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Concepts of Beauty in Philosophy

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There are many different perceptions of beauty. Some believe that beauty comes from within; some believe that it is simplicity, and some believe it lies in perfection. I am going to explore some of the more famous concepts of beauty from philosophers prior to the Renaissance. I believe that in any study of philosophy, Plato is a good starting point. Plato expressed his beliefs on the topic of beauty in his text 'Symposium'. The general theme in 'Symposium' is love. Socrates sets forth his view through a conversation with Diotima of Mantineia, who believes that you should be taught to appreciate and love true beauty. The theory is as follows. At an early age, you should be taught to love beauty represented by a beautiful body, a human body. When this is realised, you can see that this body shares beauty with other beautiful bodies and this becomes the basis of loving all beautiful bodies and not just one. ...read more.


He believes that the simple things have unity in common, and the complex have measure and proportion in common. This he expresses as a kind of unity. Having taken this into account, he does not believe that beauty and unity are synonymous, just that they always accompany each other but do not define each other. Plato's basic philosophy on the concept of beauty is this: that beauty is simple and un-analysable. I feel that this concept is quite similar to the beliefs we have today, because no-one, to this day, can really define beauty to the satisfaction of everyone. The next philosopher who has views on beauty that are known is Plotinus. Plotinus' views are a form of Platonism which explores the mysticism of Plato's theories. Perhaps the most pervasive result was the establishment of the notion of contemplation as the central focus in the study of beauty. Most theories of beauty since Plato and Plotinus have maintained that contemplation is necessary for a true aesthetic experience. ...read more.


Aquinus stressed the knowing aspect of beauty, and believed that there is no property of beauty that is common to all beautiful things, simply the way the mind grasps the Form which causes an object to be what it is. He believed that the experience of beauty is a cognitive one but there is more to it than that, and that the object isn't transcendental and neither is the Form of beauty. Of all the theories studied, I believe that St. Thomas Aquinus' is the one that both I agree with most and most modern philosophers have something in common with. He is the first philosopher that I have studied to believe that has both a subjective and objective belief in philosophy, and this is parallel to the modern belief that beauty is something that you can see or know. In summary, I would say that there are many different conceptions of beauty, even before the Renaissance. This is reflected in the way that everyone today has slightly different notions of beauty, as well as finding different things and beings beautiful. Ellie Robinson Conceptions of Beauty Philosophy ...read more.

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