Aristotle and Plato’s Conception of Beauty

Aristotle and Plato disagree on the definition of beauty, and the classical conception treats beauty as a matter of mathematical ratios and proportions. For example, ‘The Canon’, a sculpture by the Greek artist Polykleitos, could be considered beautiful if it was reproducible. However, this view does not account for the subjective nature of beauty, and its limitations are limited to the ancient world. In modern-day society, beauty has become an increasingly complex concept, with countless competing definitions.

Regardless of the discipline, ancient treatments of beauty pay tribute to the pleasures of beauty, describing the qualities of an attractive face or body in ecstatic terms. For example, Plotinus described beauty in the context of ‘delicious trouble’, “longing and love” and “trembling with delight”. This is not surprising, considering the fact that the ancients were not yet aware of the complexities of human emotion and appearance.

The classical conception of beauty describes the aesthetic experience of seeing and enjoying things. It is the primordial conception of beauty and is expressed in classical and neo-classical art. According to Aristotle, “beauty requires order, symmetry, and definiteness.” While the latter is the more common interpretation, the former is the more ecstatic one. Aristotle’s work on beauty is a classic example of the philosophy of taste.