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“The beauty of the course of this world is achieved by the opposition of contraries” – St. Augustine

Beauty seems a cultural construct framed by individual perceptions of reality bound by social learning and inter-development of personally associated preference. In other words, beauty is both a public and private matter. The constructive indications of beauty are a pre-defined frame created by the cultural environment an individual is born into and lives. This represents beauty as a matter influenced by public. Conversely, Personal preferences develop from this frame by associating a variety of personal beliefs and values like religion, education, memories, traditions, and emotional tendencies etc. that the individual applies to cultural predispositions.

To illustrate the point, in modern American culture it is a generally held belief that women with large breasts are an ideal of feminine beauty, which explains the trend of surgical breast implants. Media (i.e., large breasted women in sexually suggestive ads, movies, etc.) provides a social framework or reference for the individual, but it does not dictate the individual’s associations within the framework, which explains why some people do not concur.

The reason for not subscribing to the general framework can be a cause of a variety of influences, feminist politics, sexual attraction, physical health concerns, among others. “Therefore it is possible for the mind, by taking away, as has been said, some things from objects [concepts of feminine beauty] which the senses have brought within its knowledge, and by adding some things, to produce in the exercise of imagination that which, as a whole, was never within the observation of any of the senses;” (Beardsley 98)

Beauty is not so much an implication of knowing as it implies knowing ones culture and oneself because beauty is a composite of numerous influences, which means that the more one knows about what influences participate in one’s perceptions of beauty, the more one can identify and appreciate its existence.

As to the question of Artists being somehow morally obligated to the representation of beauty (a concept introduced by Plato) Artists have no responsibility to beauty because beauty is, in a sense, a judgment, and art is not concerned with judgment (though some may interpret certain works as such) but rather, art is a journey seeking revelation through exploration and discovery. Beauty, in fact, may, at times, be an enemy of the artist because it implies boundaries or divisiveness and art is a form that necessarily escapes boundaries, creating division only by the perceptions of the individuals who behold it.

Works Cited

Beardsley, Monroe C. Aesthetics from Classical Greece to the Present: a Short History.Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama, 1975. Print.


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