Beauty is the subjective view or opinion about the beauty of things. Beauty is often defined as the physiological aspect of objects which makes these objects pleasant to see. Such objects may include sunsets, landscapes, human works and artistic works. Beauty, along with beauty, is perhaps the oldest subject of aesthetics, among the various branches of modern philosophy. The word ‘beauty’ first appears in the works of the ancient Greek poet Euripides, who is the likely source of the term ‘gorge’ for beauty.
Modern philosophers distinguish three kinds of aesthetic experience: objective, ideal and subjective. Aesthetic objectivity is when an object appeals to the ‘natural’ or universal aspects of the human mind. For instance, if you look at a rose, you would appreciate its beauty not only on sight but because of all the memories it evokes in your mind. Subjective aesthetic experiences, on the other hand, are those based on personal attributes or ‘identities’, for example a person’s race, facial features or handwriting.
Aesthetic judgment is an affective response to beauty. It is formed by the part of our brain known as the mirror neuron system. This part of our brain controls the secretion of hormones that make us feel beautiful. If there is something attractive about a person, this effect will be produced.
In fact, when you look at someone ugly, you feel beautiful. You are led to a feeling of superiority. And this feeling can spread to other people too, because beauty matters to everyone, whether they know that they are beautiful or not. This explains why we can see attractive people getting angry when they do not look beautiful; they are comparing themselves to the beholder. The beautiful image of that person, which is the result of beauty consciousness, causes an inferiority complex for the one who lacks that image.
Many people who do not feel beautiful are prone to low self-esteem and low interest in other people, especially beauty queens. But beauty is a subjective concept, and beauty standards vary from one culture and time to another. For example, in some societies, being tall is considered an important beauty criterion, while in others it is not. Beauty standards may also differ between societies; in some places, being thin is considered unattractive while in others it is very much admired.
Beauty consciousness cannot be confined to physical appearance alone. It has also become an important part of personal values, because beauty itself is a product of culture and the society in which we grow up. If we grow up in a culture where beauty is idolized, then it is almost impossible to escape its influence. A popular saying, ‘The hair is our sign of beauty’, comes to mind. ‘It is impossible to escape beauty’, goes the cry.
However, the truth is that beauty, no matter what beauty standards, is not the object of desire, but rather the experience of love and affection for one’s physical attributes. What matters most is whether one can love and respect oneself as beautiful. This is possible only if one does not regard oneself as beautiful without knowing or loving what beauty she or he is actually endowed with. The idea of beauty lies not in outward appearances, but in the inward values a person has.
True beauty, according to many a spiritual teacher, is found not in the face or in clothes, but in character. In short, he suggests, beauty lies within rather than in material possessions. The true indicator of beauty, he says, is ‘what you are.’ In other words, when you see people who see only the face behind the mask, or only the physical attributes of a person, those people fail to realize that the beauty within them is true beauty. They miss the mark by mistake.