12 May 2022

What makes something beautiful?

What makes something beautiful?

Topic by Malik

Essay by Lawrence


Earlier this year we discussed:

Is there a universal beauty?



And in 2016 we discussed: What is beauty?



Since we have discussed the topic quite recently I do not plan to write in depth here. For me the key issue about beauty is whether beauty is universalisable? If something is beautiful is it universally beautiful for everyone? This should imply that if something is beautiful then we should all agree that it is beautiful.


But not everything that is claimed to be beautiful is considered by everyone to be beautiful. So if there is something, or a quality, that is present in an object that makes it beautiful then any object with those qualities (i.e. the “something”) then by default all these objects should be considered beautiful. Hence, if someone does not see one of these objects as beautiful, then surely the problem should be with the person and the object.


Unfortunately there is no coercive force or otherwise to make people accept that something is beautiful even if it has all the qualities which are supposed to make it beautiful. Maybe the closest we come to such a force is “fashion”. But this does not confirm that there is some feature or ingredient that makes something beautiful.


We have a saying that goes something like: beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. The implication is that beauty is subjective. That something is beautiful is a personal judgement not a universal feature of the object.


If we accept the subjective view of beauty then what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for us to consider something beautiful? But is this a philosophical question or a psychological question and analyses?  


But the base question is whether everything can be described as beautiful? I am inclined to argue that everything has the propensity to be beautiful. The only condition is for someone to “see” that beauty. This means that what is beautiful for us must surely be a matter of our experience, our knowledge, our character, sense of aesthetics and so on.


Maybe the matter is not that objects have this feature or features that would make them beautiful, rather we have this personal capacity to see certain objects as being beautiful.


Best Lawrence

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