Judgments of Beauty

What is beauty? There is no absolute truth when it comes to beauty because it is a perception, a subjective opinion that we make of something. So what makes something beautiful to one person and ugly to another? ‘Judgments of beauty’ is a topic that has been philosophised about for many years.

In the 18th century there were two contradicting views on aesthetics, the first being that the judgment of beauty is non cognitive, and is an expression based on emotions and feelings. This view was supported by philosophers such as Hume and Hutcheson. The other view was a more rationalistic one in which the judgment of beauty was a cognitive response to the objective properties of something.

Kant aposed both these theories and claimed that one’s judgment of beauty is influenced by our aesthetic experience of it as well as our intellectual response to it. The intellectual response, however, was one of disinterest and free from concept. This allows pure beauty to pleasure the mind and hold its attention without the need and desire for the object, for it is not the object itself that is being contemplated. He stated that a judgment of beauty has a universality to it therefore being a judgement that is universaly agreed upon.

I agree with Kant’s sentiments that when we judge something to be beautiful it is due to our aesthetic experience of it as well as an intellectual response. I do however, disagree that beauty can only be judged free of concept. I think that the understanding and appreciation of an object in its entirety enhances our perception of the object’s beauty. I aslo disagree on the universality of such a judgment. I think one’s judgment is influenced so much so by factors such as their experiences, upbringing, culture, beliefs and values that it is unlikely for there to be such a universal judgment of beauty.

Other references:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-aesthetics/#2.1 (28/08/09)

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