty is universal. Beauty therefore, differs from culture to culture.

Aesthetics research attempts to reveal the meaning of beauty by testing different aesthetic experiences. In the case of the psychoanalytic theory, the analyst will try to uncover the hidden motives of an aesthetically perfect person in relation to his/her behavior. Based on these motives, the analyst will be able to further explain the occurrence of certain behaviors that are attributed to the presence of beauty in some kinds of beings. In the other theories, aesthetic experience is measured using a combination of aesthetic standards, personal attitudes and emotions. In the cognitive theory, an individual’s interpretation of beauty is evaluated through his/her personal set of values and beliefs.

In the aesthetic theories, many questions are raised regarding the very nature of beauty. For instance, are there two kinds of beauty? What makes a beautiful being? Is there a difference between the subjective experience of beauty and the objective reality of beauty? Is there such a thing as ugly and deformed beauty?

The word “beauty” can also be used in its more general sense to describe the aesthetic qualities of things. Beauty therefore, can be seen to be an object by itself, and in addition to being a subjective quality. The beholder is then the one who decides what beauty is for him/herself. In addition, beauty can also be considered a subjective quality, in the sense that beauty in the human form is determined by the beholder, who views the object through the eyes of his/her own personal beauty-soul. Beauty then, can be defined by the beholder through the eyes of his/her own personal aesthetic sensibility.

When it comes to the problem of how to define beauty, both the psychologist and the aestheticians have an answer to the problem. To the psychologist, beauty is something that can be measured and controlled, whereas to the aestheticians, beauty is something that only can be appreciated and experienced. These answers however, are not truly answers, for there is still no definitive and established definition of beauty. Aesthetics cannot be objectively measured, only the beholder sees and knows beauty when he/she sees it. Therefore, the subjectivity of beauty still remains.

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