Beauty is commonly defined as the aesthetic quality of certain objects, which makes these objects aesthetically pleasant to view. Such objects may include sunsets, beautiful landscapes, beautiful humans and unique works of art. Beauty, along with beauty, is perhaps the most important philosophical topic of aesthetics, another of the most important branches of aesthetics. It is also one of the most important factors in psychology.
According to the twentieth century aesthetician Robert Jurmain, “Beauty and ugliness, like power and weakness, are two sides of the same coin, each contradictory but infinitely compatible with each other.” Jurmain goes on to define beauty as “aesthetic sentiment” which, he claims, can be properly expressed by an object only when the object actually satisfies a basic, subjective aesthetic need. Beauty, according to Jurmain, is the desire of the human race for the transcendental ideals of beauty. In addition, beauty is the “over-all relation of things and their qualities to each other and to mankind.”
In the modern era, however, the beauty has become a highly personalized experience. The twentieth century has seen the proliferation of beauty practices across the globe. Beauty has become associated with style, form, and status. Beauty culture, as the term is currently used, refers to the way in which we see and evaluate beauty.
As beauty becomes closely associated with style, people begin to judge beauty from appearances alone, bypassing the subjective nature of beauty standards. Beauty, it seems, can be so defined that there is no longer any need to speak of beauty standards. Beauty is determined merely by the standards of the chosen few. Consequently, those who do not conform to the beauty standards may not see themselves as beautiful. Beauty culture, thus, allows those who are deemed by others to be beautiful to feel that they are not just as worthy as those who adhere to beauty standards.
Thus, beauty becomes a highly individual experience. Beauty is not static; it is ever changing. Beauty needs to be measured against a multitude of criteria in order to be meaningful. Beauty needs to be constant because beauty varies so greatly from one person to another.
Those who feel that beauty is only some fixed, external standard should remember that beauty is a construct, an idea that is rooted in the mind of an individual. Beauty needs to be chosen based on its suitability to the particular person’s life and situation rather than some abstract standard. Beauty culture allows individuals to choose beauty with less deference to those beauty standards that society has imposed upon them. With beauty culture, each person depends on his or her own perception of beauty as the standard for finding beauty.