Beauty is often defined as an attribute of things that makes those things pleasurable to see. Such things as sunsets, landscapes, humans and beautiful works of art are considered beauty. Beauty, along with aesthetic sense and art, is perhaps the most important theme of aesthetics, another of the three major philosophies of aesthetics. According to this school of thought beauty is that which finds acceptance in the present time, which can be assessed against the standards of culture and society. Another school of thought defines beauty according to individualism, or as being inseparable from the individual.
In the history of aesthetics there have been many different definitions of beauty. In the late eighteenth century French philosopher Sartre distinguished between “the true and the beautiful” using an analogy from grammar. Beauty was determined by the standards of the existing cultural hierarchy, while true beauty rested on personal intuition. According to Sartre beauty is a subjective standard, something that can be compared and measured, but cannot be judged.
For the other philosophers of aesthetics other aspects of beauty were determined by human understanding. These other dimensions of beauty included emotions, the ability to recognize beauty in a work of art, and even the sensual desire for beauty – that is, aesthetic desire. Some philosophers claimed that beauty depended entirely on human interpretation and feelings, while others focused on the definition of beauty as a concrete, physical attribute.
The subject matter of beauty – aestheticians – has varied over time and geographical region. For example, some aesthetics define beauty as a specific physical trait, such as the form of a flower, the size of a star or the color of snow. Others focus on the emotions behind beauty, claiming that beauty depends on the emotional reaction of the viewer to a work of art. Still others define beauty in relation to the different artistic cultures of different periods and locations. In these definitions beauty depends not on the universal beauty defined by all aestheticsians, but rather on the unique beauty of each culture and region.
Beauty, then, can be defined as the desire in humans to possess a certain amount of aesthetic pleasure in the pursuit of this pleasure through the evaluation of beauty in different ways. The different approaches to beauty use a diverse definition of beauty. For some it is only the beauty of a work of art, while for others it is also the beauty of a body, or even a small number of traits that make a person beautiful. Beauty is therefore a subjective standard, different for each person, each culture and each region.
In modern aesthetics to a different set of standards is used to determine the beauty of a work of art, a poem or a painting. Instead of beauty being a universal standard for the definition of beauty depends on the needs of the people who conceptualize beauty in different ways. This process of culturalization of beauty is described in terms of beauty as the process by which beauty becomes meaningful to different people who view it differently. It is also seen as the process by which beauty is defined in terms of its resemblance to the ideals that are held by their particular culture. Beauty therefore is not only a subjective standard but a very complicated one, especially when one takes into consideration the many different definitions of beauty available in aesthetic theory and in aesthetic practices.