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Philosophy of Beauty (Explained)

Here’s a look at the philosophy of beauty, exploring different perspectives and incorporating the concept of beautiful nails:

What is Beauty?

This is one of philosophy’s oldest questions. Here are some major approaches:

  • Objectivity: This view holds that beauty is an inherent quality of certain objects, independent of personal opinions. Plato saw beauty as connected to ideal forms and mathematical proportions.

  • Subjectivity: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This emphasizes the role of individual taste, personal experiences, and cultural background in determining what is beautiful.

  • Relational: Beauty arises from the relationships between elements—harmony, balance, contrast – rather than residing solely in isolated objects.

Philosophical Arguments about Beauty

  • The Role of Pleasure: Many philosophers link beauty with pleasurable experiences. However, not everything pleasurable is beautiful, and things considered beautiful might initially evoke complex emotions.

  • Beauty vs. Utility: Can something purely functional also be beautiful? Philosophers like Kant argued that true beauty is disinterested, meaning there isn’t an immediate practical goal associated with it.

  • Beauty and Morality: Are beauty and goodness linked? Some argue that beautiful things must reflect high moral standards, while others see beauty as amoral, even if it might be used for negative purposes.

Beauty and Nails

  • Aesthetics: Well-manicured nails can exemplify ideas of balance, symmetry, and harmonious color schemes. The care and attention dedicated to them reflects a broader appreciation for beauty in the everyday.

  • Cultural and Symbolic Importance: Nail art can draw on symbolism and traditions from various cultures, expressing ideas of beauty that hold meaning within a specific context.

  • Self-expression: The choices one makes in nail length, color, and design contribute to a personal sense of beauty and style. This highlights the subjective and creative aspects of aesthetic experience.

Contemporary Considerations

  • Beauty Standards and Diversity: Philosophers now critically examine prevailing standards of beauty and argue for greater inclusivity and challenging narrow, culturally constructed ideals.

  • Commercialization of Beauty: The massive beauty industry influences what is considered beautiful. Think critically about manufactured desire and how this relates to genuine aesthetic appreciation.

  • Beauty of the Natural World: Ecological philosophy considers the intrinsic beauty of nature and whether humans have a duty to preserve it.

Let’s take a tour through history and look at how different philosophical schools viewed beauty:

Ancient Greece

  • Plato: Plato believed beauty was an objective, eternal Form – a perfect, ideal concept existing beyond the physical world. Beautiful objects in this world only imperfectly reflect the true idea of Beauty. Emphasized harmony, proportion, and symmetry as markers of objective beauty.
  • Aristotle: Aristotle saw beauty as residing within objects themselves, not in some transcendent realm. Beauty for him was related to order, symmetry, and definiteness. He also connected beauty to virtue – a morally good person would also be perceived as beautiful.


  • Immanuel Kant: Kant distinguished between the “agreeable” (subjective enjoyment) and the “beautiful”. True beauty evokes a sense of disinterested pleasure. It has a universal quality, while recognizing that our judgment of what is beautiful might be subjective.
  • David Hume: A champion of subjectivism. For Hume, beauty is “in the eye of the beholder” – it’s determined by our feelings, cultural norms, and individual sentiments.

Related: Kant vs. Hume

Other Perspectives

  • Existentialism: Beauty is found in the authentic and meaningful, not in external, pre-determined forms. Emphasizes individual experiences and the beauty that might be found even in the unsettling or unconventional.
  • Feminist Philosophy: Critiques traditional beauty standards as oppressive tools for controlling and limiting, particularly women’s bodies. Explores how power structures shape who and what is deemed beautiful.
  • Contemporary Aesthetics: Broad and diverse field. Some approaches continue debates about objectivity vs. subjectivity. Others analyze beauty’s role in art, social contexts, and even everyday experience.

How Does This Apply to Beauty Today?

These different views shape our ongoing discussions about beauty:

  • Ideal vs. Diverse: Are there universal standards for beauty (Plato), or is it entirely subjective (Hume)? This has implications for how we critique beauty ideals, or how we promote representation in media.
  • Beauty and Purpose: Is true beauty separate from usefulness (Kant), or can beautiful things also have practical functions? This influences design, from architecture to consumer goods.
  • Authenticity and Beauty: Does beauty have inherent moral value (Aristotle), or can it exist independently? This complicates our response to morally complex art or problematic figures we may find aesthetically captivating.

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