Beauty

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For beauty as a characteristic of a person's appearance, see Physical attractiveness. For other uses, see Beauty (disambiguation).
Rayonnant rose window in Notre Dame de Paris. In Gothic architecture, light was considered the most beautiful revelation of God.

Beauty is a characteristic of a person, animal, place, object, or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction. Beauty is studied as part of aesthetics, sociology, social psychology, and culture. An "ideal beauty" is an entity which is admired, or possesses features widely attributed to beauty in a particular culture, for perfection.

The experience of "beauty" often involves an interpretation of some entity as being in balance and harmony with nature, which may lead to feelings of attraction and emotional well-being. Because this can be a subjective experience, it is often said that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder."[1]

There is evidence that perceptions of beauty are evolutionarily determined, that things, aspects of people and landscapes considered beautiful are typically found in situations likely to give enhanced survival of the perceiving human's genes.[2][3]

Etymology

The classical Greek noun for "beauty" was κάλλος, kallos, and the adjective for "beautiful" was καλός, kalos. The Koine Greek word for beautiful was ὡραῖος, hōraios,[4] an adjective etymologically coming from the word ὥρα, hōra, meaning "hour". In Koine Greek, beauty was thus associated with "being of one's hour".[5] Thus, a ripe fruit (of its time) was considered beautiful, whereas a young woman trying to appear older or an older woman trying to appear younger would not be considered beautiful. In Attic Greek, hōraios had many meanings, including "youthful" and "ripe old age".[5]

Historical view of beauty

Florence Cathedral and dome. Since the Renaissance in Europe, harmony, symmetry and correct proportions are considered essential elements of universal beauty.

There is evidence that a preference for beautiful faces emerges early in child development, and that the standards of attractiveness are similar across different genders and cultures.[6] A study published in 2008 suggests that symmetry is also important because it suggests the absence of genetic or acquired defects.[7]

Although style and fashion vary widely, cross-cultural research has found a variety of commonalities in people's perception of beauty. The earliest Western theory of beauty can be found in the works of early Greek philosophers from the pre-Socratic period, such as Pythagoras. The Pythagorean school saw a strong connection between mathematics and beauty. In particular, they noted that objects proportioned according to the golden ratio seemed more attractive.[8] Ancient Greek architecture is based on this view of symmetry and proportion.

Plato considered beauty to be the Idea (Form) above all other Ideas.[9] Aristotle saw a relationship between the beautiful (to kalon) and virtue, arguing that "Virtue aims at the beautiful."[10]

Classical philosophy and sculptures of men and women produced according to the Greek philosophers' tenets of ideal human beauty were rediscovered in Renaissance Europe, leading to a re-adoption of what became known as a "classical ideal". In terms of female human beauty, a woman whose appearance conforms to these tenets is still called a "classical beauty" or said to possess a "classical beauty", whilst the foundations laid by Greek and Roman artists have also supplied the standard for male beauty in western civilization.[citation needed] During the Gothic era, the classical aesthetical canon of beauty was rejected as sinful. Later, the Renaissance and Humanism rejected this view, and considered beauty as a product of rational order and harmony of proportions. Renaissance artists and architect (such as Giorgio Vasari in his "lives of artists") criticised the Gothic period as irrational and barbarian. This point of view over Gothic art lasted until Romanticism, in the 19th century.

The Birth of Venus, by Sandro Botticelli. The goddess Venus is the classical personification of beauty.

The Age of Reason saw a rise in an interest in beauty as a philosophical subject. For example, Scottish philosopher Francis Hutcheson argued that beauty is "unity in variety and variety in unity".[11] The Romantic poets, too, became highly concerned with the nature of beauty, with John Keats arguing in "Ode on a Grecian Urn" that

Beauty is truth, truth beauty, —that is all.
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

In the Romantic period, Edmund Burke postulated a difference between beauty in its classical meaning and the sublime. The concept of the sublime, as explicated by Burke and Kant, suggested viewing Gothic art and architecture, though not in accordance with the classical standard of beauty, as sublime.[citation needed]

The 20th century saw an increasing rejection of beauty by artists and philosophers alike, culminating in postmodernism's anti-aesthetics.[12] This is despite beauty being a central concern of one of postmodernism's main influences, Friedrich Nietzsche, who argued that the Will to Power was the Will to Beauty.[13]

In the aftermath of postmodernism's rejection of beauty, thinkers have returned to beauty as an important value. American analytic philosopher Guy Sircello proposed his New Theory of Beauty as an effort to reaffirm the status of beauty as an important philosophical concept.[14][15] Elaine Scarry also argues that beauty is related to justice.[16]

Human beauty

The characterization of a person as “beautiful”, whether on an individual basis or by community consensus, is often based on some combination of inner beauty, which includes psychological factors such as personality, intelligence, grace, politeness, charisma, integrity, congruence and elegance, and outer beauty (i.e. physical attractiveness) which includes physical attributes which are valued on an aesthetic basis.

Standards of beauty have changed over time, based on changing cultural values. Historically, paintings show a wide range of different standards for beauty. However, humans who are relatively young, with smooth skin, well-proportioned bodies, and regular features, have traditionally been considered the most beautiful throughout history.

A strong indicator of physical beauty is "averageness", or "koinophilia".[citation needed] When images of human faces are averaged together to form a composite image, they become progressively closer to the "ideal" image and are perceived as more attractive. This was first noticed in 1883, when Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, overlaid photographic composite images of the faces of vegetarians and criminals to see if there was a typical facial appearance for each. When doing this, he noticed that the composite images were more attractive compared to any of the individual images.[citation needed]

Fresco of a Roman woman from Pompeii, c. 50 AD

Researchers have replicated the result under more controlled conditions and found that the computer generated, mathematical average of a series of faces is rated more favorably than individual faces.[17] Evolutionarily, it makes logical sense that sexual creatures should be attracted to mates who possess predominantly common or average features.[18]

A feature of beautiful women that has been explored by researchers is a waist–hip ratio of approximately 0.70. Physiologists have shown that women with hourglass figures are more fertile than other women due to higher levels of certain female hormones, a fact that may subconsciously condition males choosing mates.[19]

People are influenced by the images they see in the media to determine what is or is not beautiful. Some feminists and doctors[vague] have suggested that the very thin models featured in magazines promote eating disorders,[20] and others have argued that the predominance of white women featured in movies and advertising leads to a Eurocentric concept of beauty, feelings of inferiority in women of color,[21] and internalized racism.[22]

The black is beautiful cultural movement sought to dispel this notion.[23]

The concept of beauty in men is known as 'bishōnen' in Japan. Bishōnen refers to males with distinctly feminine features, physical characteristics establishing the standard of beauty in Japan and typically exhibited in their pop culture idols. A multi-billion-dollar industry of Japanese Aesthetic Salons exists for this reason.

Effects on society

Chinese Jade ornament with flower design, Jin Dynasty (1115–1234 AD), Shanghai Museum

Beauty presents a standard of comparison, and it can cause resentment and dissatisfaction when not achieved. People who do not fit the "beauty ideal" may be ostracized within their communities. The television sitcom Ugly Betty portrays the life of a girl faced with hardships due to society's unwelcoming attitudes toward those they deem unattractive. However, a person may also be targeted for harassment because of their beauty. In Malèna, a strikingly beautiful Italian woman is forced into poverty by the women of the community who refuse to give her work for fear that she may "woo" their husbands. The documentary Beauty in the Eyes of the Beheld explores both the societal blessings and curses of female beauty through interviews of women considered beautiful.

Researchers have found that good looking students get higher grades from their teachers than students with an ordinary appearance.[24] Some studies using mock criminal trials have shown that physically attractive "defendants" are less likely to be convicted—and if convicted are likely to receive lighter sentences—than less attractive ones (although the opposite effect was observed when the alleged crime was swindling, perhaps because jurors perceived the defendant's attractiveness as facilitating the crime).[25] Studies among teens and young adults, such as those of psychiatrist and self-help author, Eva Ritvo, show that skin conditions have a profound effect on social behavior and opportunity.[26]

How much money a person earns may also be influenced by physical beauty. One study found that people low in physical attractiveness earn 5 to 10 percent less than ordinary looking people, who in turn earn 3 to 8 percent less than those who are considered good looking.[27] In the market for loans, the least attractive people are less likely to get approvals, although they are less likely to default. In the marriage market, women's looks are at a premium, but men's looks do not matter much. [28]

Conversely, being very unattractive increases the individual’s propensity for criminal activity for a number of crimes ranging from burglary to theft to selling illicit drugs.[29]

Discrimination against others based on their appearance is known as lookism.[30]

St. Augustine said of beauty "Beauty is indeed a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses it even to the wicked."[31]

Ugliness

Ugliness is a property of a person or thing that is unpleasant to look upon and results in a highly unfavorable evaluation. To be ugly is to be aesthetically unattractive, repulsive, or offensive.[32]

People who appear ugly to others suffer well-documented discrimination, earning 10 to 15 percent less per year than similar workers, and are less likely to be hired for almost any job, but lack legal recourse to fight discrimination.[33]

For some people, ugliness is a central aspect of their persona. Jean-Paul Sartre had a lazy eye and a bloated, asymmetrical face, and he attributed many of his philosophical ideas to his lifelong struggle to come to terms with his self-described ugliness.[34] Socrates also used his ugliness as a philosophical touch point, concluding that philosophy can save us from our outward ugliness.[34] Famous in his own time for his perceived ugliness, Abraham Lincoln was described by a contemporary: "to say that he is ugly is nothing; to add that his figure is grotesque, is to convey no adequate impression." However, his looks proved to be an asset in his personal and political relationships, as his law partner William Herndon wrote, "He was not a pretty man by any means, nor was he an ugly one; he was a homely man, careless of his looks, plain-looking and plain-acting. He had no pomp, display, or dignity, so-called. He appeared simple in his carriage and bearing. He was a sad-looking man; his melancholy dripped from him as he walked. His apparent gloom impressed his friends, and created sympathy for him—one means of his great success."[35]

See also

References

  1. ^ Gary Martin (2007). "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". The Phrase Finder. Archived from the original on November 30, 2007. Retrieved December 4, 2007. 
  2. ^ The Oxford Handbook for Aesthetics
  3. ^ Denis Dutton: A Darwinian theory of beauty | Video on TED.com
  4. ^ Matthew 23:27, Acts 3:10, Flavius Josephus, 12.65
  5. ^ a b Euripides, Alcestis 515.
  6. ^ Rhodes, G. (2006). "The evolutionary psychology of facial beauty". Annual Review of Psychology 57: 199–226. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.57.102904.190208. PMID 16318594. 
  7. ^ Highfield, Roger. "Why beauty is an advert for good genes". The Telegraph. Retrieved February 13, 2012
  8. ^ Seife, Charles (2000). Zéro: the biography of a dangerous idea. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-029647-6. p. 32
  9. ^ Phaedrus
  10. ^ Nicomachean Ethics
  11. ^ An Inquiry Into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue; In Two Treatises
  12. ^ The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture by Hal Foster
  13. ^ The Will to Power
  14. ^ A New Theory of Beauty. Princeton Essays on the Arts, 1. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975.
  15. ^ Love and Beauty. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.
  16. ^ On Beauty and Being Just
  17. ^ Langlois, J. H., Roggman, L. A., & Musselman, L. (1994). "What is average and what is not average about attractive faces?". Psychological Science 5: 214–220. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.1994.tb00503.x. 
  18. ^ KOESLAG, J.H. (1990). "Koinophilia groups sexual creatures into species, promotes stasis, and stabilizes social behaviour". J. Theor. Biol. 144 (1): 15–35. doi:10.1016/S0022-5193(05)80297-8. PMID 2200930. 
  19. ^ Utton, Tim. "Born mothers have curvy hips | Mail Online". Daily Mail (London). Archived from the original on June 26, 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-31. 
  20. ^ "Models link to teenage anorexia". BBC News. May 30, 2000. Retrieved April 26, 2010. 
  21. ^ Sekayi, Dia (2003). "Aesthetic Resistance to Commercial Influences: The Impact of the Eurocentric Beauty Standard on Black College Women". Journal of Negro Education (findarticles.com). Retrieved 2010-05-31. [dead link]
  22. ^ Chris Weedon, Cardiff University. "Key Issues in Postcolonial Feminism: A Western Perspective". Gender Forum Electronic Journal. Archived from the original on December 6, 2007. Retrieved December 4, 2007. 
  23. ^ Dr. DoCarmo (2007). "Dr. DoCarmo's Notes on the Black Cultural Movement". Bucks County Community College. Archived from the original on December 20, 2007. Retrieved December 4, 2007. 
  24. ^ Sharon Begley (14 July 2009). "The Link Between Beauty and Grades". Newsweek. Archived from the original on May 29, 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-31. 
  25. ^ Amina A Memon, Aldert Vrij, Ray Bull (2003). Psychology and Law: Truthfulness, Accuracy and Credibility. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 46–47. ISBN 047086835X
  26. ^ "Image survey reveals "perception is reality" when it comes to teenagers". multivu.prnewswire.com. 
  27. ^ Lorenz, K. (2005). "Do pretty people earn more?" CNN News, Time Warner.
  28. ^ Daniel Hamermesh, Stephen J. Dubner (30 January 2014). "Reasons to not be ugly: full transcript". Freakonomics. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  29. ^ Erdal Tekin, Stephen J. Dubner (30 January 2014). "Reasons to not be ugly: full transcript". Freakonomics. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  30. ^ Gough, L. (2011). C. Northcote Parkinson's Parkinson's law. Oxford, U.K: Infinite Ideas Ltd. p. 36. ISBN 1283147378
  31. ^ City of God Book 15 Chapter 22
  32. ^ Webster's New World College Dictionary, 3rd edition, 1995.
  33. ^ Hamermesh, Daniel (August 27, 2011). "Ugly? You May Have a Case". The New York Times. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
  34. ^ a b Martin, Andy (August 10, 2010). "The Phenomenology of Ugly". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 15, 2010. Retrieved August 24, 2010. 
  35. ^ Carpenter, F. B. (1866). Six Months at the White House with Abraham Lincoln. New York: Hurd and Houghton. ISBN 1-58218-120-9. 

External links