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Meipolo rose. The rose is considered the epitome of beauty.

Beauty as opposed to ugliness is an abstract term that is strongly related to all aspects of human existence. The philosophical discipline of aesthetics is mainly concerned with the meaning of this word . Like every evaluation , this positive term is dependent on values (evaluation standards) and evaluation goals, which are also shaped by social conventions . The sciences and humanities also examine which value standards are based on the expression “beauty” and how they come about.

In everyday life, something is usually referred to as "beautiful" that leaves a particularly pleasant impression: a beautiful ( attractive ) body , a beautiful piece of music , a beautiful sequence of movements in dance , but also experiences such as B. Stroking . A closeness to terms like harmony and symmetry is noticeable, a demarcation from sensual overwhelming or the “just” pretty, which lacks something special, is not always easy.


"There are two kinds of beauty: there is grace in one, and dignity in the other."

Psychology and sociology

Psychology and sociology consider the evaluation of "beautiful" in relation to psychogenetic or socially shaped values. This fundamental assessment is applied both to individual sensations and to the entire human and non-human environment . The evaluation therefore has feedback on the psyche , on all areas of human society and on the non-human environment - and therefore on the formation and change of conventions (see also changing values ). In the context of emotion psychology , beauty is also defined as a specific aesthetic sensation that occurs when a person approaches a novel object and thereby comes closer to the goal of expanding knowledge (see also learning goal ).

The sociology of art and literature have contributed a lot to the sociology of beauty . As the "beauty of a woman" in the gender studies more under ideology is provided -Verdacht and Biosoziologie this often silent.


Marvel at beauty has been one of the most important topics in philosophy since ancient times. Plato already deals in his symposium with how beauty affects people. In the philosophy of the Middle Ages , beauty is considered to be the “brilliance of truth”, a quality of thoughts that depends on their correspondence with reality . In modern philosophy , aesthetics then deals with the question of what beauty is. Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten (1714–1762), whose Aesthetica (1750/58) opened up a whole new field of philosophical work, is considered the inventor of the name of this philosophical discipline . Beauty is no longer defined as a property of objects, but as the judgment of the mind.


In Plato's Dialog Symposium , the priestess Diotima explains to her interlocutor Socrates that everyone welcomes beautiful bodies more than ugly ones. The soul of a person is inclined to the beautiful. Beauty is interpreted as obstetrics: If a person has difficult thoughts, beauty helps him to bring these thoughts to birth. Beauty has a suitable relationship to the divine and provides people with joy and openness. Plato also uses beauty to explain his theory of ideas . At first a person loves a single beautiful body, then later he realizes that beauty is also in other bodies. Through his love for beautiful bodies , he transcends the physical level and then prefers “beauty in souls”. Nice conversation is more important to him than physical beauty. Then he will discover the beautiful in “activities, customs and laws” and recognize “that everything beautiful is related to one another”. The highest level is then admiration for the general idea of the beautiful which underlies all beautiful.


For Baumgarten , beauty is the perfection of sensual knowledge . Similar to his philosophical ancestors Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Christian Wolff , he divided the cognitive faculties of the human understanding into upper and lower faculties , into logical and sensual knowledge . While logical faculties were the only means of attaining certain knowledge, sensual knowledge was viewed with suspicion: on the one hand, it was flawed, on the other hand, it did not offer enough clarity and clarity . Baumgarten now argued that clear and unambiguous knowledge can only be achieved through the intermediate step of "dark" sensory perception. This should now be the subject of the new philosophical theory called aesthetics.

In (theoretical) aesthetics, Baumgarten is concerned with perfecting sensual knowledge ( perfectio cognitionis sensitivae ). The perfection of this knowledge is beauty, its imperfection is ugliness (§ 14). Baumgarten is mainly concerned with "beautiful thinking". Its beauty is defined as the inner coherence of thoughts as well as the coherence of expression with the object and with oneself.


The most influential philosophical definition of beauty in modern times comes from Immanuel Kant . The authoritative work is his Critique of Judgment (1790). Here Kant defined beauty as the object of a certain activity of judgment: the aesthetic judgment or taste judgment .

According to Kant, aesthetic judgments are based on private, subjective feelings of liking or dislike, pleasure or displeasure. In this respect, one could think that what we personally enjoy is simply beautiful . However, Kant notes a difference: One cannot argue about what is pleasant, because everyone feels something different to be pleasant and will admit this. Aesthetic judgments, on the other hand, are of subjective origin, but they have the right to general validity - anyone who judges the beauty of an object claims at the same time to make a judgment that others would have to agree to. Beauty therefore has the claim to subjective generality . In contrast to what is pleasant , it is quite sensible to argue about beauty and taste , since every taste judgment presumes to judge the feelings of others.

The basis of this argument is the demarcation between the good , the pleasant and the beautiful . The good is something in which we have a motivated interest - we distinguish whether there is something good or not. We are also interested in the pleasant, since the feeling of the pleasant is desirable for us (and we avoid the unpleasant). The good, the beautiful and the pleasant are based on our subjective feeling of pleasure, pleasure in contrast to displeasure and displeasure. The judgment about the beautiful, however, is the only thing that does not take into account the personal interest in the object (and must not take it into account, otherwise it will be falsified). Therefore, in a famous formulation, Kant defines beauty as "disinterested pleasure".


Hegel deals with the subjects of beauty and art in his three-volume work on aesthetics. He defines the beautiful as "the sensual shining of the idea". Thus, beauty can primarily be realized in art, which Hegel sees as "the middle link between the pure thought, the supersensible world, and the immediate, the present sensation". Art thus represents mental contents (ideas) with objects of our perception (sensual appearance). The idea of ​​the angel , for example, often appears as a boy with wings.


Sandro Botticelli : The Birth of Venus (circa 1485/86). Venus is the Roman goddess of love and beauty.

Beauty in art is, among other things, a subject of research in art history .

Johann Joachim Winckelmann developed from 1755 and especially in his main work The History of Ancient Art , published in 1764, criteria for an aesthetics of the beautiful and identified a classical style of art , which he raised to the standard of his assessment. The focus is on the search for the beautiful. His attempt at a style history gives the ideal , the noble simplicity and quiet grandeur a context.

The philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) narrowed the term ideal to art: the task of art is the sensual representation of the absolute idea as an ideal.

The category of “beauty” has also been critically challenged for art since modern times. The “beautiful” is no longer the “shine of truth”, but on the contrary that which is “made beautiful”, “flattered” (see also idealization (psychology) ) and therefore “untrue”. The whole concept of “ fashion ” and “fashions” therefore takes on the character of the “non-serious” and “untrue” and therefore “inartistic”, especially in relation to art. In the extreme case, a decorative piece that is too beautiful is called “ kitsch ” or a decorative object . Alternative aesthetics such as the “ sublime ”, “ugly”, “interesting” or “ authentic ” are increasingly replacing “beautiful” in modern art, which one can no longer and / or does not want to understand.


Beauty in music is often based on the success of images of cosmic harmony. A demand for care and perfection is formulated. Appropriateness of the musical means plays a special role. In many cases, beauty in music is linked to developments from the spectrum of one's own musical socialization. The “musically beautiful” ( Eduard Hanslick , 1854) promised by the art of sound is opposed to a reference to noise, which has been promoted since the beginning of the 20th century at the latest and which often caused uncertainty. The twelve-tone technique was developed by Theodor W. Adorno understood as denial of ideals of beauty and harmony. Music should also reflect world history. Musical aesthetics is concerned with the connections between beauty and music .

natural Science

Beauty plays a role as aesthetics as the subject of empirical research .

The analysis of individual experience and behavior using experimental methods is central to experimental aesthetics . In particular, the perception of works of art, music or modern objects such as websites or other IT products is examined. The neuroaesthetics is a very young discipline that attempts to neuroscience, sense of beauty and art closer together. Neuroesthetics is part of experimental aesthetics .

The Evolutionary aesthetics deals with the evolutionary origin and evolution of aesthetic sensibility. Evolutionary aesthetics draws on findings from anthropology, archeology, evolutionary biology and cognitive science.

Beauty also plays a role in mathematics , because many mathematical objects are considered "beautiful". These include fractals , Euler's identity , the golden ratio , etc.

Ideal of beauty

The Three Graces, sculpture by James Pradier , 1831

What is called “beautiful” in an everyday sense depends to a certain extent on changing “ideals of beauty”. A more extreme thesis is that nowadays in industrial societies particularly slim people are only considered beautiful because there is abundance of food, while under other circumstances obese people, who signal well-nourished by their body size, would be described as beautiful. However, this thesis fails because of the fact that a slim figure as an ideal in the Occident is far older than industrialization and general prosperity .

Recent research suggests that there is a distinct genetic component to being beautiful. The evolutionary biological explanation for ideals of beauty is that perceived beauty correlates with evolutionarily advantageous properties. In experiments and surveys, it was found that in all cultures women with a culture-specific ideal waist-to-hip ratio are viewed by the test subjects as beautiful, for example in African regions with insufficient food supply, obesity with a markedly large hip and buttock circumference . Symmetry is perceived as beautiful and is at the same time an indication of health. There is also evidence that there is a golden ratio when it comes to the beauty of faces . A vertical distance between eyes and mouth of 36% of the face length and a horizontal distance between the eyes of 46% of the face width are ideal. These proportions correspond to the average face, which, like symmetry, also signals health. Some scientists therefore consider the concept of beauty as a cultural construct to be a myth.

Beauty and truth

Beauty is viewed in mathematics and other branches of science as an indication of the truth of a theory or statement. The connection between beauty (symmetry) and judged truth could also be proven experimentally. Psychological research has found that the processing liquid ( processing fluency ) both beauty is truth and judgments based on what might help explain why the beauty of a statement is sometimes equated with the truth.

See also


Web links

Commons : Beauty  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Beauty  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ T. Armstrong, B. Detweiler-Bedell: Beauty as an emotion: The exhilarating prospect of mastering a challenging world. In: Review of General Psychology. 12 (4), 2008, p. 305.
  2. Plato, Symposium 206c-212a.
  3. ^ GWF Hegel: Lectures on Aesthetics I. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1986, p. 151.
  4. GWF Hegel: Lectures on the Philosophy of Art. Felix Meiner Verlag, Hamburg 2003, p. 4f.
  5. H. Leder, B. Belke, A. Oeberst, D. Augustin: A model of aesthetic appreciation and aesthetic judgments. In: British Journal of Psychology. 95, 2004, pp. 489-508.
  6. MT Thielsch: Aesthetics of websites: Perception of aesthetics and their relationship to content, usability and personality traits. MV Wissenschaft, Münster 2008, ISBN 978-3-86582-660-2 .
  7. M. Hassenzahl: Aesthetics in interactive products: Correlates and consequences of beauty. In: HNJ Schifferstein, P. Hekkert (Ed.): Product experience. Elsevier, Amsterdam 2008, pp. 287-302.
  8. ^ S. Zeki: Artistic Creativity and the Brain. In: Science. 293, 2001, pp. 51-52.
  9. Researchers discover new 'golden ratios' for female facial beauty. In: Physorg. December 16, 2009.
  10. Nancy Etcoff: Survival of the prettiest: the science of beauty. Anchor Books, 2000.
  11. ^ W. Lassek, S. Gaulin: Waist-hip ratio and cognitive ability: is gluteofemoral fat a privileged store of neurodevelopmental resources? In: Evolution and Human Behavior. Vol. 29, Issue 1, 2008, pp. 26-34.
  12. ^ S. Chandrasekhar: Truth and beauty. Aesthetics and motivations in science . University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1987.
  13. ^ J. Hadamard: The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field . Dover, Mineola, NY 1954.
  14. ^ Rolf Reber , M. Brun, K. Mitterndorfer: The use of heuristics in intuitive mathematical judgment. In: Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. 15 (6), pp. 1174-1178.
  15. ^ Rolf Reber, Norbert Schwarz, Piotr Winkielman: Processing Fluency and Aesthetic Pleasure: Is Beauty in the Perceiver's Processing Experience? . In: Personality and Social Psychology Review . 8, No. 4, 2004, pp. 364-382. doi : 10.1207 / s15327957pspr0804_3 . PMID 15582859 .