DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M014-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved February 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

On the subject of beauty, theorists generally agree only on rudimentary points about the term: that it commends on aesthetic grounds, has absolute and comparative forms, and so forth. Beyond this, dispute prevails. Realists hold that judgments of beauty ascribe to their subjects either a nonrelational property inherent in things or a capacity of things to affect respondents in a way that preserves objectivity. In both cases acute problems arise in defining the property and in explaining how it can be known. Classical Platonism holds that beauty exists as an ideal supersensible Form, while eighteenth-century theorists view it as a quasi-sensory property. Kant’s transcendental philosophy anchors the experience of beauty to the basic requirements of cognition, conferring on it ‘subjective universality and necessity’. Sceptics complain that the alleged property is merely a reflection of aesthetic pleasure and hence lacks objective standing. Partly due to its preoccupation with weightier matters, the philosophic tradition has never developed any theory of beauty as fully and deeply as it has, say, theories in the domain of morality. Comparative neglect of the subject has been encouraged by the generally subjectivistic and relativistic bent of the social sciences and humanities, as well as by avant-gardism in the arts. However, several recent and ambitious studies have given new impetus to theorizing about beauty.

    Citing this article:
    Brown, John H.. Beauty, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M014-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
    Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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