Beauty is most commonly defined as the mental attribute of certain physical objects which makes these objects pleasant to see. These objects may include sunsets, landscapes, beautiful humans and exquisite works of art. Beauty, along with beauty, is perhaps the most significant theme of aesthetics, among the most important branches of aesthetic philosophy. The word ‘beauty’ first appears in the French language, meaning ‘a beauty, genuineness, or loveliness’. In England, beauty is considered to be ’eminently feminine, sensual, lovely or charming’. In addition, in the United States, beauty is used in a less pejorative sense, typically to denote beauty or loveliness.
According to the French philosopher Saint Paul, beauty is defined in two ways – essentially as personal goodness and essence, and as self-relation or as relation to others. Beauty then, is the subjective sense of value inherent in all objects, which makes them desirable to the viewers. The quality of beauty, according to Saint Paul, is independent of physical attractiveness; thus, beautiful people may be sick, happy or wise. Theologians and aestheticians, however, disagree about what is the primary quality of beauty. Most often, they come to different conclusions about beauty.
Some philosophers and aestheticians believe that beauty consists of some quality that is independent of persons. It is not influenced by physical appearance and can be perceived at various distances and in different light. Other philosophers and aestheticians believe that beauty is dependent on persons. A beautiful person is not the only thing that makes a beautiful person. Beauty depends on aspects such as mood, attitude and emotion of the person who views it, as well as on the degree of connection established between the object of visual attraction and the person. Beauty is therefore subjective and depends on the emotional state of the viewer or of the person who is viewing it.
Society, culture and the family are the basic elements of beauty. Beauty standards vary among societies and cultures. In most cases, beauty standards tend to be correlated with notions of societal status. For instance, beauty standards are likely to be higher for lower class than for higher class. The cultural diversity and individual characteristics of people also contribute to the development of beauty standards.
Some people are simply blessed with attractive features. Others are not so lucky. But no matter their position in society, everyone tends to be concerned with beauty, and beauty consciousness is considered to be essential to human well being. This explains why beauty consciousness is widespread and why people of different cultures, classes and races develop various kinds of beauty standards. For example, many peoples’ beauty consciousness is primarily concerned with beauty found in nature, rather than with the artificial beauty found in fashionable adornments and makeup. The desire to beautify one’s appearance, irrespective of social position or rank, is what leads to the search for and use of various beauty products, procedures and methods.
Unfortunately, beauty consciousness has sometimes been used as a marketing tool by unscrupulous elements in society. Advertisers have often advertised skin bleaching and other beauty enhancing procedures as necessary ‘ways of getting that job’ or ‘getting that beautiful girl or boy’. Beauty consciousness may be linked to unhealthy expectations about beauty, such as unrealistic ideals regarding the slimness of obese people or the long-term benefit of plastic surgery. Advertisements that feature slim celebrities posing in glamorous ensembles to attract consumers are common on television. Advertisers have even resorted to creating commercials featuring very slim people to sell cosmetic products.