What Defines a Beautiful Person?


Western society’s view of beauty has long been based on the idea that whiteness is the most desirable race. This conception dates back to the early racial theorists, who defined “white” as the most attractive of all races. While the concept of beauty remains a useful social tool for reproduction, it has also come to be seen as an exercise in power. Consumers are increasingly being marketed beauty products as a way to gain control over their self-image. Whether it is through surgical procedures or simply cosmetic makeup, beauty products have become an expensive and elitist endeavor.

The political entanglements of beauty throw into question the traditional theories of beauty. Beauty has become a pillar of commerce and politics and has come to represent the concrete dimensions of oppression. When the process of building beauty is violently exploitative, the austere formalism of the classical conception of beauty becomes irrelevant. In contrast, a political and economic association of beauty may be the greatest threat to democracy. In light of these political and aesthetic entanglements, we must ask: what defines a beautiful person?

For the eighteenth century, the British Isles became synonymous with pleasure. Locke and other empiricists, however, distinguished between primary and secondary qualities. In a later essay, he called color a ‘phantasm of the mind’ and defined it as an illusion. By doing so, Locke and his followers were attempting to establish a foundation for the notion of beauty. A modern definition of beauty, as defined by Berkeley, is no longer as simple as a subjective experience.