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Definition: beauty from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

The property of, or combination of qualities in, objects or people giving rise to pleasure or delight. The branch of philosophy that deals with beauty is aesthetics.

There are various philosophical theories about beauty. It may stand for a felt or intuited quality, or for a causal property evoking a special reaction in us, or even for the expression of nonpossessive love.


Summary Article: beauty
from Aesthetics A-Z

While there has been very little agreement about the nature of beauty, or even about its very existence, beauty is often considered to be an aesthetic property, and also something which is inherently good and pleasurable, hence an aesthetic value. As such, it has been contrasted with the sublime. Throughout the history of aesthetics, beauty was commonly understood in one of the following general senses: (1) as a property, or a set of properties of an object, for example, symmetry and proportion, which causes pleasure in us; (2) as something 'in the eye of the beholder', not a property of anything, which produces pleasure in us; (3) as a simple indefinable property, apprehended by intuition, that cannot be defined in terms of any other properties. In twentieth-century analytic aesthetics, the interest in the concept of beauty was replaced with an interest in the concept of the aesthetic. Still, contemporary attempts have been made to resurrect the idea of beauty in terms of the pleasure we take in perceiving aesthetic properties.

See classicism; disinterestedness; emotivism; environmental aesthetics; formalism; Hanslick; Hume; Hutcheson; Kant; Lessing; Marxism; Moore; naturalistic fallacy; Nietzsche; objectivism; profundity; subjectivism; sublime; taste theories; Tolstoy; Wittgenstein

Further reading: Mothersill 1984

© Eran Guter, 2010

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