Beauty is most commonly defined as the aesthetic quality of certain objects, which makes these objects pleasant to see. Such objects may include sunsets, landscapes, beautiful humans and other artistic works of art. Beauty, along with beauty, is probably the oldest subject of aesthetics, among the major branches of modern philosophy. The word ‘beauty’ was first used in the French language, in the eighteenth century, by writer and poet, Maupassant.
However, the term beauty itself has several meanings. In the early part of the twentieth century, the definition of beauty had a subjective element to it, e.g., ‘beauty is man’s ideal’. Aesthetic philosophy during this period regarded beauty to be purely subjective; it was not based on any empirical foundations. However, with the developments of the social and psychological theories of psychology and sociology, beauty came to be seen as having empirical roots and it was also associated with a set of values and expectations. Beauty became associated with the realm of moral judgment. According to such moral theories beauty are a means of evaluating the worth of one’s social interaction with others and with the surrounding environment.
Beauty according to these ideas is determined by various standards. One of them is beauty as a function of human relations, according to some philosophers. Others associated beauty with the cultures in which they are found and the historical periods in which they appear. Still others related beauty with the culture in which an object originally belonged or with the time in which it was produced.
Modern aesthetic traditions have grown out of these various ideas about beauty. It can be seen in many forms, including beauty magazines, fashion shows, theatrical presentations, advertising campaigns and beauty ideals depicted in literature and cinema. However, these definitions are not uniform. There is considerable diversity across cultures in regard to beauty ideals and the importance they hold for women. Beauty, as it appears to men may be entirely different from what beauty is supposed to look like for women.
Beauty is also related to other important notions of cultural organization and power. Aesthetic ideals are generally linked to notions of traditional gender roles and sexual difference. Beauty also tends to be a part of the larger cultural norms of beauty, class and wealth.
Beauty has also played a significant role, over time, in the construction of social and cultural organizations. For instance, beauty traditions in some societies have been linked to the establishment of family units and the maintenance of communal land and inheritance. In other cases, beauty has served as a significant marker of societal achievement and social standing. Beauty is also used as a standard of value for some cultures. For instance, some cultures value beauty in the same way that they value intelligence and education.