The Philosophy of Beauty
Beauty has been a topic of great interest in philosophy for thousands of years, but it’s become a particularly popular one lately as our fascination with the subject grew and we began to notice an increasing number of cosmetic products labelled ‘fragrance-free’, ‘paraben-free’ or ‘organic’. With the rise of a new kind of consumer who has grown to care about what they put on their skin, it might be time for us to take a step back and look at the concept of Beauty from a different angle.
The Greek philosopher Plato thought that beauty was a concept that transcended the physical world. He argued that there was a realm of forms that existed before objects came to be and that the beautiful things we see are simply shadows of these. He then linked beauty to symmetry, harmony and proportion.
Aristotle viewed Beauty as something that could be studied and observed, citing art as an example. He argued that the beautiful is a harmony of parts, and that the arrangement of these must be perfect. He also referred to the mathematical idea of the golden ratio, and used it as a basis for his understanding of the beautiful.
David Hume, however, disagreed with Plato and Aristotle, and argued that Beauty is entirely subjective, and that what one person finds beautiful may not be found beautiful by another. Hume’s approach is gentle, and it avoids tyrannical notions of taste by respecting individual choice and volition.