What Is Beauty?

Beauty is commonly defined as the aesthetic quality of certain objects, which makes these objects pleasing to see. Such objects could be landscapes, sunsets, human works of art and beautiful people. Beauty, along with beauty and art, is perhaps the most important topic of aesthetics, among the major branches of anthropology. Beauty has been discussed widely by artists all over the world.


However, the question “what is beauty” remains elusive. In fact, there is still much disagreement on this topic among different philosophers, because beauty is primarily a subjective concept. The meaning of beauty is largely dependent on the cultural and personal experiences of each person. Thus, from an empirical research, it is found that there are four major types of human beauty, which can be individually identified by their differences in physical characteristics.

First, there is the physical appearance or human beauty. Under the influence of culture and individualism, human physical appearance is subjective and relies on the power of individual imagination. This view considers the physical appearance of humans to be the only important aspect of their character-expression. Physical beauty is usually defined as the ability of a person to appear well dressed, with clean, tidy and symmetric body structure, and facial features that are well defined, prominent and symmetrical.

Second, there are what some call the aesthetic ideals or cultural beauty standards. Under the influence of romanticism and the idealism, European beauty standards were defined by their Eurocentric society. These aesthetic ideals included a sense of purity, simplicity, aliveness, rectitude and truth. These ideals have been associated with the quest of wisdom, which is a symbol of beauty for the Eurocentric society. In recent years, some have questioned the importance of the concepts of beauty ideals in Western societies, with some arguing that beauty standards are based on a colonial gaze.

Thirdly, there are Barbie dolls, a source of great pride for many people in the West, especially those who are committed to the beauty standards. Barbie is not only a source of mild anxiety for her fans, but also a source of mild sexual attraction for most children. A recent survey revealed that one out of four parents believes that the way their daughter acts resembles the way they themselves act.

So, how do we define beauty? What makes a beautiful human being? Is beauty always defined in terms of physical appearance? Is beauty subjective, or based on the standards of our Eurocentric society? Does beauty differ between cultures and societies? And what exactly is beauty?