Elucidations of 'Beauty'
Idealist or Platonic Conceptions
Plato: One goes always upward for the sake of Beauty, starting out from beautiful things and using them like rising stairs: from one body to two and from two to all beautiful bodies, then from beautiful bodies to beautiful customs, and from customs to learning...so that in the end he comes to know just what is beautiful. (Symposium)
Coleridge: The Beautiful, contemplated in its essentials...is that in which the many, still seen as many, becomes one.
Hegel: Artistic beauty [is] the [material] representation of absolute reality.
Order in Variety
Aristotle: Beauty consists in proper order [of parts] and size. (Poetics) "The essential characters composing beauty are order, symmetry, and definiteness." (Metaphysics)
Francis Hutcheson: What we call Beautiful in Objects, to speak in the Mathematical Style, seems to be in a compound Ratio of Uniformity and Variety; so that where the Uniformity of Bodys is equal, the Beauty is as the Variety; and where the Variety is equal, the Beauty is as the Uniformity.
Tolstoy: Beauty [is] that which pleases us without evoking in us desire.
Kant: Judgments of beauty are disinterested, universal, necessary, and judge the object as purposive without a purpose.
Schopenhauer: When we say that a thing is beautiful, we thereby assert that it is an object of our aesthetic contemplation.... [T]he sight of the thing makes us objective; in contemplating it we are no longer conscious of ourselves as individuals...; and on the other hand...we recognize in the object, not the particular thing, but an Idea. [Since anything can be regarded in this way], it follows that everything is beautiful.
Benedetto Croce: Form is always expressive and yet the expression is always pure form; the artistic act turns passion into contemplation and thereby makes it a thing of beauty.
Ludovico Antonio Muratori (18th c): By beautiful we generally understand whatever, when seen heard, or understood, delights, pleases, and ravishes us by causing within us agreeable sensations and love.
Hume: Beauty is such an order and construction of parts as, either by the primary constitution of our nature, by custom, or by caprice, is fitted to give a pleasure and satisfaction to the soul. . . . Pleasure and pain, therefore, are not only necessary attendants of beauty and deformity, but constitute their very essence. . . . Beauty is no quality in things themselves. It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them, and each mind perceives a different beauty
Schiller: Beauty is the object of the play impulse. Ordinary language fully justifies this name, for it commonly gives the name of play to whatever is not forced upon us whether by nature or our own mind and yet is not accidental with respect to either....Man only plays when he is a man in the full meaning of the term, and he is only fully man when he plays.
Santayana: Beauty is pleasure regarded as the quality of a thing.
Beauty and Use
George Berkeley: Beauty is to judged by proportion, which is a matter of suitedness to use. [traditional: cf. Xenophon; Coomaraswamy]
John Ruskin: The bending trunk, waving to and fro in the wind above the waterfall, is beautiful, though it is perfectly useless to us....Saw it into planks, and though now adapted to become permanently useful, its beauty is lost for ever, or to be regained only when decay and ruin shall have withdrawn it again from use.
Love and Longing
Burke: By beauty I mean, that quality of those qualities in bodies, by which they cause love, or some passion similar to it. (Cf. Plato)
CS: Beauty is the object of longing.
G.E. Moore: [T]he beautiful should be defined as that of which the admiring contemplation is good in itself....To say that a thing is beautiful is to say, not indeed that it is itself good, but that it is a necessary element in something which is: to prove that a thing is truly beautiful is to prove that a whole, to which it bears a particular relation as a part, is truly good.
Walter Pater: All beauty is in the long run only fineness of truth, or what we call expression, the finer accommodation of speech to that vision within.
Plotinus: All shapelessness whose kind admits of pattern and form, as long as it remains outside of Reason and Idea, is ugly by that very isolation from the Divine-Thought. And this is the Absolute Ugly: an ugly thing is something that has not been entirely mastered by pattern, that is by Reason, the Matter not yielding at all points and in all respects to Ideal-Form.
But where the Ideal-Form has entered, it has grouped and coordinated what from a diversity of parts was to become a unity: it has rallied confusion into co-operation: it has made the sum one harmonious coherence: for the Idea is a unity and what it moulds must come to unity as far as multiplicity may.
And on what has thus been compacted to unity, Beauty enthrones itself, giving itself to the parts as to the sum: when it lights on some natural unity, a thing of like parts, then it gives itself to that whole. Thus, for an illustration, there is the beauty, conferred by craftsmanship, of all a house with all its parts, and the beauty which some natural quality may give to a single stone. Ennead (1.6.1)