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Beauty noun /ˈbjuː.ti/

  • The quality of being pleasing and attractive, especially to look at. ‘She believes that beauty comes from within.’

  • A person or thing that is pleasing and attractive, especially to look at. ‘The caterpillar is a beauty.’

  • The business of making people look attractive, using make-up, treatments, etc. ‘She said that people are now spending money on beauty.’

  • Something that is an excellent example of its type. ‘She showed me her car - it's a beauty.’


Can one really define beauty? Can anyone give a universally valid definition of beauty? Based on the Cambridge English Dictionary, beauty is “the quality of being pleasing, especially to look at, or someone or something that gives great pleasure, especially when you look at it." Another common definition says that beauty is “a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.”

However, what pleases the aesthetic senses of the contemporary human being will please the aesthetic senses of the human living in the year 3000? Or would it have pleased the aesthetic senses of the prehistoric man?

These are time-related questions, but even nowadays, what is beautiful for one person may not be beautiful, or may even be ugly, for another person. Furthermore, one may consider something as being ugly, awkward, or unpleasant one day, while the same thing can be beautiful or at least visually pleasing the very next day, according to the energetic vibration in which one finds oneself.

The definition of beauty and the relation between beauty and ugliness have been one of the major sources of contention in historical debates on the concept, from Plato, Aristotle, and Saint Augustine to Albrecht Dürer, Immanuel Kant, and Karl Rosenkranz, to mention but a few. Saint Augustine considered that the "beautiful" is the pure manifestation of the good and only beauty, among all perfect substances, and has the privilege of being the most evident and the most lovable.

Plato which criticized art in the "Republic" for being the imitation of real objects that in turn are imitations of ideas, and thus art turns out to be ontologically disappointingly weak while, in numerous instances, taking beauty to be characteristically pleasurable. Aristotle somehow perpetuates this view, and in his study of specific art forms, he holds that it is the proper function of these forms to create pleasure.

Albrecht Dürer saw beauty as one of the main features of art, as art is the representation of nature and nature is the product of God. “There is no living person on earth who can say definitively how the most beautiful human form might look. No one but God knows that.”

Immanuel Kant’s "Critique of Judgement" separates the aesthetic judgement from the rational and moral judgement and thereby makes room for a unique mental faculty that deals with beauty and art. Also, Kant acknowledges that taste, or the ability to detect or experience beauty, is fundamentally subjective, that there is no standard of taste, and that if people did not experience certain kinds of pleasure, there would be no beauty.

Karl Rosenkranz, in his "Aesthetics of Ugliness", shows ugliness as the negation of beauty without being reducible to evil, materiality, or other negative terms used its conventional condemnation.

I have no intention of entering into an endless debate here [not only because all the above-mentioned authors are no longer “alive”, which would have allowed me to have a dialogue with them, but] because, in a way, each of them was right, because each had his own belief system that was true for him, therefore, each of them chose a certain truth that they wanted to explore at a certain time. We all choose to explore a certain “truth” or rather, a certain belief system, we have our reasons for doing so, and it is undoubtedly our right to explore whatever “truth” we want at one time or another.

That being said, can one really universally and unequivocally define beauty? Or just adhere to Albrecht Dürer’s response: “What beauty is, I know not, though it adheres to many things”. As with many others, this is a question that has many answers, each depending on the one of whom the question has been asked and the time or moment in one’s life when it was asked.

From my perspective, beauty is utterly a subjective interpretation. We can’t give a universal definition for a word that is a symbol used by each of us according to our own beliefs, with our own interpretation, with our own education because what we experience in this physical reality through our senses and our emotions are always our “personal” interpretations of our own thoughts. We translate, we interpret different elements in this way; we create symbols, we create categories, we label something as beautiful or as ugly, yet if we truly pay attention, we can observe the volatility of these categories, we can detect the fickleness of our interpretations, and we can easily discover that our interpretation is changing in time according to the new set of rules, with the new system of beliefs we have at the time of interpretation.

With your physical eyes, you can see an object or person in many ways because perception involves interpretation, which means that it is not whole or consistent. You respond to what you perceive, and as you perceive, so shall you behave. Since perceptions change, their dependence on time is obvious, and how you perceive at any given moment determines what you do, and actions must occur in time.

Perception is also impossible without a belief in more and less, in good and bad, in beauty and ugly. At every level, it involves selectivity. Perception is a continual process of accepting and rejecting, organizing, and reorganizing, shifting, and changing. Evaluation is an essential part of perception because judgements are necessary in order to select.

However, the story does not begin with the eyes but rather with the thought because perception is always, but always a mirror, not a fact. Thoughts begin in the mind of the thinker, from which they reach outward. A split mind can perceive as well as think. Yet perception cannot escape the basic laws of mind. You identify thoughts from your mind and project your perceptions outward, even if perception of any kind is unreal.

Perception is always a result and not a cause for projection makes perception. Perception selects and shapes the world you see. It literally picks it out as the mind directs, and what you look at is the outside picture of an inward condition, is your state of mind, your thoughts, and your beliefs, reflected outward so you may perceive them and think them real.

The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. As a man thinks, so does he perceive, and this is where beauty lies, for the real beauty cannot be seen with the physical eye.


Photographs, C-Type Printed on Fuji Crystal Professional Archive Maxima Paper
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