Beauty – A Concept or an Ideal?
Beauty is often defined as a subjective feeling, aesthetic quality or physical trait that makes objects aesthetically pleasing to see. Such objects may include sunsets, landscapes, humans and other artistic works. Beauty, along with beauty and art, is possibly the most significant part of aesthetics, probably one of the most important branches of psychology.
In many ways beauty appears to be an old concept. Descartes’s famous statement “I think therefore I am” is sometimes interpreted as a rejection of traditionalism, where an individual is dominated by an imagined self, an ideal or a longing for something that does not exist. However, Descartes’ beauty may be understood in a modern context. For Descartes beauty was largely a personal, even aesthetic one. It is this aspect of beauty that has preoccupied twentieth century aesthetics specialists, from Sartre to Jung.
The twentieth century’s new aesthetic movement, which came to be known as post-structuralism, attempted to revise beauty standards through an array of complex symbolic systems. In the field of Art, as well, new understandings of beauty arose during the last century, especially with the invention of the camera, which permitted the artist to capture his or her work of art in a way that the audience could not. This new understanding of beauty involved a critique of conventional aesthetic thinking. It is unclear whether any meaningful change in beauty standards will emerge from this ongoing confrontation, between the desire for beauty and the reduction of life to mere material satisfaction.