The Ambiguity of Beauty

There is an old adage that states that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. This means that there cannot be a universal definition of beauty. What is perceived by one individual as beautiful may be considered visually unpleasant by a different individual. Though such different opinions exist about the definition of beauty, the majority of people share more or less a definite opinion on whether something is beautiful or not. The paper examines the nature of beauty and attempts to create an acceptable definition of the term.

The ancient Greeks were among the first to come up with a definition of beauty. According to them, beauty is attributed to youthfulness. This means that young people are considered to be naturally beautiful when compared to the older generation. Anthropologist Doug Jones carried out a study in several countries to determine the relation between youthfulness and beauty. After interviewing males from those countries, he discovered that most of them preferred to choose mates that have neotenous facial characteristics. This tendency meant that the males associated beauty with youthfulness, hence went ahead and chose those that had juvenile characteristics.

Classical Greek philosopher Plato was among other philosophers who attempted to shed some light on the definition of beauty. This student of Socrates who pitted beauty as among the triad of the highest human values regarded it as either pleasure to the eyes or an element of suitability. This means that for a body to be considered beautiful it must be useful for the purpose it was made for and it must also be pleasant to look at. Socrates further added to his student’s theory by arguing that some people may view a waste bin more beautiful and useful than a golden shield which is used for defense.

The definition of beauty depends on one’s own interpretation. There are those that relate beauty with youthfulness while others relate it to suitability for a given purpose. Though both definitions can apply in different situations, one aspect of beauty that stands out is that it is mainly determined by the level of attraction it has to the human eye. The level of beauty perceived by the male will most likely determine the choice of a mate he makes. Psychological research has also shown that a person’s demeanor may affect how his or her beauty is perceived by others. This shows how the definition of beauty is also determined by the person holding it.


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