The Concept of Beauty
We find beauty in many forms, from the patterns on nautilus shells to the colors of eucalyptus trees in bloom. Observations confirm or disprove the meaning of our observations. For instance, we might say, ‘that song is beautiful.’ The statement itself does not have empirical content, but rather expresses a positive attitude, a sense of pleasure, or both. This question has fascinated philosophers since the beginning of the modern age, but today’s scientists and psychologists have associated beauty with its suitability for use.
Ancient conceptions of beauty are rich in imagery that pays tribute to the pleasures of beauty and describes it in ecstatic terms. For example, Aristotle’s Metaphysics and Poetics claim that beauty is a state of mind, an aesthetic state of being, and an aesthetic experience. The philosopher equates beauty with pleasure, not truth or justice. Therefore, beauty is a subjective state of mind, not a universal quality.
While attraction is an evolutionary mechanism for humans, it has also been a powerful tool for groups to control others. In the western world, white supremacy and a Western aesthetic have both used attraction to gain social power. As a result, the concept of beauty has evolved to reflect a cosmological ideal of beauty. As capitalism became common in most societies, this neoliberal ideology was instrumental in determining how to measure beauty. In the meantime, it has made it easier for societies to discriminate based on aesthetics.