Beauty Definition Essay

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Beauty can be used to describe a vast array of things—a baby’s first laugh, a trek through the Grand Canyon, Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune. At first glance, these so-called “beautiful” items seem disconnected. Yet oddly enough, they are all considered beautiful. So what exactly classifies an object as beautiful? To even some of the world’s greatest philosophers, the idea of beauty remains an enigma. Is beauty a universal concept able to be defined or is it strictly perceived in the mind of the individual? While ideas of beauty are to some degree a matter of personal preference, they are also influenced by the social norms surrounding us; thus, beauty exists in the culturally-conditioned eye of the beholder. Cultures across the world have very different philosophies on what it means to be beautiful. In western countries, the unibrow is considered unattractive and is often ridiculed. However, in the Asian country of Tajikistan, the unibrow is a highly desirable feature for women (“Tajikistan, Land of the Unibrow”). Both of these features are described as beautiful, yet they are opposites. Since the objects we call beautiful are vastly different, what exactly is the definition of beauty? Perhaps the biggest issue in defining beauty is deciding whether it is an objective definition applicable to all people or whether it is subjective to individual opinions. Some aspects of beauty can be objective, as it would be strange for someone to deny the magnificence of a bold sunset or a sky filled with stars. In contrast, it is wrong to assume beauty is always objective. David Hume claims, “Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty” (Sartwell). ... ... middle of paper ... ... study reports, “Although all women rate certain inner qualities as very important to making a woman beautiful, women in Italy and Brazil in particular place greater value than those in other countries in physical appearance, facial and skin appearance, and body weight and shape in defining a woman’s beauty” (Etcoff et al.). While each Italian or Brazilian citizen is free to formulate their own definition of beauty, their culture has played a part in influencing those opinions. In Brazil, where many suffer from eating disorders, being thin represents physical beauty. In Mauritania, on the other hand, overeating occurs not necessarily to look beautiful, but mainly as a symbol of success and happiness. Therefore, countries like Brazil and Italy, where anorexic figures are desired for physical attractiveness, play a role in influencing their residents’ ideas of beauty.

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