May 8, 2021

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Beauty in the Middle Ages – The Concept of Beauty Throughout the Ages

Beauty is commonly defined as an emotional attribute of things that makes those objects pleasant to see. Such things as sunsets, landscapes, humans and beautiful works of art. Beauty, along with beauty, is the prevailing theme of aesthetics, among the major fields of philosophy. Just as the word “appeal” can be used in many contexts, so too can “beauty” in different ways.

The term “gorgeousness” is more descriptive than definitive. It depends on the observer to decide what things are beautiful. Most people, however, consider beautiful anything that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. In ancient Greek philosophy, beauty was seen to derive from physical, bodily components and quality not from social status, and the influence of art or of the artistic production. Therefore, Greek philosophers, while opposing social inequality, regarded beauty to be inherent to all human beings.

Later, as the concept of beauty became more vague in Europe, some scholars suggested developing a universal beauty standards in order to unify European aesthetic tastes. Others suggested redefining beauty according to how an object appears to a person’s eyes, i.e., beauty standards were to be objectively judged by how they affect the eyes of the beholder. Still others pointed out that beauty standards are always relative, and that they vary with culture and situation. In recent years, however, more concrete criteria for beauty have been sought and found through the work of cultural psychologists.

Modern aesthetic appraisals of beauty place great emphasis on the cognitive and emotional associations that a given object, be it music, literature, architecture or film, makes with the beholder. According to these newer beauty standards, beautiful objects are those that appeal to and inspire the human mind. Beauty, according to these newer definitions, does not need to be timeless; rather, it can be experienced and understood in any time and place. In this way, beauty becomes something that humans find appealing and relatable and allows them to transcend their own personal experiences and expectations.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of beauty is “the quality of being well arranged or shaped, in the opinion of those who view it.” Because the physical aspect of beauty is so important to Western society, the word beauty has become linked not only to the physical appearance of things but also to mental or psychological beauty. Thus, it is not uncommon to hear people describe a person as beautiful if they do not possess the prettiest face or the most attractive body.

While the underlying principles of beauty remain largely the same, the way that beauty is perceived varies throughout time and depends on societal expectations. The concept of beauty that pervades the middle ages is much the same as it was in ancient Greece. According to Pliny the Elder, the beauty of a man is judged by his physical beauty and by his ability to meet the needs and desires of his fellow men. By contrast, the ideal of beauty that Greeks associated with the middle ages was not only a consideration of physical attractiveness but also consisted of qualities such as intelligence, temperance, moderation, rectitude and eloquence.