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Essays About Beauty: Top 5 Examples and 10 Prompts

Writing essays about beauty is complicated because of this topic’s breadth. See our examples and prompts to you write your next essay.

Beauty is short for beautiful and refers to the features that make something pleasant to look at. This includes landscapes like mountain ranges and plains, natural phenomena like sunsets and aurora borealis, and art pieces such as paintings and sculptures. However, beauty is commonly attached to an individual’s appearance,  fashion, or cosmetics style, which appeals to aesthetical concepts. Because people’s views and ideas about beauty constantly change , there are always new things to know and talk about.

Below are five great essays that define beauty differently. Consider these examples as inspiration to come up with a topic to write about.

1. Essay On Beauty – Promise Of Happiness By Shivi Rawat

2. defining beauty by wilbert houston, 3. long essay on beauty definition by prasanna, 4. creative writing: beauty essay by writer jill, 5. modern idea of beauty by anonymous on papersowl, 1. what is beauty: an argumentative essay, 2. the beauty around us, 3. children and beauty pageants, 4. beauty and social media, 5. beauty products and treatments: pros and cons, 6. men and makeup, 7. beauty and botched cosmetic surgeries, 8. is beauty a necessity, 9. physical and inner beauty, 10. review of books or films about beauty.

“In short, appreciation of beauty is a key factor in the achievement of happiness, adds a zest to living positively and makes the earth a more cheerful place to live in.”

Rawat defines beauty through the words of famous authors, ancient sayings, and historical personalities. He believes that beauty depends on the one who perceives it. What others perceive as beautiful may be different for others. Rawat adds that beauty makes people excited about being alive.

“No one’s definition of beauty is wrong. However, it does exist and can be seen with the eyes and felt with the heart.”

Check out these essays about best friends .

Houston’s essay starts with the author pointing out that some people see beauty and think it’s unattainable and non-existent. Next, he considers how beauty’s definition is ever-changing and versatile. In the next section of his piece, he discusses individuals’ varying opinions on the two forms of beauty: outer and inner. 

At the end of the essay, the author admits that beauty has no exact definition, and people don’t see it the same way. However, he argues that one’s feelings matter regarding discerning beauty. Therefore, no matter what definition you believe in, no one has the right to say you’re wrong if you think and feel beautiful.

“The characteristic held by the objects which are termed “beautiful” must give pleasure to the ones perceiving it. Since pleasure and satisfaction are two very subjective concepts, beauty has one of the vaguest definitions.”

Instead of providing different definitions, Prasanna focuses on how the concept of beauty has changed over time. She further delves into other beauty requirements to show how they evolved. In our current day, she explains that many defy beauty standards, and thinking “everyone is beautiful” is now the new norm.

“…beauty has stolen the eye of today’s youth. Gone are the days where a person’s inner beauty accounted for so much more then his/her outer beauty.”

This short essay discusses how people’s perception of beauty today heavily relies on physical appearance rather than inner beauty. However, Jill believes that beauty is all about acceptance. Sadly, this notion is unpopular because nowadays, something or someone’s beauty depends on how many people agree with its pleasant outer appearance. In the end, she urges people to stop looking at the false beauty seen in magazines and take a deeper look at what true beauty is.

“The modern idea of beauty is taking a sole purpose in everyday life. Achieving beautiful is not surgically fixing yourself to be beautiful, and tattoos may have a strong meaning behind them that makes them beautiful.”

Beauty in modern times has two sides: physical appearance and personality. The author also defines beauty by using famous statements like “a woman’s beauty is seen in her eyes because that’s the door to her heart where love resides” by Audrey Hepburn. The author also tackles the issue of how physical appearance can be the reason for bullying, cosmetic surgeries, and tattoos as a way for people to express their feelings.

Looking for more? Check out these essays about fashion .

10 Helpful Prompts To Use in Writing Essays About Beauty

If you’re still struggling to know where to start, here are ten exciting and easy prompts for your essay writing:

While defining beauty is not easy, it’s a common essay topic. First, share what you think beauty means. Then, explore and gather ideas and facts about the subject and convince your readers by providing evidence to support your argument.

If you’re unfamiliar with this essay type, see our guide on how to write an argumentative essay .

Beauty doesn’t have to be grand. For this prompt, center your essay on small beautiful things everyone can relate to. They can be tangible such as birds singing or flowers lining the street. They can also be the beauty of life itself. Finally, add why you think these things manifest beauty.

Little girls and boys participating in beauty pageants or modeling contests aren’t unusual. But should it be common? Is it beneficial for a child to participate in these competitions and be exposed to cosmetic products or procedures at a young age? Use this prompt to share your opinion about the issue and list the pros and cons of child beauty pageants.

Essays About Beauty: Beauty and social media

Today, social media is the principal dictator of beauty standards. This prompt lets you discuss the unrealistic beauty and body shape promoted by brands and influencers on social networking sites. Next, explain these unrealistic beauty standards and how they are normalized. Finally, include their effects on children and teens.

Countless beauty products and treatments crowd the market today. What products do you use and why? Do you think these products’ marketing is deceitful? Are they selling the idea of beauty no one can attain without surgeries? Choose popular brands and write down their benefits, issues, and adverse effects on users.

Although many countries accept men wearing makeup, some conservative regions such as Asia still see it as taboo. Explain their rationale on why these regions don’t think men should wear makeup. Then, delve into what makeup do for men. Does it work the same way it does for women? Include products that are made specifically for men.

There’s always something we want to improve regarding our physical appearance. One way to achieve such a goal is through surgeries. However, it’s a dangerous procedure with possible lifetime consequences. List known personalities who were pressured to take surgeries because of society’s idea of beauty but whose lives changed because of failed operations. Then, add your thoughts on having procedures yourself to have a “better” physique.

People like beautiful things. This explains why we are easily fascinated by exquisite artworks. But where do these aspirations come from? What is beauty’s role, and how important is it in a person’s life? Answer these questions in your essay for an engaging piece of writing.

Beauty has many definitions but has two major types. Discuss what is outer and inner beauty and give examples. Tell the reader which of these two types people today prefer to achieve and why. Research data and use opinions to back up your points for an interesting essay.

Many literary pieces and movies are about beauty. Pick one that made an impression on you and tell your readers why. One of the most popular books centered around beauty is Dave Hickey’s The Invisible Dragon , first published in 1993. What does the author want to prove and point out in writing this book, and what did you learn? Are the ideas in the book still relevant to today’s beauty standards? Answer these questions in your next essay for an exiting and engaging piece of writing.

Grammar is critical in writing. To ensure your essay is free of grammatical errors, check out our list of best essay checkers .

health and beauty essay

Maria Caballero is a freelance writer who has been writing since high school. She believes that to be a writer doesn't only refer to excellent syntax and semantics but also knowing how to weave words together to communicate to any reader effectively.

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André Aciman: Why Beauty Is So Important to Us

By André Aciman Dec. 7, 2019

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A quest for our better selves

health and beauty essay

Humans have engaged with the concept of beauty for millennia, trying to define it while being defined by it.

Plato thought that merely contemplating beauty caused “the soul to grow wings.” Ralph Waldo Emerson found beauty in Raphael’s “The Transfiguration,” writing that “a calm benignant beauty shines over all this picture, and goes directly to the heart.” In “My Skin,” Lizzo sings: “The most beautiful thing that you ever seen is even bigger than what we think it means.”

We asked a group of artists, scientists, writers and thinkers to answer this simple question: Why is beauty, however defined, so important in our lives? Here are their responses.

health and beauty essay

We’ll do anything to watch a sunset on a clear summer day at the beach. We’ll stand and stare and remain silent, as suffused shades of orange stretch over the horizon. Meanwhile, the sun, like a painter who keeps changing his mind about which colors to use, finally resolves everything with shades of pink and light yellow, before sinking, finally, into stunning whiteness.

Suddenly, we are marveled and uplifted, pulled out of our small, ordinary lives and taken to a realm far richer and more eloquent than anything we know.

Call it enchantment, the difference between the time-bound and the timeless, between us and the otherworldly. All beauty and art evoke harmonies that transport us to a place where, for only seconds, time stops and we are one with the world. It is the best life has to offer.

Under the spell of beauty, we experience a rare condition called plenitude, where we want for nothing. It isn’t just a feeling. Or if it is, then it’s a feeling like love — yes, exactly like love. Love, after all, is the most intimate thing we know. And feeling one with someone or something isn’t just an unrivaled condition, but one we do not want to live without.

We fall in love with sunsets and beaches, with tennis, with works of art, with places like Tuscany and the Rockies and the south of France, and, of course, with other people — not just because of who or what they are, but because they promise to realign us with our better selves, with the people we’ve always known we were but neglected to become, the people we crave to be before our time runs out.

André Aciman is the author of “Call Me by Your Name” and “Find Me.”

The marketing machines of modern life would have us believe that beauty is about physical attributes. With the benefit of the wisdom we have attained after many years spent traversing the planet as conservation photographers, we know otherwise.

Beauty has less to do with the material things around us, and more to do with how we spend our time on earth. We create true beauty only when we channel our energy to achieve a higher purpose, build strong communities and model our behavior so that others can find inspiration to do better by each other and our planet. Beauty has nothing to do with the latest makeup or fashion trends, and everything to do with how we live on this planet and act to protect it.

Every day we learn that species, landscapes and indigenous knowledge are vanishing before our eyes. That’s why we’ve dedicated our lives to reminding the world of the fragile beauty of our only home, and to protecting nature, not just for humanity’s sake, but for the benefit of all life on earth.

Committing our time, energy and resources to achieve these goals fills our lives with beauty.

Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen are conservation photographers and the founders of SeaLegacy .

Science enriches us by bringing us beauty in multiple forms.

Sometimes it can be found in the simplest manifestations of nature: the pattern of a nautilus shell; the colors and delicate shapes of a eucalyptus tree in full flower; the telescopic images of swirling galaxies, with their visual message of great mystery and vastness.

Sometimes it is the intricacy of the barely understood dynamics of the world’s molecules, cells, organisms and ecosystems that speaks to our imagination and wonder.

Sometimes there is beauty in the simple idea of science pursuing truth, or in the very process of scientific inquiry by which human creativity and ingenuity unveil a pattern within what had looked like chaos and incomprehensibility.

And isn’t there beauty and elegance in the fact that just four DNA nucleotides are patterned to produce the shared genetic information that underlies myriad seemingly unrelated forms of life?

Elizabeth Blackburn is a co-recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

A person’s definition of beauty is an abstract, complicated and highly personal ideal that becomes a guiding light throughout life. We crave what we consider beautiful, and that craving can easily develop into desire, which in turn becomes the fuel that propels us into action. Beauty has the power to spawn aspiration and passion, thus becoming the impetus to achieve our dreams.

In our professional lives as fashion designers, we often deal with beauty as a physical manifestation. But beauty can also be an emotional, creative and deeply spiritual force. Its very essence is polymorphic. It can take on limitless shapes, allowing us to define it by what makes the most sense to us.

We are extremely fortunate to be living at a time when so many examples of beauty are being celebrated and honored, and more inclusive and diverse standards are being set, regardless of race, gender, sexuality or creed. Individuality is beautiful. Choice is beautiful. Freedom is beautiful.

Beauty will always have the power to inspire us. It is that enigmatic, unknowable muse that keeps you striving to be better, to do better, to push harder. And by that definition, what we all need most in today’s world is perhaps simply more beauty.

Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough are the co-founders and designers of Proenza Schouler.

Beauty is just another way the tendency of our society to create hierarchies and segregate people expresses itself. The fact that over the past century certain individuals and businesses realized that it is incredibly lucrative to push upon us ever-changing beauty standards has only made things worse.

The glorification of impossible ideals is the foundation of the diet and beauty industries. And because of it, we find ourselves constantly in flux, spending however much money and time it takes to meet society’s standards. First, we didn’t want ethnic features. Now, we are all about plumping our lips and getting eye lifts in pursuit of a slanted eye. Skin-bleaching treatments and tanning creams. The ideal is constantly moving, and constantly out of reach.

The concept of beauty is a permanent obsession that permeates cultures around the world.

Jameela Jamil is an actress and the founder of the “I Weigh” movement .

The Life of Beauty

The sung blessing of creation

Led her into the human story.

That was the first beauty.

Next beauty was the sound of her mother’s voice

Rippling the waters beneath the drumming skin

Of her birthing cocoon.

Next beauty the father with kindness in his hands

As he held the newborn against his breathing.

Next beauty the moon through the dark window

It was a rocking horse, a wish.

There were many beauties in this age

For everything was immensely itself:

Green greener than the impossibility of green,

the taste of wind after its slide through dew grass at dawn,

Or language running through a tangle of wordlessness in her mouth.

She ate well of the next beauty.

Next beauty planted itself urgently beneath the warrior shrines.

Next was beauty beaded by her mother and pinned neatly

To hold back her hair.

Then how tendrils of fire longing grew into her, beautiful the flower

Between her legs as she became herself.

Do not forget this beauty she was told.

The story took her far away from beauty. In the tests of her living,

Beauty was often long from the reach of her mind and spirit.

When she forgot beauty, all was brutal.

But beauty always came to lift her up to stand again.

When it was beautiful all around and within,

She knew herself to be corn plant, moon, and sunrise.

Death is beautiful, she sang, as she left this story behind her.

Even her bones, said time.

Were tuned to beauty.

Joy Harjo is the United States poet laureate. She is the first Native American to hold the position.

Beauty is a positive and dynamic energy that has the power to convey emotion and express individuality as well as collectiveness. It can be felt through each of our senses, yet it is more magnificent when it transcends all five.

Over more than 30 years as a chef, I have experienced beauty unfolding through my cooking and in the creation of new dishes. Recipes have shown me that beauty is not a singular ingredient, object or idea, but the sum of the parts. Each dish has an appearance, a flavor, a temperature, a smell, a consistency and a nutritional value, but its triumph is the story all those parts tell together.

When my team and I launched Milan’s Refettorio Ambrosiano, our first community kitchen, in 2015, beauty was the guiding principle in our mission to nourish the homeless. We collaborated with artists, architects, designers and chefs to build a place of warmth, where gestures of hospitality and dignity would be offered to all. What I witnessed by bringing different people and perspectives around the table was the profound ability of beauty to build community. In a welcoming space, our guests had the freedom to imagine who they would like to be and begin to change their lives. In that space, beauty wielded the power of transformation.

When I visit the Refettorios that Food for Soul, the nonprofit I founded, has built around the world over the years, what strikes me as most beautiful is neither a table nor a chair nor a painting on the wall. Beauty is the spontaneity of two strangers breaking bread. It is the proud smile of a man who feels he has a place in the world. It is the emotion of that moment, and its power to fill a room with the celebration of life.

Massimo Bottura is a chef and the founder of Food for Soul .

Who wouldn’t argue that some things are objectively beautiful? Much of what we can see in the natural world would surely qualify: sunsets, snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, wildflowers. Images of these scenes, which please and soothe our senses, are among the most reproduced in all of civilization.

It’s true, of course, that we’re not the only creatures attracted to flowers. Bees and butterflies can’t resist them either — but that’s because they need flowers to survive.

Lying at the opposite end of the beauty spectrum are reptiles. They’ve had it pretty bad. Across decades of science fiction, their countenance has served as the model for a long line of ugly monsters, from Godzilla to the Creature in the “Creature From the Black Lagoon” to the Gorn in “Star Trek.”

There may be a good reason for our instinctive attraction to some things and distaste for others. If our mammalian ancestors, running underfoot, hadn’t feared reptilian dinosaurs they would have been swiftly eaten. Similarly, nearly everyone would agree that the harmless butterfly is more beautiful than the stinger-equipped bee — with the possible exception of beekeepers.

Risk of bodily harm appears to matter greatly in our collective assessment of what is or is not beautiful. Beauty could very well be a way for our senses to reassure us when we feel safe in a dangerous universe.

If so, I can’t help but wonder how much beauty lies just out of reach, hidden in plain sight, simply because we have no more than five senses with which to experience the world.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History, where he also serves as the Frederick P. Rose director of the Hayden Planetarium. He is the author of “Letters From an Astrophysicist.”

Beauty can stop us in our tracks. It can inspire us, move us, bring us to tears. Beauty can create total chaos, and then total clarity. The best kind of beauty changes hearts and minds.

That’s why the bravery of our girls is so beautiful — it can do all these things.

Over the past year, girls have moved us to tears with impassioned speeches about gun control, sexual assault and climate change. They have challenged the status quo and brought us clarity with their vision of the future. They have changed the hearts and minds of generations that are older, but not necessarily wiser.

Girls like Greta Thunberg and Isra Hirsi are fighting for the environment. Young women like Diana Kris Navarro, a Girls Who Code alumna, are leading efforts against harassment in tech. Girls like Lauren Hogg, a Parkland shooting survivor, and Thandiwe Abdullah, a Black Lives Matter activist, are speaking out against gun violence. The list goes on and on and on.

These girls are wise and brave beyond their years. They speak up because they care, not because they have the attention of a crowd or a camera. And they persist even when they’re told they’re too young, too small, too powerless — because they know they’re not.

Their bravery is beauty, redefined. And it’s what we need now, more than ever.

Reshma Saujani is the founder and chief executive of Girls Who Code and the author of “Brave, Not Perfect.”

I spend most of my waking hours (and many of my nightly dreams) thinking about beauty and its meaning. My whole life’s work has been an attempt to express beauty through design.

I see beauty as something ineffable, and I experience it in many ways. For example, I love gardening. The form and color of the flowers I tend to fill me with awe and joy. The time I spend in my garden frequently influences the shape of my gowns, as well as the objects that I choose to surround myself with. It even brings me closer to the people who have the same passion for it.

As humans, we all are more or less attuned to beauty. And because of this, we all try to engage with it one way or another — be it by being in nature, through poetry or by falling in love. And though our interaction with it can be a solitary affair, in the best cases, it connects people who share the same appreciation for it.

Beauty is what allows us to experience the extraordinary richness of our surroundings. Sensing it is like having a visa to our inner selves and the rest of the world, all at once. The interesting thing about beauty is that there is simply no downside to it: It can only enhance our lives.

Zac Posen is a fashion designer.

“The purpose of sex is procreation,” a straight cisgender man once told me, trying to defend his homophobia. “So that proves that homosexuality is scientifically and biologically wrong. It serves no purpose.”

I was quiet for a moment. “Huh,” I then said, “so … what’s the science behind blow jobs?” That shut him up real quick.

I often hear arguments that reduce human existence to a biological function, as if survival or productivity were our sole purpose, and the “bottom line” our final word. That is an attractive stance to take because it requires the least amount of energy or imagination. And for most animals, it’s the only option — the hummingbird sipping nectar is merely satisfying her hunger. She does not know her own beauty; she doesn’t have the capacity to perceive it. But we do. We enjoy art, music, poetry. We build birdfeeders. We plant flowers.

Only humans can seek out and express beauty. Why would we have this unique ability if we weren’t meant to use it? Even quarks, those fundamental parts at the core of life, were originally named after “beauty” and “truth.”

That’s why beauty matters to me. When we find beauty in something, we are making the fullest use of our biological capacities. Another way of putting it: When we become aware of life’s beauty, that’s when we are most alive.

Constance Wu is a television and film actress.

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Yes, Beauty Is Self-Care, but Don't Confuse That With Pampering

Updated on 2/11/2019 at 8:20 AM

health and beauty essay

The dictionary definition of self-care is "the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one's own health" — and this extends to beauty, too. Most recently, people have connected it with using a face mask or taking a bath. However, the importance of self-care should not be confused with pampering, because those two words can take on many meanings, are totally dependent on the person, and can be practiced in a number of ways. For some, it comes in the form of a beauty regimen (myself included), but for others, self-care is the very basic principle of taking care of oneself, which could be ordering prescriptions, doing laundry, or remembering to wash.

I use my beauty regimen as a form of self-care and believe it's important to my overall well-being.

My personal self-care routine changes depending on whether I'm feeling fit and healthy or suffering with endometriosis , or anything else life throws at me. Sometimes my self-care includes indulging in a face mask and shaving my legs, other times it's making sure I eat a healthy dinner and not just cereal. Whichever category you fall into, I do believe self-care and beauty are intertwined. Beauty is so personal, and everyone has a beauty routine of some kind (even if you just wash your face in the shower).

I use my beauty regimen as a form of self-care and believe it's important to my overall well-being. When I feel out of control and a little overwhelmed, skin care — as in washing my face or moisturizing — is one thing I can control, and it's something I enjoy doing. It allows me to take 10 minutes in the day to actually stop and think, at a very basic level, about how I'm feeling, and how my skin is feeling. If I feel positive and productive, you'll find me doing 10 steps of skin care for fun; if I can't think of anything worse than moving off my sofa for skin care, I know I need to slow down and assess my fatigue.

Nothing can boost my mood throughout the day more than wearing sparkly copper eye makeup.

The same applies to makeup. It allows me to slow down first thing in the morning totally uninterrupted by technology, music, or other people. It's when I can quietly reflect on my day ahead and what I'd like to accomplish without being totally bombarded with information. Of course, beyond that, I absolutely love experimenting with makeup and truly enjoy the experience of using colors and textures, but to me it's also a form of self-care as it makes me reflect and improve my well-being. Plus, nothing can boost my mood throughout the day more than wearing sparkly copper eye makeup.

Next time you're doubting whether beauty is really a form of self-care for you, remember what Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness said: "Do it for yourself," hunny.

The obvious and not-so-obvious connection between health and beauty

(As it turns out, beauty is in fact more than skin deep. Much more.)

The connection between health and beauty is intuitive. On some level, we all understand that living a healthy lifestyle improves our appearance, and that the health of our skin is an indicator of our overall health. But, what many of us don’t realize is that the connection between beauty and health is just as strong.

First: The Obvious

Food, water, stress management, and sleep are more important than cosmetics and skincare products. Properly managing these four key ingredients will not only have us looking and feeling our best, but also improve our health in ways we can’t see. Now, you probably already know all of this, but let’s take a quick refresher before jumping in to the not-so-obvious:

Sugar, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and even dairy all can cause inflammation of our body’s tissues. Breakouts in our skin are just one symptom of the destructive nature of these substances in our bodies. They can often wreak havoc in our digestive tract and other body systems as well.

The best solution is to eat more fresh whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, especially green vegetables that contain nutrients and antioxidants that fight systemic inflammation. For a little more information about this read this article from St. John’s health.

This is perhaps the most obvious ingredient to being our most beautiful. After all, our bodies are composed of somewhere around 60% water! Staying hydrated allows nutrients to more easily reach our cells. It also reduces our skin’s natural defense mechanism – oil production – which helps to clear up our skin.

How much water should we drink? The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that, for people living in a temperate environment, an adequate daily fluid intake is about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters, or 125 oz) of water for men and about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters, or 91 oz) of water a day for women. That water can come from multiple sources such as juices and the like, but you’re not getting it from diuretic drinks such as soft drinks and coffee. In fact, those drinks actually dehydrate you. So, be careful about what you reach for in the fridge.

Fun Fact : The daily recommended water intake may not sound like much, but one study found that the average adult in the US only drank 39 oz per day. That’s less than half!

Stress Management and Exercise

When we’re stressed our endocrine system releases cortisol, a hormone that causes inflammation, which can manifest in our skin as acne, eczema, and other disorders. Everyone manages stress differently. Exercise is one good way to do it.

Regularly exercising improves our vascular system and blood circulation which can increase cell turnover (replacement of dead cells with new ones), and improve skin tone by delivering more oxygen to our cells.

Other ways to manage stress include meditation, yoga, walking, and stress-free activities such as reading a book or just spending some time outside.

Sleep gives our bodies a chance to heal. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s guidelines, adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. And, just one night of less than seven hours of sleep can increase dark circles, puffiness, and wrinkles. Check out this article for more information about that.

The Not-So-Obvious

So, we know being healthy helps us look our best. But guess what… looking our best also helps us be healthier. As it turns out, taking a few moments to put on make-up, get our hair and nails done, or care for our skin may actually add years to our lives.

Looking Our Best = Living Healthier and Longer

When we look good, we feel good. That’s a no brainer. But, there’s a growing body of scientific evidence that we’re not just feeling healthier because we look good; we actually are healthier.

The psychological experience of feeling good about ourselves is known as subjective well being (SWB) and has been shown to have significant long- and short-term health benefits. When we have SWB, we tend to eat and sleep better, go to doctors more often, have increased immunity, and generally take better care of ourselves.

Studies have shown that SWB can even extend our longevity, adding up to seven and a half years to our lives. When we take care of our skin, when we look our most beautiful we enhance our SWB, which in turn promotes other self-care behaviors. Over time, this thought>action cycle leads to personal habits that can impact our overall well-being . For example, when we have a positive attitude, we tend to smile more, walk taller, have a confident stride and make more direct eye contact. We make time for ourselves. We exercise, take baths, get manis and pedis, and as a result, we feel and look more relaxed. Greater confidence and relaxation fuels a positive sense of self, which reinforces SWB.

Positive behaviors and attitudes also lead to more satisfying interpersonal experiences. Compliments about how we look are called affirmative feedback. This reinforces our positive self image and the desire to continue to take care of ourselves.

Are you beginning to see the connection? The habits we form are part of what’s called a cognitive-behavior loop, (a habit forming tool actually used by cognitive behavior therapists). When we develop this cognitive-behavior loop, it keeps the beauty-health connection going: self-care and relaxation > positive attitude > improved health > increased attractiveness > affirmative feedback > reinforcement for self-care and relaxation > and repeat. This feedback cycle leads to long-term well being, goodness, and a healthier us that results from all that goodness.

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The nature of beauty is one of the most enduring and controversial themes in Western philosophy, and is—with the nature of art—one of the two fundamental issues in the history of philosophical aesthetics. Beauty has traditionally been counted among the ultimate values, with goodness, truth, and justice. It is a primary theme among ancient Greek, Hellenistic, and medieval philosophers, and was central to eighteenth and nineteenth-century thought, as represented in treatments by such thinkers as Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Hume, Burke, Kant, Schiller, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Hanslick, and Santayana. By the beginning of the twentieth century, beauty was in decline as a subject of philosophical inquiry, and also as a primary goal of the arts. However, there was revived interest in beauty and critique of the concept by the 1980s, particularly within feminist philosophy.

This article will begin with a sketch of the debate over whether beauty is objective or subjective, which is perhaps the single most-prosecuted disagreement in the literature. It will proceed to set out some of the major approaches to or theories of beauty developed within Western philosophical and artistic traditions.

1. Objectivity and Subjectivity

2.1 the classical conception, 2.2 the idealist conception, 2.3 love and longing, 2.4 hedonist conceptions, 2.5 use and uselessness, 3.1 aristocracy and capital, 3.2 the feminist critique, 3.3 colonialism and race, 3.4 beauty and resistance, other internet resources, related entries.

Perhaps the most familiar basic issue in the theory of beauty is whether beauty is subjective—located ‘in the eye of the beholder’—or rather an objective feature of beautiful things. A pure version of either of these positions seems implausible, for reasons we will examine, and many attempts have been made to split the difference or incorporate insights of both subjectivist and objectivist accounts. Ancient and medieval accounts for the most part located beauty outside of anyone’s particular experiences. Nevertheless, that beauty is subjective was also a commonplace from the time of the sophists. By the eighteenth century, Hume could write as follows, expressing one ‘species of philosophy’:

Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may even perceive deformity, where another is sensible of beauty; and every individual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those of others. (Hume 1757, 136)

And Kant launches his discussion of the matter in The Critique of Judgment (the Third Critique) at least as emphatically:

The judgment of taste is therefore not a judgment of cognition, and is consequently not logical but aesthetical, by which we understand that whose determining ground can be no other than subjective . Every reference of representations, even that of sensations, may be objective (and then it signifies the real [element] of an empirical representation), save only the reference to the feeling of pleasure and pain, by which nothing in the object is signified, but through which there is a feeling in the subject as it is affected by the representation. (Kant 1790, section 1)

However, if beauty is entirely subjective—that is, if anything that anyone holds to be or experiences as beautiful is beautiful (as James Kirwan, for example, asserts)—then it seems that the word has no meaning, or that we are not communicating anything when we call something beautiful except perhaps an approving personal attitude. In addition, though different persons can of course differ in particular judgments, it is also obvious that our judgments coincide to a remarkable extent: it would be odd or perverse for any person to deny that a perfect rose or a dramatic sunset was beautiful. And it is possible actually to disagree and argue about whether something is beautiful, or to try to show someone that something is beautiful, or learn from someone else why it is.

On the other hand, it seems senseless to say that beauty has no connection to subjective response or that it is entirely objective. That would seem to entail, for example, that a world with no perceivers could be beautiful or ugly, or perhaps that beauty could be detected by scientific instruments. Even if it could be, beauty would seem to be connected to subjective response, and though we may argue about whether something is beautiful, the idea that one’s experiences of beauty might be disqualified as simply inaccurate or false might arouse puzzlement as well as hostility. We often regard other people’s taste, even when it differs from our own, as provisionally entitled to some respect, as we may not, for example, in cases of moral, political, or factual opinions. All plausible accounts of beauty connect it to a pleasurable or profound or loving response, even if they do not locate beauty purely in the eye of the beholder.

Until the eighteenth century, most philosophical accounts of beauty treated it as an objective quality: they located it in the beautiful object itself or in the qualities of that object. In De Veritate Religione , Augustine asks explicitly whether things are beautiful because they give delight, or whether they give delight because they are beautiful; he emphatically opts for the second (Augustine, 247). Plato’s account in the Symposium and Plotinus’s in the Enneads connect beauty to a response of love and desire, but locate beauty itself in the realm of the Forms, and the beauty of particular objects in their participation in the Form. Indeed, Plotinus’s account in one of its moments makes beauty a matter of what we might term ‘formedness’: having the definite shape characteristic of the kind of thing the object is.

We hold that all the loveliness of this world comes by communion in Ideal-Form. All shapelessness whose kind admits of pattern and form, as long as it remains outside of Reason and Idea, is ugly from that very isolation from the Divine-Thought. And this is the Absolute Ugly: an ugly thing is something that has not been entirely mastered by pattern, that is by Reason, the Matter not yielding at all points and in all respects to Ideal-Form. But where the Ideal-Form has entered, it has grouped and coordinated what from a diversity of parts was to become a unity: it has rallied confusion into co-operation: it has made the sum one harmonious coherence: for the Idea is a unity and what it moulds must come into unity as far as multiplicity may. (Plotinus, 22 [ Ennead I, 6])

In this account, beauty is at least as objective as any other concept, or indeed takes on a certain ontological priority as more real than particular Forms: it is a sort of Form of Forms.

Though Plato and Aristotle disagree on what beauty is, they both regard it as objective in the sense that it is not localized in the response of the beholder. The classical conception ( see below ) treats beauty as a matter of instantiating definite proportions or relations among parts, sometimes expressed in mathematical ratios, for example the ‘golden section.’ The sculpture known as ‘The Canon,’ by Polykleitos (fifth/fourth century BCE), was held up as a model of harmonious proportion to be emulated by students and masters alike: beauty could be reliably achieved by reproducing its objective proportions. Nevertheless, it is conventional in ancient treatments of the topic also to pay tribute to the pleasures of beauty, often described in quite ecstatic terms, as in Plotinus: “This is the spirit that Beauty must ever induce: wonderment and a delicious trouble, longing and love and a trembling that is all delight” (Plotinus 23, [ Ennead I, 3]).

At latest by the eighteenth century, however, and particularly in the British Isles, beauty was associated with pleasure in a somewhat different way: pleasure was held to be not the effect but the origin of beauty. This was influenced, for example, by Locke’s distinction between primary and secondary qualities. Locke and the other empiricists treated color (which is certainly one source or locus of beauty), for example, as a ‘phantasm’ of the mind, as a set of qualities dependent on subjective response, located in the perceiving mind rather than of the world outside the mind. Without perceivers of a certain sort, there would be no colors. One argument for this was the variation in color experiences between people. For example, some people are color-blind, and to a person with jaundice much of the world allegedly takes on a yellow cast. In addition, the same object is perceived as having different colors by the same the person under different conditions: at noon and midnight, for example. Such variations are conspicuous in experiences of beauty as well.

Nevertheless, eighteenth-century philosophers such as Hume and Kant perceived that something important was lost when beauty was treated merely as a subjective state. They saw, for example, that controversies often arise about the beauty of particular things, such as works of art and literature, and that in such controversies, reasons can sometimes be given and will sometimes be found convincing. They saw, as well, that if beauty is completely relative to individual experiencers, it ceases to be a paramount value, or even recognizable as a value at all across persons or societies.

Hume’s “Of the Standard of Taste” and Kant’s Critique Of Judgment attempt to find ways through what has been termed ‘the antinomy of taste.’ Taste is proverbially subjective: de gustibus non est disputandum (about taste there is no disputing). On the other hand, we do frequently dispute about matters of taste, and some persons are held up as exemplars of good taste or of tastelessness. Some people’s tastes appear vulgar or ostentatious, for example. Some people’s taste is too exquisitely refined, while that of others is crude, naive, or non-existent. Taste, that is, appears to be both subjective and objective: that is the antinomy.

Both Hume and Kant, as we have seen, begin by acknowledging that taste or the ability to detect or experience beauty is fundamentally subjective, that there is no standard of taste in the sense that the Canon was held to be, that if people did not experience certain kinds of pleasure, there would be no beauty. Both acknowledge that reasons can count, however, and that some tastes are better than others. In different ways, they both treat judgments of beauty neither precisely as purely subjective nor precisely as objective but, as we might put it, as inter-subjective or as having a social and cultural aspect, or as conceptually entailing an inter-subjective claim to validity.

Hume’s account focuses on the history and condition of the observer as he or she makes the judgment of taste. Our practices with regard to assessing people’s taste entail that judgments of taste that reflect idiosyncratic bias, ignorance, or superficiality are not as good as judgments that reflect wide-ranging acquaintance with various objects of judgment and are unaffected by arbitrary prejudices. Hume moves from considering what makes a thing beautiful to what makes a critic credible. “Strong sense, united to delicate sentiment, improved by practice, perfected by comparison, and cleared of all prejudice, can alone entitle critics to this valuable character; and the joint verdict of such, wherever they are to be found, is the true standard of taste and beauty” (“Of the Standard of Taste” 1757, 144).

Hume argues further that the verdicts of critics who possess those qualities tend to coincide, and approach unanimity in the long run, which accounts, for example, for the enduring veneration of the works of Homer or Milton. So the test of time, as assessed by the verdicts of the best critics, functions as something analogous to an objective standard. Though judgments of taste remain fundamentally subjective, and though certain contemporary works or objects may appear irremediably controversial, the long-run consensus of people who are in a good position to judge functions analogously to an objective standard and renders such standards unnecessary even if they could be identified. Though we cannot directly find a standard of beauty that sets out the qualities that a thing must possess in order to be beautiful, we can describe the qualities of a good critic or a tasteful person. Then the long-run consensus of such persons is the practical standard of taste and the means of justifying judgments about beauty.

Kant similarly concedes that taste is fundamentally subjective, that every judgment of beauty is based on a personal experience, and that such judgments vary from person to person.

By a principle of taste I mean a principle under the condition of which we could subsume the concept of the object, and thus infer, by means of a syllogism, that the object is beautiful. But that is absolutely impossible. For I must immediately feel the pleasure in the representation of the object, and of that I can be persuaded by no grounds of proof whatever. Although, as Hume says, all critics can reason more plausibly than cooks, yet the same fate awaits them. They cannot expect the determining ground of their judgment [to be derived] from the force of the proofs, but only from the reflection of the subject upon its own proper state of pleasure or pain. (Kant 1790, section 34)

But the claim that something is beautiful has more content merely than that it gives me pleasure. Something might please me for reasons entirely eccentric to myself: I might enjoy a bittersweet experience before a portrait of my grandmother, for example, or the architecture of a house might remind me of where I grew up. “No one cares about that,” says Kant (1790, section 7): no one begrudges me such experiences, but they make no claim to guide or correspond to the experiences of others.

By contrast, the judgment that something is beautiful, Kant argues, is a disinterested judgment. It does not respond to my idiosyncrasies, or at any rate if I am aware that it does, I will no longer take myself to be experiencing the beauty per se of the thing in question. Somewhat as in Hume—whose treatment Kant evidently had in mind—one must be unprejudiced to come to a genuine judgment of taste, and Kant gives that idea a very elaborate interpretation: the judgment must be made independently of the normal range of human desires—economic and sexual desires, for instance, which are examples of our ‘interests’ in this sense. If one is walking through a museum and admiring the paintings because they would be extremely expensive were they to come up for auction, for example, or wondering whether one could steal and fence them, one is not having an experience of the beauty of the paintings at all. One must focus on the form of the mental representation of the object for its own sake, as it is in itself. Kant summarizes this as the thought that insofar as one is having an experience of the beauty of something, one is indifferent to its existence. One takes pleasure, rather, in its sheer representation in one’s experience:

Now, when the question is whether something is beautiful, we do not want to know whether anything depends or can depend on the existence of the thing, either for myself or anyone else, but how we judge it by mere observation (intuition or reflection). … We easily see that, in saying it is beautiful , and in showing that I have taste, I am concerned, not with that in which I depend on the existence of the object, but with that which I make out of this representation in myself. Everyone must admit that a judgement about beauty, in which the least interest mingles, is very partial and is not a pure judgement of taste. (Kant 1790, section 2)

One important source of the concept of aesthetic disinterestedness is the Third Earl of Shaftesbury’s dialogue The Moralists , where the argument is framed in terms of a natural landscape: if you are looking at a beautiful valley primarily as a valuable real estate opportunity, you are not seeing it for its own sake, and cannot fully experience its beauty. If you are looking at a lovely woman and considering her as a possible sexual conquest, you are not able to experience her beauty in the fullest or purest sense; you are distracted from the form as represented in your experience. And Shaftesbury, too, localizes beauty to the representational capacity of the mind. (Shaftesbury 1738, 222)

For Kant, some beauties are dependent—relative to the sort of thing the object is—and others are free or absolute. A beautiful ox would be an ugly horse, but abstract textile designs, for example, may be beautiful without a reference group or “concept,” and flowers please whether or not we connect them to their practical purposes or functions in plant reproduction (Kant 1790, section 16). The idea in particular that free beauty is completely separated from practical use and that the experiencer of it is not concerned with the actual existence of the object leads Kant to conclude that absolute or free beauty is found in the form or design of the object, or as Clive Bell (1914) put it, in the arrangement of lines and colors (in the case of painting). By the time Bell writes in the early twentieth century, however, beauty is out of fashion in the arts, and Bell frames his view not in terms of beauty but in terms of a general formalist conception of aesthetic value.

Since in reaching a genuine judgment of taste one is aware that one is not responding to anything idiosyncratic in oneself, Kant asserts (1790, section 8), one will reach the conclusion that anyone similarly situated should have the same experience: that is, one will presume that there ought to be nothing to distinguish one person’s judgment from another’s (though in fact there may be). Built conceptually into the judgment of taste is the assertion that anyone similarly situated ought to have the same experience and reach the same judgment. Thus, built into judgments of taste is a ‘universalization’ somewhat analogous to the universalization that Kant associates with ethical judgments. In ethical judgments, however, the universalization is objective: if the judgment is true, then it is objectively the case that everyone ought to act on the maxim according to which one acts. In the case of aesthetic judgments, however, the judgment remains subjective, but necessarily contains the ‘demand’ that everyone should reach the same judgment. The judgment conceptually entails a claim to inter-subjective validity. This accounts for the fact that we do very often argue about judgments of taste, and that we find tastes that are different than our own defective.

The influence of this series of thoughts on philosophical aesthetics has been immense. One might mention related approaches taken by such figures as Schopenhauer (1818), Hanslick (1891), Bullough (1912), and Croce (1928), for example. A somewhat similar though more adamantly subjectivist line is taken by Santayana, who defines beauty as ‘objectified pleasure.’ The judgment of something that it is beautiful responds to the fact that it induces a certain sort of pleasure; but this pleasure is attributed to the object, as though the object itself were having subjective states.

We have now reached our definition of beauty, which, in the terms of our successive analysis and narrowing of the conception, is value positive, intrinsic, and objectified. Or, in less technical language, Beauty is pleasure regarded as the quality of a thing. … Beauty is a value, that is, it is not a perception of a matter of fact or of a relation: it is an emotion, an affection of our volitional and appreciative nature. An object cannot be beautiful if it can give pleasure to nobody: a beauty to which all men were forever indifferent is a contradiction in terms. … Beauty is therefore a positive value that is intrinsic; it is a pleasure. (Santayana 1896, 50–51)

It is much as though one were attributing malice to a balky object or device. The object causes certain frustrations and is then ascribed an agency or a kind of subjective agenda that would account for its causing those effects. Now though Santayana thought the experience of beauty could be profound or could even be the meaning of life, this account appears to make beauty a sort of mistake: one attributes subjective states (indeed, one’s own) to a thing which in many instances is not capable of having subjective states.

It is worth saying that Santayana’s treatment of the topic in The Sense of Beauty (1896) was the last major account offered in English for some time, possibly because, once beauty has been admitted to be entirely subjective, much less when it is held to rest on a sort of mistake, there seems little more to be said. What stuck from Hume’s and Kant’s treatments was the subjectivity, not the heroic attempts to temper it. If beauty is a subjective pleasure, it would seem to have no higher status than anything that entertains, amuses, or distracts; it seems odd or ridiculous to regard it as being comparable in importance to truth or justice, for example. And the twentieth century also abandoned beauty as the dominant goal of the arts, again in part because its trivialization in theory led artists to believe that they ought to pursue more urgent and more serious projects. More significantly, as we will see below, the political and economic associations of beauty with power tended to discredit the whole concept for much of the twentieth century. This decline is explored eloquently in Arthur Danto’s book The Abuse of Beauty (2003).

However, there was a revival of interest in beauty in something like the classical philosophical sense in both art and philosophy beginning in the 1990s, to some extent centered on the work of art critic Dave Hickey, who declared that “the issue of the 90s will be beauty” (see Hickey 1993), as well as feminist-oriented reconstruals or reappropriations of the concept (see Brand 2000, Irigaray 1993). Several theorists made new attempts to address the antinomy of taste. To some extent, such approaches echo G.E. Moore’s: “To say that a thing is beautiful is to say, not indeed that it is itself good, but that it is a necessary element in something which is: to prove that a thing is truly beautiful is to prove that a whole, to which it bears a particular relation as a part, is truly good” (Moore 1903, 201). One interpretation of this would be that what is fundamentally valuable is the situation in which the object and the person experiencing are both embedded; the value of beauty might include both features of the beautiful object and the pleasures of the experiencer.

Similarly, Crispin Sartwell in his book Six Names of Beauty (2004), attributes beauty neither exclusively to the subject nor to the object, but to the relation between them, and even more widely also to the situation or environment in which they are both embedded. He points out that when we attribute beauty to the night sky, for instance, we do not take ourselves simply to be reporting a state of pleasure in ourselves; we are turned outward toward it; we are celebrating the real world. On the other hand, if there were no perceivers capable of experiencing such things, there would be no beauty. Beauty, rather, emerges in situations in which subject and object are juxtaposed and connected.

Alexander Nehamas, in Only a Promise of Happiness (2007), characterizes beauty as an invitation to further experiences, a way that things invite us in, while also possibly fending us off. The beautiful object invites us to explore and interpret, but it also requires us to explore and interpret: beauty is not to be regarded as an instantaneously apprehensible feature of surface. And Nehamas, like Hume and Kant, though in another register, considers beauty to have an irreducibly social dimension. Beauty is something we share, or something we want to share, and shared experiences of beauty are particularly intense forms of communication. Thus, the experience of beauty is not primarily within the skull of the experiencer, but connects observers and objects such as works of art and literature in communities of appreciation.

Aesthetic judgment, I believe, never commands universal agreement, and neither a beautiful object nor a work of art ever engages a catholic community. Beauty creates smaller societies, no less important or serious because they are partial, and, from the point of view of its members, each one is orthodox—orthodox, however, without thinking of all others as heresies. … What is involved is less a matter of understanding and more a matter of hope, of establishing a community that centers around it—a community, to be sure, whose boundaries are constantly shifting and whose edges are never stable. (Nehamas 2007, 80–81)

2. Philosophical Conceptions of Beauty

Each of the views sketched below has many expressions, some of which may be incompatible with one another. In many or perhaps most of the actual formulations, elements of more than one such account are present. For example, Kant’s treatment of beauty in terms of disinterested pleasure has obvious elements of hedonism, while the ecstatic neo-Platonism of Plotinus includes not only the unity of the object, but also the fact that beauty calls out love or adoration. However, it is also worth remarking how divergent or even incompatible with one another many of these views are: for example, some philosophers associate beauty exclusively with use, others precisely with uselessness.

The art historian Heinrich Wölfflin gives a fundamental description of the classical conception of beauty, as embodied in Italian Renaissance painting and architecture:

The central idea of the Italian Renaissance is that of perfect proportion. In the human figure as in the edifice, this epoch strove to achieve the image of perfection at rest within itself. Every form developed to self-existent being, the whole freely co-ordinated: nothing but independently living parts…. In the system of a classic composition, the single parts, however firmly they may be rooted in the whole, maintain a certain independence. It is not the anarchy of primitive art: the part is conditioned by the whole, and yet does not cease to have its own life. For the spectator, that presupposes an articulation, a progress from part to part, which is a very different operation from perception as a whole. (Wölfflin 1932, 9–10, 15)

The classical conception is that beauty consists of an arrangement of integral parts into a coherent whole, according to proportion, harmony, symmetry, and similar notions. This is a primordial Western conception of beauty, and is embodied in classical and neo-classical architecture, sculpture, literature, and music wherever they appear. Aristotle says in the Poetics that “to be beautiful, a living creature, and every whole made up of parts, must … present a certain order in its arrangement of parts” (Aristotle, volume 2, 2322 [1450b34]). And in the Metaphysics : “The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness, which the mathematical sciences demonstrate in a special degree” (Aristotle, volume 2, 1705 [1078a36]). This view, as Aristotle implies, is sometimes boiled down to a mathematical formula, such as the golden section, but it need not be thought of in such strict terms. The conception is exemplified above all in such texts as Euclid’s Elements and such works of architecture as the Parthenon, and, again, by the Canon of the sculptor Polykleitos (late fifth/early fourth century BCE).

The Canon was not only a statue deigned to display perfect proportion, but a now-lost treatise on beauty. The physician Galen characterizes the text as specifying, for example, the proportions of “the finger to the finger, and of all the fingers to the metacarpus, and the wrist, and of all these to the forearm, and of the forearm to the arm, in fact of everything to everything…. For having taught us in that treatise all the symmetriae of the body, Polyclitus supported his treatise with a work, having made the statue of a man according to his treatise, and having called the statue itself, like the treatise, the Canon ” (quoted in Pollitt 1974, 15). It is important to note that the concept of ‘symmetry’ in classical texts is distinct from and richer than its current use to indicate bilateral mirroring. It also refers precisely to the sorts of harmonious and measurable proportions among the parts characteristic of objects that are beautiful in the classical sense, which carried also a moral weight. For example, in the Sophist (228c-e), Plato describes virtuous souls as symmetrical.

The ancient Roman architect Vitruvius epitomizes the classical conception in central, and extremely influential, formulations, both in its complexities and, appropriately enough, in its underlying unity:

Architecture consists of Order, which in Greek is called taxis , and arrangement, which the Greeks name diathesis , and of Proportion and Symmetry and Decor and Distribution which in the Greeks is called oeconomia . Order is the balanced adjustment of the details of the work separately, and as to the whole, the arrangement of the proportion with a view to a symmetrical result. Proportion implies a graceful semblance: the suitable display of details in their context. This is attained when the details of the work are of a height suitable to their breadth, of a breadth suitable to their length; in a word, when everything has a symmetrical correspondence. Symmetry also is the appropriate harmony arising out of the details of the work itself: the correspondence of each given detail to the form of the design as a whole. As in the human body, from cubit, foot, palm, inch and other small parts come the symmetric quality of eurhythmy. (Vitruvius, 26–27)

Aquinas, in a typically Aristotelian pluralist formulation, says that “There are three requirements for beauty. Firstly, integrity or perfection—for if something is impaired it is ugly. Then there is due proportion or consonance. And also clarity: whence things that are brightly coloured are called beautiful” ( Summa Theologica I, 39, 8).

Francis Hutcheson in the eighteenth century gives what may well be the clearest expression of the view: “What we call Beautiful in Objects, to speak in the Mathematical Style, seems to be in a compound Ratio of Uniformity and Variety; so that where the Uniformity of Bodys is equal, the Beauty is as the Variety; and where the Variety is equal, the Beauty is as the Uniformity” (Hutcheson 1725, 29). Indeed, proponents of the view often speak “in the Mathematical Style.” Hutcheson goes on to adduce mathematical formulae, and specifically the propositions of Euclid, as the most beautiful objects (in another echo of Aristotle), though he also rapturously praises nature, with its massive complexity underlain by universal physical laws as revealed, for example, by Newton. There is beauty, he says, “In the Knowledge of some great Principles, or universal Forces, from which innumerable Effects do flow. Such is Gravitation, in Sir Isaac Newton’s Scheme” (Hutcheson 1725, 38).

A very compelling series of refutations of and counter-examples to the idea that beauty can be a matter of any specific proportions between parts, and hence to the classical conception, is given by Edmund Burke in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Beautiful and the Sublime :

Turning our eyes to the vegetable kingdom, we find nothing there so beautiful as flowers; but flowers are of every sort of shape, and every sort of disposition; they are turned and fashioned into an infinite variety of forms. … The rose is a large flower, yet it grows upon a small shrub; the flower of the apple is very small, and it grows upon a large tree; yet the rose and the apple blossom are both beautiful. … The swan, confessedly a beautiful bird, has a neck longer than the rest of its body, and but a very short tail; is this a beautiful proportion? we must allow that it is. But what shall we say of the peacock, who has comparatively but a short neck, with a tail longer than the neck and the rest of the body taken together? … There are some parts of the human body, that are observed to hold certain proportions to each other; but before it can be proved, that the efficient cause of beauty lies in these, it must be shewn, that wherever these are found exact, the person to whom they belong is beautiful. … For my part, I have at several times very carefully examined many of these proportions, and found them to hold very nearly, or altogether alike in many subjects, which were not only very different from one another, but where one has been very beautiful, and the other very remote from beauty. … You may assign any proportions you please to every part of the of the human body; and I undertake, that a painter shall observe them all, and notwithstanding produce, if he pleases, a very ugly figure. (Burke 1757, 84–89)

There are many ways to interpret Plato’s relation to classical aesthetics. The political system sketched in the Republic characterizes justice in terms of the relation of part and whole. But Plato was also no doubt a dissident in classical culture, and the account of beauty that is expressed specifically in the Symposium —perhaps the key Socratic text for neo-Platonism and for the idealist conception of beauty—expresses an aspiration toward beauty as perfect unity.

In the midst of a drinking party, Socrates recounts the teachings of his instructress, one Diotima, on matters of love. She connects the experience of beauty to the erotic or the desire to reproduce (Plato, 558–59 [ Symposium 206c–207e]). But the desire to reproduce is associated in turn with a desire for the immortal or eternal: “And why all this longing for propagation? Because this is the one deathless and eternal element in our mortality. And since we have agreed that the lover longs for the good to be his own forever, it follows that we are bound to long for immortality as well as for the good—which is to say that Love is a longing for immortality” (Plato, 559, [ Symposium 206e–207a]). What follows is, if not classical, at any rate classic:

The candidate for this initiation cannot, if his efforts are to be rewarded, begin too early to devote himself to the beauties of the body. First of all, if his preceptor instructs him as he should, he will fall in love with the beauty of one individual body, so that his passion may give life to noble discourse. Next he must consider how nearly related the beauty of any one body is to the beauty of any other, and he will see that if he is to devote himself to loveliness of form it will be absurd to deny that the beauty of each and every body is the same. Having reached this point, he must set himself to be the lover of every lovely body, and bring his passion for the one into due proportion by deeming it of little or no importance. Next he must grasp that the beauties of the body are as nothing to the beauties of the soul, so that wherever he meets with spiritual loveliness, even in the husk of an unlovely body, he will find it beautiful enough to fall in love with and cherish—and beautiful enough to quicken in his heart a longing for such discourse as tends toward the building of a noble nature. And from this he will be led to contemplate the beauty of laws and institutions. And when he discovers how every kind of beauty is akin to every other he will conclude that the beauty of the body is not, after all, of so great moment. … And so, when his prescribed devotion to boyish beauties has carried our candidate so far that the universal beauty dawns upon his inward sight, he is almost within reach of the final revelation. … Starting from individual beauties, the quest for universal beauty must find him mounting the heavenly ladder, stepping from rung to rung—that is, from one to two, and from two to every lovely body, and from bodily beauty to the beauty of institutions, from institutions to learning, and from learning in general to the special lore that pertains to nothing but the beautiful itself—until at last he comes to know what beauty is. And if, my dear Socrates, Diotima went on, man’s life is ever worth living, it is when he has attained this vision of the very soul of beauty. (Plato, 561–63 [ Symposium 210a–211d])

Beauty here is conceived—perhaps explicitly in contrast to the classical aesthetics of integral parts and coherent whole—as perfect unity, or indeed as the principle of unity itself.

Plotinus, as we have already seen, comes close to equating beauty with formedness per se: it is the source of unity among disparate things, and it is itself perfect unity. Plotinus specifically attacks what we have called the classical conception of beauty:

Almost everyone declares that the symmetry of parts towards each other and towards a whole, with, besides, a certain charm of colour, constitutes the beauty recognized by the eye, that in visible things, as indeed in all else, universally, the beautiful thing is essentially symmetrical, patterned. But think what this means. Only a compound can be beautiful, never anything devoid of parts; and only a whole; the several parts will have beauty, not in themselves, but only as working together to give a comely total. Yet beauty in an aggregate demands beauty in details; it cannot be constructed out of ugliness; its law must run throughout. All the loveliness of colour and even the light of the sun, being devoid of parts and so not beautiful by symmetry, must be ruled out of the realm of beauty. And how comes gold to be a beautiful thing? And lightning by night, and the stars, why are these so fair? In sounds also the simple must be proscribed, though often in a whole noble composition each several tone is delicious in itself. (Plotinus, 21 [ Ennead I,6])

Plotinus declares that fire is the most beautiful physical thing, “making ever upwards, the subtlest and sprightliest of all bodies, as very near to the unembodied. … Hence the splendour of its light, the splendour that belongs to the Idea” (Plotinus, 22 [ Ennead I,3]). For Plotinus as for Plato, all multiplicity must be immolated finally into unity, and all roads of inquiry and experience lead toward the Good/Beautiful/True/Divine.

This gave rise to a basically mystical vision of the beauty of God that, as Umberto Eco has argued, persisted alongside an anti-aesthetic asceticism throughout the Middle Ages: a delight in profusion that finally merges into a single spiritual unity. In the sixth century, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite characterized the whole of creation as yearning toward God; the universe is called into being by love of God as beauty (Pseudo-Dionysius, 4.7; see Kirwan 1999, 29). Sensual/aesthetic pleasures could be considered the expressions of the immense, beautiful profusion of God and our ravishment thereby. Eco quotes Suger, Abbot of St Denis in the twelfth century, describing a richly-appointed church:

Thus, when—out of my delight in the beauty of the house of God—the loveliness of the many-colored gems has called me away from external cares, and worthy meditation has induced me to reflect, transferring that which is material to that which is immaterial, on the diversity of the sacred virtues: then it seems to me that I see myself dwelling, as it were, in some strange region of the universe which neither exists entirely in the slime of the earth nor entirely in the purity of Heaven; and that, by the grace of God, I can be transported from this inferior to that higher world in an anagogical manner. (Eco 1959, 14)

This conception has had many expressions in the modern era, including in such figures as Shaftesbury, Schiller, and Hegel, according to whom the aesthetic or the experience of art and beauty is a primary bridge (or to use the Platonic image, stairway or ladder) between the material and the spiritual. For Shaftesbury, there are three levels of beauty: what God makes (nature); what human beings make from nature or what is transformed by human intelligence (art, for example); and finally, the intelligence that makes even these artists (that is, God). Shaftesbury’s character Theocles describes “the third order of beauty,”

which forms not only such as we call mere forms but even the forms which form. For we ourselves are notable architects in matter, and can show lifeless bodies brought into form, and fashioned by our own hands, but that which fashions even minds themselves, contains in itself all the beauties fashioned by those minds, and is consequently the principle, source, and fountain of all beauty. … Whatever appears in our second order of forms, or whatever is derived or produced from thence, all this is eminently, principally, and originally in this last order of supreme and sovereign beauty. … Thus architecture, music, and all which is of human invention, resolves itself into this last order. (Shaftesbury 1738, 228–29)

Schiller’s expression of a similar series of thoughts was fundamentally influential on the conceptions of beauty developed within German Idealism:

The pre-rational concept of Beauty, if such a thing be adduced, can be drawn from no actual case—rather does itself correct and guide our judgement concerning every actual case; it must therefore be sought along the path of abstraction, and it can be inferred simply from the possibility of a nature that is both sensuous and rational; in a word, Beauty must be exhibited as a necessary condition of humanity. Beauty … makes of man a whole, complete in himself. (1795, 59–60, 86)

For Schiller, beauty or play or art (he uses the words, rather cavalierly, almost interchangeably) performs the process of integrating or rendering compatible the natural and the spiritual, or the sensuous and the rational: only in such a state of integration are we—who exist simultaneously on both these levels—free. This is quite similar to Plato’s ‘ladder’: beauty as a way to ascend to the abstract or spiritual. But Schiller—though this is at times unclear—is more concerned with integrating the realms of nature and spirit than with transcending the level of physical reality entirely, a la Plato. It is beauty and art that performs this integration.

In this and in other ways—including in the tripartite dialectical structure of his account—Schiller strikingly anticipates Hegel, who writes as follows.

The philosophical Concept of the beautiful, to indicate its true nature at least in a preliminary way, must contain, reconciled within itself, both the extremes which have been mentioned [the ideal and the empirical] because it unites metaphysical universality with real particularity. (Hegel 1835, 22)

Beauty, we might say, or artistic beauty at any rate, is a route from the sensuous and particular to the Absolute and to freedom, from finitude to the infinite, formulations that—while they are influenced by Schiller—strikingly recall Shaftesbury, Plotinus, and Plato.

Hegel, who associates beauty and art with mind and spirit, holds with Shaftesbury that the beauty of art is higher than the beauty of nature, on the grounds that, as Hegel puts it, “the beauty of art is born of the spirit and born again ” (Hegel 1835, 2). That is, the natural world is born of God, but the beauty of art transforms that material again by the spirit of the artist. This idea reaches is apogee in Benedetto Croce, who very nearly denies that nature can ever be beautiful, or at any rate asserts that the beauty of nature is a reflection of the beauty of art. “The real meaning of ‘natural beauty’ is that certain persons, things, places are, by the effect which they exert upon one, comparable with poetry, painting, sculpture, and the other arts” (Croce 1928, 230).

Edmund Burke, expressing an ancient tradition, writes that, “by beauty I mean, that quality or those qualities in bodies, by which they cause love, or some passion similar to it” (Burke 1757, 83). As we have seen, in almost all treatments of beauty, even the most apparently object or objectively-oriented, there is a moment in which the subjective qualities of the experience of beauty are emphasized: rhapsodically, perhaps, or in terms of pleasure or ataraxia , as in Schopenhauer. For example, we have already seen Plotinus, for whom beauty is certainly not subjective, describe the experience of beauty ecstatically. In the idealist tradition, the human soul, as it were, recognizes in beauty its true origin and destiny. Among the Greeks, the connection of beauty with love is proverbial from early myth, and Aphrodite the goddess of love won the Judgment of Paris by promising Paris the most beautiful woman in the world.

There is an historical connection between idealist accounts of beauty and those that connect it to love and longing, though there would seem to be no entailment either way. We have Sappho’s famous fragment 16: “Some say thronging cavalry, some say foot soldiers, others call a fleet the most beautiful sights the dark world offers, but I say it’s whatever you love best” (Sappho, 16). (Indeed, at Phaedrus 236c, Socrates appears to defer to “the fair Sappho” as having had greater insight than himself on love [Plato, 483].)

Plato’s discussions of beauty in the Symposium and the Phaedrus occur in the context of the theme of erotic love. In the former, love is portrayed as the ‘child’ of poverty and plenty. “Nor is he delicate and lovely as most of us believe, but harsh and arid, barefoot and homeless” (Plato, 556 [Symposium 203b–d]). Love is portrayed as a lack or absence that seeks its own fulfillment in beauty: a picture of mortality as an infinite longing. Love is always in a state of lack and hence of desire: the desire to possess the beautiful. Then if this state of infinite longing could be trained on the truth, we would have a path to wisdom. The basic idea has been recovered many times, for example by the Romantics. It fueled the cult of idealized or courtly love through the Middle Ages, in which the beloved became a symbol of the infinite.

Recent work on the theory of beauty has revived this idea, and turning away from pleasure has turned toward love or longing (which are not necessarily entirely pleasurable experiences) as the experiential correlate of beauty. Both Sartwell and Nehamas use Sappho’s fragment 16 as an epigraph. Sartwell defines beauty as “the object of longing” and characterizes longing as intense and unfulfilled desire. He calls it a fundamental condition of a finite being in time, where we are always in the process of losing whatever we have, and are thus irremediably in a state of longing. And Nehamas writes that “I think of beauty as the emblem of what we lack, the mark of an art that speaks to our desire. … Beautiful things don’t stand aloof, but direct our attention and our desire to everything else we must learn or acquire in order to understand and possess, and they quicken the sense of life, giving it new shape and direction” (Nehamas 2007, 77).

Thinkers of the 18 th century—many of them oriented toward empiricism—accounted for beauty in terms of pleasure. The Italian historian Ludovico Antonio Muratori, for example, in quite a typical formulation, says that “By beautiful we generally understand whatever, when seen, heard, or understood, delights, pleases, and ravishes us by causing within us agreeable sensations” (see Carritt 1931, 60). In Hutcheson it is not clear whether we ought to conceive beauty primarily in terms of classical formal elements or in terms of the viewer’s pleasurable response. He begins the Inquiry Into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue with a discussion of pleasure. And he appears to assert that objects which instantiate his ‘compound ratio of uniformity and variety’ are peculiarly or necessarily capable of producing pleasure:

The only Pleasure of sense, which our Philosophers seem to consider, is that which accompanys the simple Ideas of Sensation; But there are vastly greater Pleasures in those complex Ideas of objects, which obtain the Names of Beautiful, Regular, Harmonious. Thus every one acknowledges he is more delighted with a fine Face, a just Picture, than with the View of any one Colour, were it as strong and lively as possible; and more pleased with a Prospect of the Sun arising among settled Clouds, and colouring their Edges, with a starry Hemisphere, a fine Landskip, a regular Building, than with a clear blue Sky, a smooth Sea, or a large open Plain, not diversify’d by Woods, Hills, Waters, Buildings: And yet even these latter Appearances are not quite simple. So in Musick, the Pleasure of fine Composition is incomparably greater than that of any one Note, how sweet, full, or swelling soever. (Hutcheson 1725, 22)

When Hutcheson then goes on to describe ‘original or absolute beauty,’ he does it, as we have seen, in terms of the qualities of the beautiful thing (a “compound ratio” of uniformity and variety), and yet throughout, he insists that beauty is centered in the human experience of pleasure. But of course the idea of pleasure could come apart from Hutcheson’s particular aesthetic preferences, which are poised precisely opposite Plotinus’s, for example. That we find pleasure in a symmetrical rather than an asymmetrical building (if we do) is contingent. But that beauty is connected to pleasure appears, according to Hutcheson, to be necessary, and the pleasure which is the locus of beauty itself has ideas rather than things as its objects.

Hume writes in a similar vein in the Treatise of Human Nature :

Beauty is such an order and construction of parts as, either by the primary constitution of our nature, by custom, or by caprice, is fitted to give a pleasure and satisfaction to the soul. … Pleasure and pain, therefore, are not only necessary attendants of beauty and deformity, but constitute their very essence. (Hume 1740, 299)

Though this appears ambiguous as between locating the beauty in the pleasure or in the impression or idea that causes it, Hume is soon talking about the ‘sentiment of beauty,’ where sentiment is, roughly, a pleasurable or painful response to impressions or ideas, though the experience of beauty is a matter of cultivated or delicate pleasures. Indeed, by the time of Kant’s Third Critique and after that for perhaps two centuries, the direct connection of beauty to pleasure is taken as a commonplace, to the point where thinkers are frequently identifying beauty as a certain sort of pleasure. Santayana, for example, as we have seen, while still gesturing in the direction of the object or experience that causes pleasure, emphatically identifies beauty as a certain sort of pleasure.

One result of this approach to beauty—or perhaps an extreme expression of this orientation—is the assertion of the positivists that words such as ‘beauty’ are meaningless or without cognitive content, or are mere expressions of subjective approval. Hume and Kant were no sooner declaring beauty to be a matter of sentiment or pleasure and therefore to be subjective than they were trying to ameliorate the sting, largely by emphasizing critical consensus. But once this fundamental admission is made, any consensus seems contingent. Another way to formulate this is that it appears to certain thinkers after Hume and Kant that there can be no reasons to prefer the consensus to a counter-consensus assessment. A.J. Ayer writes:

Such aesthetic words as ‘beautiful’ and ‘hideous’ are employed … not to make statements of fact, but simply to express certain feelings and evoke a certain response. It follows…that there is no sense attributing objective validity to aesthetic judgments, and no possibility of arguing about questions of value in aesthetics. (Ayer 1952, 113)

All meaningful claims either concern the meaning of terms or are empirical, in which case they are meaningful because observations could confirm or disconfirm them. ‘That song is beautiful’ has neither status, and hence has no empirical or conceptual content. It merely expresses a positive attitude of a particular viewer; it is an expression of pleasure, like a satisfied sigh. The question of beauty is not a genuine question, and we can safely leave it behind or alone. Most twentieth-century philosophers did just that.

Philosophers in the Kantian tradition identify the experience of beauty with disinterested pleasure, psychical distance, and the like, and contrast the aesthetic with the practical. “ Taste is the faculty of judging an object or mode of representing it by an entirely disinterested satisfaction or dissatisfaction. The object of such satisfaction is called beautiful ” (Kant 1790, 45). Edward Bullough distinguishes the beautiful from the merely agreeable on the grounds that the former requires a distance from practical concerns: “Distance is produced in the first instance by putting the phenomenon, so to speak, out of gear with our practical, actual self; by allowing it to stand outside the context of our personal needs and ends” (Bullough 1912, 244).

On the other hand, many philosophers have gone in the opposite direction and have identified beauty with suitedness to use. ‘Beauty’ is perhaps one of the few terms that could plausibly sustain such entirely opposed interpretations.

According to Diogenes Laertius, the ancient hedonist Aristippus of Cyrene took a rather direct approach.

Is not then, also, a beautiful woman useful in proportion as she is beautiful; and a boy and a youth useful in proportion to their beauty? Well then, a handsome boy and a handsome youth must be useful exactly in proportion as they are handsome. Now the use of beauty is, to be embraced. If then a man embraces a woman just as it is useful that he should, he does not do wrong; nor, again, will he be doing wrong in employing beauty for the purposes for which it is useful. (Diogenes Laertius, 94)

In some ways, Aristippus is portrayed parodically: as the very worst of the sophists, though supposedly a follower of Socrates. And yet the idea of beauty as suitedness to use finds expression in a number of thinkers. Xenophon’s Memorabilia puts the view in the mouth of Socrates, with Aristippus as interlocutor:

Socrates : In short everything which we use is considered both good and beautiful from the same point of view, namely its use. Aristippus : Why then, is a dung-basket a beautiful thing? Socrates : Of course it is, and a golden shield is ugly, if the one be beautifully fitted to its purpose and the other ill. (Xenophon, Book III, viii)

Berkeley expresses a similar view in his dialogue Alciphron , though he begins with the hedonist conception: “Every one knows that beauty is what pleases” (Berkeley 1732, 174; see Carritt 1931, 75). But it pleases for reasons of usefulness. Thus, as Xenophon suggests, on this view, things are beautiful only in relation to the uses for which they are intended or to which they are properly applied. The proper proportions of an object depend on what kind of object it is and, again, a beautiful car might make an ugly tractor. “The parts, therefore, in true proportions, must be so related, and adjusted to one another, as they may best conspire to the use and operation of the whole” (Berkeley 1732, 174–75; see Carritt 1931, 76). One result of this is that, though beauty remains tied to pleasure, it is not an immediate sensible experience. It essentially requires intellection and practical activity: one has to know the use of a thing and assess its suitedness to that use.

This treatment of beauty is often used, for example, to criticize the distinction between fine art and craft, and it avoids sheer philistinism by enriching the concept of ‘use,’ so that it might encompass not only performing a practical task, but performing it especially well or with an especial satisfaction. Ananda Coomaraswamy, the Ceylonese-British scholar of Indian and European medieval arts, adds that a beautiful work of art or craft expresses as well as serves its purpose.

A cathedral is not as such more beautiful than an airplane, … a hymn than a mathematical equation. … A well-made sword is not less beautiful than a well-made scalpel, though one is used to slay, the other to heal. Works of art are only good or bad, beautiful or ugly in themselves, to the extent that they are or are not well and truly made, that is, do or do not express, or do or do not serve their purpose. (Coomaraswamy 1977, 75)

Roger Scruton, in his book Beauty (2009) returns to a modified Kantianism with regard to both beauty and sublimity, enriched by many and varied examples. “We call something beautiful,” writes Scruton, “when we gain pleasure from contemplating it as an individual object, for its own sake, and in its presented form ” (Scruton 2009, 26). Despite the Kantian framework, Scruton, like Sartwell and Nehamas, throws the subjective/objective distinction into question. He compares experiencing a beautiful thing to a kiss. To kiss someone that one loves is not merely to place one body part on another, “but to touch the other person in his very self. Hence the kiss is compromising – it is a move from one self toward another, and a summoning of the other into the surface of his being” (Scruton 2009, 48). This, Scruton says, is a profound pleasure.

3. The Politics of Beauty

Kissing sounds nice, but some kisses are coerced, some pleasures obtained at a cost to other people. The political associations of beauty over the last few centuries have been remarkably various and remarkably problematic, particularly in connection with race and gender, but in other aspects as well. This perhaps helps account for the neglect of the issue in early-to-mid twentieth-century philosophy as well as its growth late in the century as an issue in social justice movements, and subsequently in social-justice oriented philosophy.

The French revolutionaries of 1789 associated beauty with the French aristocracy and with the Rococo style of the French royal family, as in the paintings of Fragonard: hedonist expressions of wealth and decadence, every inch filled with decorative motifs. Beauty itself became subject to a moral and political critique, or even to direct destruction, with political motivations (see Levey 1985). And by the early 20th century, beauty was particularly associated with capitalism (ironically enough, considering the ugliness of the poverty and environmental destruction it often induced). At times even great art appeared to be dedicated mainly to furnishing the homes of rich people, with the effect of concealing the suffering they were inflicting. In response, many anti-capitalists, including many Marxists, appeared to repudiate beauty entirely. And in the aesthetic politics of Nazism, reflected for example in the films of Leni Riefenstahl, the association of beauty and right wing politics was sealed to devastating effect (see Spotts 2003).

Early on in his authorship, Karl Marx could hint that the experience of beauty distinguishes human beings from all other animals. An animal “produces only under the dominion of immediate physical need, whilst man produces even when he is free from physical need and only truly produces in freedom therefrom. Man therefore also forms objects in accordance with the laws of beauty” (Marx 1844, 76). But later Marx appeared to conceive beauty as “superstructure” or “ideology” disguising the material conditions of production. Perhaps, however, he also anticipated the emergence of new beauties, available to all both as makers and appreciators, in socialism.

Capitalism, of course, uses beauty – at times with complete self-consciousness – to manipulate people into buying things. Many Marxists believed that the arts must be turned from providing fripperies to the privileged or advertising that helps make them wealthier to showing the dark realities of capitalism (as in the American Ashcan school, for example), and articulating an inspiring Communist future. Stalinist socialist realism consciously repudiates the aestheticized beauties of post-impressionist and abstract painting, for example. It has urgent social tasks to perform (see Bown and Lanfranconi 2012). But the critique tended at times to generalize to all sorts of beauty: as luxury, as seduction, as disguise and oppression. The artist Max Ernst (1891–1976), having survived the First World War, wrote this about the radical artists of the early century: “To us, Dada was above all a moral reaction. Our rage aimed at total subversion. A horrible futile war had robbed us of five years of our existence. We had experienced the collapse into ridicule and shame of everything represented to us as just, true, and beautiful. My works of that period were not meant to attract, but to make people scream” (quoted in Danto 2003, 49).

Theodor Adorno, in his book Aesthetic Theory , wrote that one symptom of oppression is that oppressed groups and cultures are regarded as uncouth, dirty, ragged; in short, that poverty is ugly. It is art’s obligation, he wrote, to show this ugliness, imposed on people by an unjust system, clearly and without flinching, rather to distract people by beauty from the brutal realities of capitalism. “Art must take up the cause of what is proscribed as ugly, though no longer to integrate or mitigate it or reconcile it with its own existence,” Adorno wrote. “Rather, in the ugly, art must denounce the world that creates and reproduces the ugly in its own image” (Adorno 1970, 48–9).

The political entanglements of beauty tend to throw into question various of the traditional theories. For example, the purity and transcendence associated with the essence of beauty in the realm of the Forms seems irrelevant, as beauty shows its centrality to politics and commerce, to concrete dimensions of oppression. The austere formalism of the classical conception, for example, seems neither here nor there when the building process is brutally exploitative.

As we have seen, the association of beauty with the erotic is proverbial from Sappho and is emphasized relentlessly by figures such as Burke and Nehamas. But the erotic is not a neutral or universal site, and we need to ask whose sexuality is in play in the history of beauty, with what effects. This history, particularly in the West and as many feminist theorists and historians have emphasized, is associated with the objectification and exploitation of women. Feminists beginning in the 19th century gave fundamental critiques of the use of beauty as a set of norms to control women’s bodies or to constrain their self-presentation and even their self-image in profound and disabling ways (see Wollstonecraft 1792, Grimké 1837).

In patriarchal society, as Catherine MacKinnon puts it, the content of sexuality “is the gaze that constructs women as objects for male pleasure. I draw on pornography for its form and content,” she continues, describing her treatment of the subject, “for the gaze that eroticizes the despised, the demeaned, the accessible, the there-to-be-used, the servile, the child-like, the passive, and the animal. That is the content of sexuality that defines gender female in this culture, and visual thingification is its method” (MacKinnon 1987, 53–4). Laura Mulvey, in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” reaches one variety of radical critique and conclusion: “It is said that analyzing pleasure, or beauty, destroys it. That is the intention of this article” (Mulvey 1975, 60).

Mulvey’s psychoanalytic treatment was focused on the scopophilia (a Freudian term denoting neurotic sexual pleasure configured around looking) of Hollywood films, in which men appeared as protagonists, and women as decorative or sexual objects for the pleasure of the male characters and male audience-members. She locates beauty “at the heart of our oppression.” And she appears to have a hedonist conception of it: beauty engenders pleasure. But some pleasures, like some kisses, are sadistic or exploitative at the individual and at the societal level. Art historians such as Linda Nochlin (1988) and Griselda Pollock (1987) brought such insights to bear on the history of painting, for example, where the scopophilia is all too evident in famous nudes such as Titian’s Venus of Urbino or Velazquez’s Rokeby Venus , which a feminist slashed with knife in 1914 because “she didn’t like the way men gawked at it”.

Feminists such as Naomi Wolf in her book The Beauty Myth , generalized such insights into a critique of the ways women are represented throughout Western popular culture: in advertising, for example, or music videos. Such practices have the effect of constraining women to certain acceptable ways of presenting themselves publicly, which in turn greatly constrains how seriously they are taken, or how much of themselves they can express in public space. As have many other commentators, Wolf connects the representation of the “beautiful” female body, in Western high art but especially in popular culture, to eating disorders and many other self-destructive behaviors, and indicates that a real overturning of gender hierarchy will require deeply re-construing the concept of beauty.

The demand on women to create a beautiful self-presentation by male standards, Wolf argues, fundamentally compromises women’s action and self-understanding, and makes fully human relationships between men and women difficult or impossible. In this Wolf follows, among others, the French thinker Luce Irigaray, who wrote that “Female beauty is always considered as finery ultimately designed to attract the other into the self. It is almost never perceived as a manifestation of, an appearance of, a phenomenon expressive of interiority – whether of love, of thought, of flesh. We look at ourselves in the mirror to please someone , rarely to interrogate the state of our body or our spirit, rarely for ourselves and in search of our becoming” (quoted in Robinson 2000, 230).

“Sex is held hostage by beauty,” Wolf remarks, “and its ransom terms are engraved in girls’ minds early and deeply with instruments more beautiful that those which advertisers or pornographers know how to use: literature, poetry, painting, and film” (Wolf 1991f, 157).

Early in the 20th century, black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey (1887–1940) described European or white standards of beauty as a deep dimension of oppression, quite similarly to the way Naomi Wolf describes beauty standards for women. These standards are relentlessly reinforced in authoritative images, but they are incompatible with black skin, black bodies, and also traditional African ways of understanding human beauty. White standards of beauty, Garvey argued, devalue black bodies. The truly oppressive aspects of such norms can be seen in the way they induce self-alienation, as Wolf argues with regard to sexualized images of women. “Some of us in America, the West Indies, and Africa believe that the nearer we approach the white man in color, the greater our social standing and privilege,” he wrote (Garvey 1925 [1986], 56). He condemns skin bleaching and hair straightening as ways that black people are taught to devalue themselves by white standards of beauty. And he connects such standards to ‘colorism’ or prejudice in the African-American community toward darker-skinned black people.

Such observations suggest some of the strengths of cultural relativism as opposed to subjectivism or universalism: standards of beauty appear in this picture not to be idiosyncratic to individuals, nor to be universal among all people, but to be tied to group identities and to oppression and resistance.

In his autobiography, Malcolm X (1925–1965), whose parents were activists in the Garvey movement, describes ‘conking’ or straightening his hair with lye products as a young man. “This was my first really big step toward self-degradation,” he writes, “when I endured all of that pain, literally burning my flesh to have it look like a white man’s hair. I had joined that multitude of Negro men and women in America who are brainwashed into believing that black people are ‘inferior’ – and white people ‘superior’ – that they will even violate and mutilate their God-created bodies to try to look ‘pretty’ by white standards” (X 1964, 56–7). For both Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X, a key moment in the transformation of racial oppression would be the affirmation of standards of black beauty that are not parasitic on white standards, and hence not directly involved in racial oppression. This was systematically developed after Malcolm’s death in the “natural” hairstyles and African fabrics in the Black Power movement. Certainly, people have many motivations for straightening or coloring their hair, for example. But the critical examination of the racial content of beauty norms was a key moment in black liberation movements, many of which, around 1970, coalesced around the slogan Black is beautiful . These are critiques of specific standards of beauty; they are also tributes to beauty’s power.

Imposing standards of beauty on non-Western cultures, and, in particular, misappropriating standards of beauty and beautiful objects from them, formed one of the most complex strategies of colonialism. Edward Said famously termed this dynamic “orientalism.” Novelists such as Nerval and Kipling and painters such as Delacroix and Picasso, he argued, used motifs drawn from Asian and African cultures, treating them as “exotic” insertions into Western arts. Such writers and artists might even have understood themselves to be celebrating the cultures they depicted in pictures of Arabian warriors or African masks. But they used this imagery precisely in relation to Western art history. They distorted what they appropriated.

“Being a White Man, in short,” writes Said, “was a very concrete manner of being-in-the-world, a way of taking hold of reality, language, and thought. It made a specific style possible” (Said 1978, 227). This style might be encapsulated in the outfits of colonial governors, and their mansions. But it was also typified by an appropriative “appreciation” of “savage” arts and “exotic” beauties, which were of course not savage or exotic in their own context. Even in cases where the beauty of such objects was celebrated, the appreciation was mixed with condescension and misapprehension, and also associated with stripping colonial possessions of their most beautiful objects (as Europeans understood beauty)—shipping them back to the British Museum, for example. Now some beautiful objects, looted in colonialism, are being returned to their points of origin (see Matthes 2017), but many others remain in dispute.

However, if beauty has been an element in various forms of oppression, it has also been an element in various forms of resistance, as the slogan “Black is beautiful” suggests. The most compelling responses to oppressive standards and uses of beauty have given rise to what might be termed counter-beauties . When fighting discrimination against people with disabilities, for example, one may decry the oppressive norms that regard disabled bodies as ugly and leave it at that. Or one might try to discover what new standards of beauty and subversive pleasures might arise in the attempt to regard disabled bodies as beautiful (Siebers 2005). For that matter, one might uncover the ways that non-normative bodies and subversive pleasures actually do fulfill various traditional criteria of beauty. Indeed, for some decades there has been a disability arts movement, often associated with artists such as Christine Sun Kim and Riva Lehrer, which tries to do just that (see Siebers 2005).

The exploration of beauty, in some ways flipping it over into an instrument of feminist resistance, or showing directly how women’s beauty could be experienced outside of patriarchy, has been a theme of much art by women of the 20th and 21st centuries. Georgia O’Keeffe’s flowers and Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party” place settings undertake to absorb and reverse the objectifying gaze. The exploration of the meaning of the female body in the work of performance artists such as Hannah Wilke, Karen Finley, and Orlan, tries both to explore the objectification of the female body and to affirm women’s experience in its concrete realities from the inside: to make of it emphatically a subject rather than an object (see Striff 1997).

“Beauty seems in need of rehabilitation today as an impulse that can be as liberating as it has been deemed enslaving,” wrote philosopher Peg Zeglin Brand in 2000. “Confident young women today pack their closets with mini-skirts and sensible suits. Young female artists toy with feminine stereotypes in ways that make their feminist elders uncomfortable. They recognize that … beauty can be a double-edged sword – as capable of destabilizing rigid conventions and restrictive behavioral models as it is of reinforcing them” (Brand 2000, xv). Indeed, vernacular norms of beauty as expressed in media and advertising have shifted in virtue of the feminist and anti-racist attacks on dominant body norms, as the concept’s long journey continues.

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When beauty causes harm

Lissah Johnson_Marissa Chan_Tamarra James-Todd

New podcast from students and faculty examines how toxic beauty products and unrealistic beauty expectations have led to injustices

December 21, 2022 – Maintaining society’s expected beauty standards can come at a high cost—financially, health-wise, and personally—and those costs fall most often on marginalized groups, according to a new podcast from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Beauty + Justice looks at the history and context surrounding beauty injustices, the potential impacts on health—from asthma to early menstruation to breast cancer —and the sometimes painful emotional toll of trying to attain a certain beauty standard. The podcast features guests from health care, academia, nonprofits, and clean beauty businesses to discuss, as student host Lissah Johnson says in the series trailer, “what it will take to create a more clean and equitable future of beauty for everyone.” Launched in November, there were three episodes as of mid-December, with plans for about 10 more in the coming months.

The podcast team includes Johnson, a doctoral candidate in the Biological Sciences in Public Health program who works in the lab of Kristopher Sarosiek studying how cell death gets dysregulated in ovarian cancer; Marissa Chan , a doctoral candidate in the Department of Environmental Health studying community- and neighborhood-level drivers of hair product use among Black women ; and Tamarra James-Todd , Mark and Catherine Winkler Associate Professor of Environmental Reproductive Epidemiology and director of the Environmental Reproductive Justice Lab .

The idea for a podcast grew out of a desire to translate research results in a way that’s useful for people and policymakers. “There’s a lot of talk about environmental justice and health equity, but we actually need to get the science into the hands of the community members who are most impacted, and also those who are in power and who can affect change,” said James-Todd.

The podcast, she added, highlights the connection between racism and how beauty products are marketed, sold, and used. “The cost isn’t just our health,” she said. “It’s also an economic cost. People of color are paying more money—a ridiculously high amount—to try to achieve Eurocentric beauty standards. Basically, we are paying more money to make ourselves sicker.”

Experts featured in the podcast series delve into various aspects of beauty injustice. Guests have included Lori Tharps, an author, storyteller, and educator best known for a book she co-authored titled “ Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America ”; Tamara Gilkes Borr, U.S. policy correspondent at The Economist, who wrote a May 2021 article about some of the hidden costs of having and maintaining Black hair; Robin Dodson, associate director of research operations and a research scientist at the Silent Spring Institute; and Blair Wylie, director of obstetrics for the 1 st region Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit and founding director of The Collaborative for Women’s Environmental Health in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. An episode planned for spring 2023 will explore the role of big business in beauty justice with Boma Brown-West, former director of EDF+Business for the Environmental Defense Fund and currently chief growth officer at the Healthy Building Network.

A tool for ‘othering’

In the series trailer, Johnson says, “The fact is beauty is not harmless, nor frivolous, or only skin deep. It’s also a source of toxic environmental exposures and a tool for othering and excluding specific groups of people.”

The episode featuring Dodson focused on the types of chemicals people are exposed to from beauty products and ways to prevent those exposures. Dodson has been involved in research that has shown that most women use products with fragrance—which can have hundreds of different kinds of chemicals —and she recommended that people choose fragrance-free products instead. Other chemicals to watch out for, she said, include phthalates, parabens, and UV filters such as benzophenone-3, which are endocrine disruptors that affect people’s hormonal systems. She also noted that levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals tend to be higher in products marketed toward and used by Black women than in products for white women.

“The majority of people do not realize that chemicals do not need to be comprehensively evaluated for safety before they are used in products that you would use every day,” said Dodson. “I think people should … start making noise and calling as much attention as we can to these issues so that things will start to change.” She suggested speaking out in support of increased transparency around products, or calling your favorite brand to complain about unsafe ingredients.

Borr discussed the social consequences of being perceived as less beautiful. For instance, she noted, a 2020 study “found that Black women with natural hair, with curly hair, were perceived as less professional and less competent than Black women with straight hair and White women with curly or straight hair.”

And while many women spend a lot of money to have their appearance meet social standards, Black women face even greater hurdles. “Black women buy nine times more products than white women do,” Borr said, noting that the Black hair industry generated $2.5 billion in revenue in 2017. “And you also have to think about the fact that women make less money than men, and on top of that, Black women make much less money than White women do, and they’re spending so much more money to show up and go to work, to have their hair be appropriate for work, for that job. It’s really mind-boggling and kind of twisted when you really think about it.”

Chan said she found the episode featuring Borr very powerful. “She highlighted … that we’re not at the point yet where Black women or Black folks can just walk out the door without considering the impact of institutional and interpersonal racism as it relates to their appearance and Eurocentric beauty standards,” she said. Johnson agreed, noting that the episode made her think about how much time it takes to get ready to leave the house “in order to not get negative comments.” She talked about what Black women call “wash day”—the whole day it takes to wash, detangle, and treat your hair. “You miss out on time for so many other things, like being with friends and family,” she said. “And as a PhD student, I don’t have seven hours to spend every week making my hair in its natural state appear in line with those Eurocentric standards of beauty and professionalism.”

James-Todd spoke of her own struggles regarding her hair. At times, she said, she has worried about wearing her hair in a natural style. “I recognize that there are perceptions of what it looks like to be a Black woman wearing your hair in its natural state, one of which is to be perceived as being militant, or being perceived as not being particularly attractive,” she said. “And that has implications for whether or not I’m taken seriously.”

Borr said that one way to move the needle on societal standards surrounding Black hair is legislation prohibiting discrimination based on someone’s hair texture and hairstyle. In September, Alaska became the 19 th state to pass such legislation, known as the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act. Media images of women with natural Black hair can also help, she said.

Learning experience

For Chan, working on the podcast highlighted the importance of framing research toward solutions. “I think a lot of times in environmental justice and environmental health there’s a tendency to document disparities or differences in product use, which is important. But it’s also important to ask: What can people do about it, and what is the path forward in terms of achieving beauty justice? We’re really emphasizing that point through the podcast.”

Johnson, a bench scientist, said that the podcast has taught her how to be a better science communicator. “I’m a basic scientist. I’m really steeped in using technical language and scientific jargon,” she said. “But why I care about what I study are how the people of a community are affected. So really being able to explain … to a diverse audience about research [regarding beauty injustices] has been really helpful and really powerful. It’s making me more of the scientist that I want to be.”

– Karen Feldscher

Photo courtesy Tamarra James-Todd

Ralph Waldo Emerson

From Nature , published as part of Nature; Addresses and Lectures

This love of beauty is Taste. The creation of beauty is Art.

A nobler want of man is served by nature, namely, the love of Beauty.

The ancient Greeks called the world {kosmos}, beauty. Such is the constitution of all things, or such the plastic power of the human eye, that the primary forms, as the sky, the mountain, the tree, the animal, give us a delight in and for themselves ; a pleasure arising from outline, color, motion, and grouping. This seems partly owing to the eye itself. The eye is the best of artists. By the mutual action of its structure and of the laws of light, perspective is produced, which integrates every mass of objects, of what character soever, into a well colored and shaded globe, so that where the particular objects are mean and unaffecting, the landscape which they compose, is round and symmetrical. And as the eye is the best composer, so light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make beautiful. And the stimulus it affords to the sense, and a sort of infinitude which it hath, like space and time, make all matter gay. Even the corpse has its own beauty. But besides this general grace diffused over nature, almost all the individual forms are agreeable to the eye, as is proved by our endless imitations of some of them, as the acorn, the grape, the pine-cone, the wheat-ear, the egg, the wings and forms of most birds, the lion's claw, the serpent, the butterfly, sea-shells, flames, clouds, buds, leaves, and the forms of many trees, as the palm.

For better consideration, we may distribute the aspects of Beauty in a threefold manner.

1. First, the simple perception of natural forms is a delight. The influence of the forms and actions in nature, is so needful to man, that, in its lowest functions, it seems to lie on the confines of commodity and beauty. To the body and mind which have been cramped by noxious work or company, nature is medicinal and restores their tone. The tradesman, the attorney comes out of the din and craft of the street, and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again. In their eternal calm, he finds himself. The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.

But in other hours, Nature satisfies by its loveliness, and without any mixture of corporeal benefit. I see the spectacle of morning from the hill-top over against my house, from day-break to sun-rise, with emotions which an angel might share. The long slender bars of cloud float like fishes in the sea of crimson light. From the earth, as a shore, I look out into that silent sea. I seem to partake its rapid transformations: the active enchantment reaches my dust, and I dilate and conspire with the morning wind. How does Nature deify us with a few and cheap elements! Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous. The dawn is my Assyria; the sun-set and moon-rise my Paphos, and unimaginable realms of faerie; broad noon shall be my England of the senses and the understanding; the night shall be my Germany of mystic philosophy and dreams.

Not less excellent, except for our less susceptibility in the afternoon, was the charm, last evening, of a January sunset. The western clouds divided and subdivided themselves into pink flakes modulated with tints of unspeakable softness; and the air had so much life and sweetness, that it was a pain to come within doors. What was it that nature would say? Was there no meaning in the live repose of the valley behind the mill, and which Homer or Shakespeare could not reform for me in words? The leafless trees become spires of flame in the sunset, with the blue east for their back-ground, and the stars of the dead calices of flowers, and every withered stem and stubble rimed with frost, contribute something to the mute music.

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.

The inhabitants of cities suppose that the country landscape is pleasant only half the year. I please myself with the graces of the winter scenery, and believe that we are as much touched by it as by the genial influences of summer. To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again. The heavens change every moment, and reflect their glory or gloom on the plains beneath. The state of the crop in the surrounding farms alters the expression of the earth from week to week. The succession of native plants in the pastures and roadsides, which makes the silent clock by which time tells the summer hours, will make even the divisions of the day sensible to a keen observer. The tribes of birds and insects, like the plants punctual to their time, follow each other, and the year has room for all. By water-courses, the variety is greater. In July, the blue pontederia or pickerel-weed blooms in large beds in the shallow parts of our pleasant river, and swarms with yellow butterflies in continual motion. Art cannot rival this pomp of purple and gold. Indeed the river is a perpetual gala, and boasts each month a new ornament.

But this beauty of Nature which is seen and felt as beauty, is the least part. The shows of day, the dewy morning, the rainbow, mountains, orchards in blossom, stars, moonlight, shadows in still water, and the like, if too eagerly hunted, become shows merely, and mock us with their unreality. Go out of the house to see the moon, and 't is mere tinsel; it will not please as when its light shines upon your necessary journey. The beauty that shimmers in the yellow afternoons of October, who ever could clutch it? Go forth to find it, and it is gone: 't is only a mirage as you look from the windows of diligence.

2. The presence of a higher, namely, of the spiritual element is essential to its perfection. The high and divine beauty which can be loved without effeminacy, is that which is found in combination with the human will. Beauty is the mark God sets upon virtue. Every natural action is graceful. Every heroic act is also decent, and causes the place and the bystanders to shine. We are taught by great actions that the universe is the property of every individual in it. Every rational creature has all nature for his dowry and estate. It is his, if he will. He may divest himself of it; he may creep into a corner, and abdicate his kingdom, as most men do, but he is entitled to the world by his constitution. In proportion to the energy of his thought and will, he takes up the world into himself. "All those things for which men plough, build, or sail, obey virtue;" said Sallust. "The winds and waves," said Gibbon, "are always on the side of the ablest navigators." So are the sun and moon and all the stars of heaven. When a noble act is done, — perchance in a scene of great natural beauty; when Leonidas and his three hundred martyrs consume one day in dying, and the sun and moon come each and look at them once in the steep defile of Thermopylae; when Arnold Winkelried, in the high Alps, under the shadow of the avalanche, gathers in his side a sheaf of Austrian spears to break the line for his comrades; are not these heroes entitled to add the beauty of the scene to the beauty of the deed? When the bark of Columbus nears the shore of America; — before it, the beach lined with savages, fleeing out of all their huts of cane; the sea behind; and the purple mountains of the Indian Archipelago around, can we separate the man from the living picture? Does not the New World clothe his form with her palm-groves and savannahs as fit drapery? Ever does natural beauty steal in like air, and envelope great actions. When Sir Harry Vane was dragged up the Tower-hill, sitting on a sled, to suffer death, as the champion of the English laws, one of the multitude cried out to him, "You never sate on so glorious a seat." Charles II., to intimidate the citizens of London, caused the patriot Lord Russel to be drawn in an open coach, through the principal streets of the city, on his way to the scaffold. "But," his biographer says, "the multitude imagined they saw liberty and virtue sitting by his side." In private places, among sordid objects, an act of truth or heroism seems at once to draw to itself the sky as its temple, the sun as its candle. Nature stretcheth out her arms to embrace man, only let his thoughts be of equal greatness. Willingly does she follow his steps with the rose and the violet, and bend her lines of grandeur and grace to the decoration of her darling child. Only let his thoughts be of equal scope, and the frame will suit the picture. A virtuous man is in unison with her works, and makes the central figure of the visible sphere. Homer, Pindar, Socrates, Phocion, associate themselves fitly in our memory with the geography and climate of Greece. The visible heavens and earth sympathize with Jesus. And in common life, whosoever has seen a person of powerful character and happy genius, will have remarked how easily he took all things along with him, — the persons, the opinions, and the day, and nature became ancillary to a man.

Words are finite organs

3. There is still another aspect under which the beauty of the world may be viewed, namely, as it become s an object of the intellect. Beside the relation of things to virtue, they have a relation to thought. The intellect searches out the absolute order of things as they stand in the mind of God, and without the colors of affection. The intellectual and the active powers seem to succeed each other, and the exclusive activity of the one, generates the exclusive activity of the other. There is something unfriendly in each to the other, but they are like the alternate periods of feeding and working in animals; each prepares and will be followed by the other. Therefore does beauty, which, in relation to actions, as we have seen, comes unsought, and comes because it is unsought, remain for the apprehension and pursuit of the intellect; and then again, in its turn, of the active power. Nothing divine dies. All good is eternally reproductive. The beauty of nature reforms itself in the mind, and not for barren contemplation, but for new creation.

All men are in some degree impressed by the face of the world; some men even to delight. This love of beauty is Taste. Others have the same love in such excess, that, not content with admiring, they seek to embody it in new forms. The creation of beauty is Art.

The production of a work of art throws a light upon the mystery of humanity. A work of art is an abstract or epitome of the world. It is the result or expression of nature, in miniature. For, although the works of nature are innumerable and all different, the result or the expression of them all is similar and single. Nature is a sea of forms radically alike and even unique. A leaf, a sun-beam, a landscape, the ocean, make an analogous impression on the mind. What is common to them all, — that perfectness and harmony, is beauty. The standard of beauty is the entire circuit of natural forms, — the totality of nature; which the Italians expressed by defining beauty "il piu nell' uno." Nothing is quite beautiful alone: nothing but is beautiful in the whole. A single object is only so far beautiful as it suggests this universal grace. The poet, the painter, the sculptor, the musician, the architect, seek each to concentrate this radiance of the world on one point, and each in his several work to satisfy the love of beauty which stimulates him to produce. Thus is Art, a nature passed through the alembic of man. Thus in art, does nature work through the will of a man filled with the beauty of her first works.

The world thus exists to the soul to satisfy the desire of beauty. This element I call an ultimate end. No reason can be asked or given why the soul seeks beauty. Beauty, in its largest and profoundest sense, is one expression for the universe. God is the all-fair. Truth, and goodness, and beauty, are but different faces of the same All. But beauty in nature is not ultimate. It is the herald of inward and eternal beauty, and is not alone a solid and satisfactory good. It must stand as a part, and not as yet the last or highest expression of the final cause of Nature.

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health and beauty essay

Friday essay: toxic beauty, then and now

health and beauty essay

Senior lecturer in Literary Studies, Deakin University

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Michelle Smith has previously received funding from the Australian Research Council.

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Throughout history, humans have been willing to try almost any method or product to improve their physical appearance. In response, enterprising businesses and beauty moguls have conspired to sell us almost anything — from water to poison — in the guise of cosmetic treatments. While many cosmetic products have eventually proven to have little efficacy, a significant number have also caused physical harm and even death.

Cosmetics and cosmetic surgery are now subject to more stringent regulation than in the 19th century, when lead-based powders and face creams containing poisons were not uncommon. However, even today there are significant serious side-effects and potential dangers from cosmetic procedures, in particular.

For example, it was recently reported that cosmetic injections, such as platelet-rich plasma injections and facial fillers, are leading to a significant number of patients suffering from chronic, and potentially disfiguring, bacterial infections. While these kinds of non-invasive procedures are common, with over $1 billion spent annually on cosmetic jabs in Australia alone, research suggests that almost one-fifth of patients could suffer from such complications.

Of course, even when the greatest medical care is taken, there are still potential questions about the health risks of utilising Botox (Botulinum Toxin Type A) to combat or stave off facial wrinkles. While a large number of people, primarily women, have embraced Botox and believe it to be safe ), in 2009 the US Food and Drug Administration added a warning noting that Botox “may spread from the area of injection to produce symptoms of botulism”, such as muscle weakness and breathing difficulty.

Further reading: Safety before profits: why cosmetic surgery is ripe for regulation

Even the most common beauty products still have potential risks associated with them. Consider lipstick, which is placed directly on the thin skin of the lips, readily ingested throughout wear, and reapplied multiple times throughout the day. Manufacturers are not required to list lead as an ingredient in lipsticks as it is regarded as a contaminant, but most contain lead, and some colours in much higher concentrations. An FDA test of 400 lipsticks conducted in 2011 found that every one contained lead. Nevertheless, the FDA advises that up to 10 parts per million of lead is an acceptable level.

health and beauty essay

In her book Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present , Alison Matthews David explains that lead was a popular ingredient in cosmetics for centuries “because it made colours even and opaque and created a desirable ‘whiteness’ that bespoke both freedom from hard outdoor labour and racial purity”.

In the 1860s, the American face lotion Laird’s “Bloom of Youth or liquid pearl” promised to whiten skin , helping “ladies afflicted with tan, freckles, Rough or Discolored Skin”. The skin lightener, however, contained such a significant amount of lead that it caused “wrist drop”, or radial nerve palsy, in a number of women.

One woman’s hand had become “wasted to a skeleton”, while a St Louis housewife is recorded as dying of lead poisoning after extensive long-term usage of Laird’s and a home-made preparation containing “white flake and glycerine”.

health and beauty essay

In her book, Matthews David tells how she bought a vintage container of the American face powder “Tetlow’s Swan Down” that dates from the 1870s. It had been marketed as harmless and claimed to use whitening zinc oxide powder to replace once common toxic products such as lead, arsenic and bismuth. She had the powder tested with modern methods and found that it contained “a significant amount of lead”, which could be inhaled as dust during application.

Further reading: High amount of toxic metals in some cosmetics

A dark history

The serious regulation of patent medicines and cosmetics did not occur until the 20th century. This lack of government oversight meant that manufacturers could bottle and sell almost anything without having to verify their claims, subject their products to the rudimentary testing that was available, or clearly label the ingredients.

The key way in which American and British consumers made their decisions about products was based on the claims made and reputations built in extensive magazine advertising, which became prolific in the late 19th century. The period also saw branded cosmetics rise to prominence, with long-established and well-advertised brands, such as Pears’ Soap, providing one of the few indicators of likely quality and safety. Most cosmetic advertising emphasised the purity and healthfulness of products to distance them from well-known examples of harmful creams, powders, and dyes.

“Celebrated American skin specialist” Anna Ruppert (Shelton) provides a ready example of the spurious nature of some cosmetic advertising and the reality of dangerous tonics marketed as “natural” and therefore healthful in this era. Throughout 1891 and 1892, numerous advertisements appeared in British women’s magazines, including high-quality publications such as The Queen, for lectures to be held in London by a purported American beauty expert.

The ads mentioned Ruppert’s book on “natural beauty”, as well as promoting various products including a skin tonic. Her signature tonic was originally marketed as “Face Bleach” in the United States, tapping into the demand for lighter skin not only from white women, but also African American women. The tonic is described in one Queen advertisement as harmless and invisible: “It is not a cosmetic as it does not show on the face after application”.

However, the reality was that Ruppert’s product was dangerous. After a chemical analysis, the British Medical Journal revealed in 1893 that the skin tonic included the harmful ingredient “corrosive sublimate (bichloride of mercury)”, and it was implicated in the mercury poisoning of a “Mrs K”. As Caroline Rance discovered , that same year, Ruppert was prosecuted for infringing the Irish Pharmacy Act and her reputation was badly tarnished as a result.

health and beauty essay

Cosmetics originated in homemade preparations, with long traditions of women concocting their own skin remedies. However, the advice and recipes given in beauty manuals were no guarantee of safety. One British “Treatise of the Toilet and Cosmetic Arts” entitled The Practice of Perfumery from 1870 included a recipe for one of the first depilatory creams, poudre subtile . The ingredients call for half an ounce of “sulpheret of arsenic”, although the author does warn that the preparation is “dangerous” and that “utmost caution” should be used.

Warnings such as this one indicate that the harmful effects of certain cosmetic products were well known. Another manual, Beauty: How to Get it and How to Keep It, from 1885 advised readers to avoid hair dyes because they “are sometimes injurious to the health; those that contain lead or mercury are especially so, and have been known to cause serious illness.” This fear of harmful dyes is reflected in the many magazine advertisements of the period for “hair restorers” that promise to return grey hair to its original shade without the use of “dyes”.

Dangerous home-spun beautifying techniques were also the subject of warnings. For instance, Toilet Hints, or, How to Preserve Beauty, and How to Acquire It from 1883 strongly advised women not to toy with the use of Belladonna berries to dilate their pupils. The use of an extract from the berries could cause blurred vision or even permanent blindness with prolonged use. This beauty guide offered up another, less dangerous, method for adding a spark to the eyes:

If your eyes look dull, drink a glass of champagne rather than touch belladonna.

A gendered culture

Disgraced skin specialist Anna Ruppert wrote in her A Book of Beauty in 1892 that a woman could never neglect her appearance, as even “[t]he most noble beauty, if unattended, will soon lose its charm”. Her comment has several important resonances with beauty culture today.

First, it is still primarily women who seek out cosmetics and cosmetic procedures. Ruppert’s advice to the Victorian woman was that maintaining her looks was vital to maintain a happy marriage. Our modern, postfeminist view is that women now make the “choice” to follow beauty and fashion norms.

Second, beauty is still understood as a process of ongoing work and maintenance. Procedures like Botox can be used pre-emptively to ward off wrinkles and sagging, but it requires continuous usage over time to maintain its effects.

Third, and most importantly, the gendering of cosmetic use means that women are most affected by dangerous products and procedures. As Matthews David points out, cosmetics and dyes continue to be less stringently regulated than products like shampoo and deodorant, which fall under the category of “personal care”.

Further reading: Health risks beneath the painted beauty in America’s nail salons

Several centuries of lax attitudes toward the composition of cosmetics and now non-invasive cosmetic procedures add up to not only a collection of macabre or grotesque stories.

From lead-filled Bloom of Youth to cosmetic fillers being delivered under questionable conditions, the history of dangerous cosmetics shows us the harms that women have suffered to meet expectations of what is beautiful.

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Men’s and Women’s Views on Health and Beauty Issues Essay

Introduction: men and women. searching for the points of contact, shape my mind frame: the magazine world vs. reality, a sociable superman is looking for a charming superwoman, conclusion: opening your eyes, reference list.

People have always been dependent on the opinion of the most authoritative sources. Instead of shaping their own vision of the world, they tend to listen to the pieces of advice given by the gurus of the spheres they are interested in. Thus, although the modern world is highly concerned with the impact of the mass media on people’s ideas, the magazine articles impose the ideas that are most profitable for the owners of the magazines, which results in creating another trend in fashion.

Considering two articles taken from two separate magazines, one can realize whether magazines impose the necessary vision of the world on the people reading the articles and whether this influences the opinion of the public to a considerable degree.

It would be a good idea to consider the opinion concerning one of the most important issues of the modern world – the aspect of physical health and physical attractiveness, as known as fitness. There is no secret that once set the trend for a trimmed and fit figure, magazines offered a number of articles that worshipped the ideal figure and suggested a number of means to improve what does not fit the “standard”. In the recent issues of Men’s Health and Women’s Health, the aspect of fitness was raised once again in the articles entitled Ge t Fit Tricks and Muscle: The Next Level.

According to the most recent data obtained from the research in the sphere of mass media, the impact of the latter is truly incredible. It offers the most insistent viewpoint without being hindered at all. Why so, would the audience ask; the answer is rather simple. Guarded by the law of the States, the press is free to express their opinion openly: “In the United States of America media is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution” (Siegmund 2008, 3), which explains a lot.

Guarded by the law, the mass media is practically invincible to any outside influence, which means that the opinion expressed in the articles is fully imposed by the magazines in which they are printed. It must be mentioned that the situation is becoming even more complicated as various means of imposing the magazine opinion on the population are utilized – according to Hancock (2001), the varieties of ways include language, style, images, headlines, and especially editorial comments (25).

Considering the articles mentioned more closely, one can notice that the opinions presented in the magazines actually dub each other. This means that the articles suggested in both magazines offer the viewpoint that is most profitable for the magazines at the moment. Tracking the elements of the plurality of opinions in the articles, one is doomed to a failure – the ideas offered by the magazines are a one-way movement road to the bliss of the publisher and sponsor.

What can be traced in both articles is longing for the standard of beauty imposed by a range of other magazines and other mass media long before. A quick glance at the articles in Women’s Health is enough to trace the evidence for that: “You want to drop a few pounds”, “Each session improves your posture and creates more confidence, which breeds self-improvement” – all these lines presuppose that the person reading the article agrees with the magazine’s opinion that the fitness sessions are intertwined with the essence of beauty and spirituality.

Comparing these statements with the ones found in the article in Men’s Health, one can trace the same tendency to create an impression of the connection between the advice given by the magazine and the key to a happy life and personal development: “where there is weakness, there is a great opportunity – to build muscle”. Bright and encouraging, these articles reflect the ideas of the magazine, not the reality.

Is there a way of getting rid of the influence that magazines have on people with their articles? To answer this question, it is required to measure the impact that media has on the public. However, despite the obvious existence of the influence, it is completely impossible to define the extent of its impact. According to what Janda (2008) says,

Americans overwhelmingly believe that the media exert a strong influence on their political institutions, and almost nine out of ten Americans believe that the media strongly influence public opinion. However, measuring the extent of media influence on public opinion is difficult. (113)

Thus, the ways to define the extent of the mass media impact on people’s lives is impossible. However, since there is no doubt that the effect is constant and often harmful, ways to decrease it must be found. With help of reasonable restrictions imposed on magazines, the impact of the magazine articles on people will be diminished, which will positively result in their life.

Hancock, J., Green, T., & Turton, P. (2001) Advanced General Studies for OCR. London, UK: Heinemann.

Janda, K., et al (2008). The Challenge of Democracy: American Government in a Global World, Brief Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Cengage Learning.

Siegmund, S. (2008) How Far, If at All, Do the Media and the Public Opinion Influence US Foreign and Defence Policy? Berlin, DE: GRIN Verlag.

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IvyPanda. (2021, January 27). Men's and Women's Views on Health and Beauty Issues. https://ivypanda.com/essays/mens-and-womens-views-on-health-and-beauty-issues/

"Men's and Women's Views on Health and Beauty Issues." IvyPanda , 27 Jan. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/mens-and-womens-views-on-health-and-beauty-issues/.

IvyPanda . (2021) 'Men's and Women's Views on Health and Beauty Issues'. 27 January.

IvyPanda . 2021. "Men's and Women's Views on Health and Beauty Issues." January 27, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/mens-and-womens-views-on-health-and-beauty-issues/.

1. IvyPanda . "Men's and Women's Views on Health and Beauty Issues." January 27, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/mens-and-womens-views-on-health-and-beauty-issues/.

Bibliography

IvyPanda . "Men's and Women's Views on Health and Beauty Issues." January 27, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/mens-and-womens-views-on-health-and-beauty-issues/.

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Home — Essay Samples — Psychology — Body Image — Unrealistic Beauty Standards on Social Media and Their Impact

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Unrealistic Beauty Standards on Social Media and Their Impact

  • Categories: Beauty Body Image Effects of Social Media

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Words: 2004 |

11 min read

Published: Aug 4, 2023

Words: 2004 | Pages: 4 | 11 min read

Table of contents

Introduction, unrealistic beauty standards on social media, harmful impact of beauty standards on mental health, unhealthy body image and physical health, challenging unrealistic beauty standards, the scope of beauty standards on social media, solutions to the issue of unrealistic standards on social media.

  • Achieng, Jackline. “Cultural Beauty Practices From Around The World That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.” Culture Trip, 7 May 2018, www.culturetrip.com/africa/kenya/articles/cultural-beauty-practices-from-around-the-world/.
  • Australian Medical Association. “Body Image and Health.” Australian Medical Association, 2012.
  • Caprino, Kathy. “The Shocking Truth About The Effects Of Social Media On Women's Body Image.” Forbes, 26 Aug. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2017/08/26/the-shocking-truth-about-the-effects-of-social-media-on-womens-body-image/?sh=4dc1f9c9e72f.
  • Hurley, Kelsey. “Social Media's Impact on Body Image.” National Eating Disorders Association, 2019, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/social-medias-impact-body-image.
  • Oakes, Emily. “The Mental Health Impact of Instagram.” The Odyssey Online, 17 Nov. 2016, www.theodysseyonline.com/mental-health-impact-instagram.

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health and beauty essay

Acne Is a Part of My Life, and I’ve Decided to Be Okay With That

health and beauty essay

To deal, I've tried tea tree oil , spot treatments, and sulfur galore. I've nixed dairy from my diet . I've even recently decided to take the prescription hormone-regulator Spironolactone because I'm most commonly afflicted with hormonal chin pimples. But today, I take a new approach: I've decided to be okay with my acne. Or, I've at least accepted that like having brown hair or an affinity for cocker spaniels, acne is simply a part of my life.

I've at least accepted that like having brown hair or an affinity for cocker spaniels, acne is simply a part of my life.

I'm not alone,  which, I have to admit is kinda comforting. Data from the American Academy of Dermatology indicates that acne is the most common skin condition Americans battle (yes, even more than skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer), with 85 percent of the population having some sort of run-in with it. What's more? While it used to be a uniquely adolescent issue, these days women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are struggling with it as well. A separate study from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology surveyed 749 men and women who were 25+ and found that 54 percent had pimple problems that didn't go away until they were at least 44.

That sucks. Not just because we have to empty our pockets for  all the things at Sephora, but because acne is more than skin deep. And suffering through it from the time one is in middle school to the time one is  44  is way. too. long. Or rather: The only consistency in one's life from the time they're in middle school to the time they're middle-aged shouldn't just be acne.

"The skin and brain are both derived from the same embryonic layer during fetal development—so they're intimately linked from a very early stage," says Josie Howard, MD.

"There's a very strong link between your mind and your skin," says Josie Howard, MD, a psychodermatologist (AKA psychiatrist-slash-dermatologist) and Abreva spokesperson. "First, there's the biological connection between the skin and the brain. The skin and brain are both derived from the same embryonic layer during fetal development—so they're intimately linked from a very early stage. Also, we know that stress and mood fluctuations can cause direct effects on the skin through hormonal changes as well as neuropeptide release. And of course your mental states affect how you care for your skin—whether you overtreat or undertreat, for instance."

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It's true: In the survey of over 700 Well+Good Readers, we found that the vast majority said acne impacts their mental health, and a good chunk have skipped out on social situations because of it. I've definitely done the same:  my own skin insecurities have affected my love life, I've ditched dates in order to stay home and hide my pimple instead, and I've even been brought to tears about my skin, feeling helpless and without a solution.

"Acne is a micro infection of the follicles or pores—so then each pimple may be different in its own way than its neighbor and on your neighbor," says Purvisha Patel, MD.

"Having any kind of visible skin condition—especially one that is on the face such as acne—can profoundly affect self-esteem as well as overall mental health," says Dr. Howard. "It's incredibly common for people to avoid social interactions when they're experiencing an acne outbreak. There is a profound amount of shame and embarrassment that accompany these conditions, which is surprising in some ways given how common they are." Sad but true.

So what on earth gives? For me, it was learning that acne is kind of like a math problem in a lot of ways. "Four things need to happen to make acne: follicular occlusion from dirt, sweat, oil, or makeup, bacteria and fungus growing in the follicle, oil that makes the small infection grow, and then an infection that causes inflammation and redness or soreness," according to board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare Purvisha Patel, MD. If you get rid of half of the causes of acne, you'll likely best it. The giant asterisk? Because there are variables for all of the causes, one product can't bust all kinds of acne.

Dr. Patel says it all comes down to the fact that we're mammals covered in hair follicles—and none are the same. "Each follicle on our body is placed on us individually and differently," she says. "Acne is a micro infection of the follicles or pores—so then each pimple may be different in its own way than its neighbor and on your neighbor."

And because I can't account for all of the variability that comes with different follicles and their own individual needs to help them cheer up and chill out, I choose today to deal with my reaction instead. Acne is part of my life; it's made me who I am—imperfect and all.

If you're in this battle against acne, I'll help ya out: Here are the best supplements for clear, glowy skin and these are the complexion-boosting foods you should eat . 

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Good argumentative essay topics on health and fitness with prompts [+ outline], dr. wilson mn.

  • August 1, 2022
  • Essay Topics and Ideas , Samples

There are plenty of good argumentative essay topics on health and fitness to choose from. You can write about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, or the importance of staying fit and active.

You can also argue for or against certain health and fitness practices, such as eating organic foods or using supplements. Whatever you choose to write about, make sure you back up your claims with evidence and research.

What You'll Learn

Argumentative Essay Topics On Health And Fitness

Personal Reflection on the Scriptural Basis for Physical Fitness & Wellness Practices

Essay prompt: Often, when people speak about physical fitness and wellness, they do it from the point of view of science and medicine in which physical fitness and wellness practices are supposed to improve our health outcomes.

Improving Fitness Practices And the Personal And Realistic Physical Fitness Plan

Essay prompt: The strategies to identify practical ways to enhance my fitness practices include personal training, outcome measurements, and wearable technology. Personal training is a strong trend that is

Do Fitness Trackers Improve Health?

Essay prompt: Fitness trackers are wearable devices that monitor physical activity, communicate with the smartphone, and pass information to it. These wearable devices monitor calories consumed and received by a person, as well as physical activity indicators, and are designed to help people move more and eat right.

How did you apply what you learned in your workouts within and outside of class and what were the outcomes? How will you continue to apply this knowledge in the future?

As you continue,  thestudycorp.com  has the top and most qualified writers to help with any of your assignments. All you need to do is  place an order  with us

Improving Health Related Fitness: Aerobic Conditioning Program

Essay prompt: The Aerobic condition program seeks to improve health-related fitness for freshmen. Aerobic exercising or “with oxygen” offers freshmen cardiovascular conditioning. The program aligns with the American heart association (AHA) minimum 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 5 to 7 days a week.

Field Observation Gender, Race & Fitness Written Paper & Presentation

Essay prompt: Students will visit a fitness centre not located on campus. Field notes will be taken noting the time and day of the visit and the approximate fee paid to use the facility.

Importance of Goal-Setting for Nutritional Clients And the Steps in the Goal-Setting Process

Essay prompt: It is important to set fitness goals before trying to achieve health goals because they help understand why such an initiative is essential. Better and practical results are always achieved when one has a specific, realistic goal instead of setting out without a plan.

Discuss the importance of goal-setting for nutritional clients

Argumentative Research Paper Topics On Health And Fitness with Prompts

The Role of Group Exercise Instructor

Ensuring Firefighters Maintain Proper Health Fitness During And After Training

Essay prompt: The article follows the status of the recruits’ essential health and physical fitness to fire academy training. The article demonstrates the changes that take place during training and the early probation period.

Evolutionary Biology Use In Future Work In Psychology

Elements of the Marketing Environments

The Main Problem with Anaerobic Training

Essay prompt: When it comes to matters concerning fitness, aerobics has always taken Centre stage. Tracing its name from the term ‘aerobic’ to mean oxygen, aerobics is a fitness regime that basically uses oxygen to burn body fat.

Effectiveness of Exercise-based Prediction in Determining Cardiorespiratory Fitness (CRF)

Essay prompt: The article’s main purpose is to explore the effectiveness of exercise-based prediction in determining cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). In such a case, it would be possible to assess their capability in classifying individuals. Argumentative Essay Topics On Health And Fitness

Injured Children During Exercise or Sports

Essay prompt: As much as exercise is important, fitness trainers also hold the same influence as they serve as the guide towards a more appropriate pattern of workout and diet for their clients.

Problems And Solutions Concerning Meeting Advancing Health Information Requirements

Essay prompt: Currently, hospital setups exhibit new Health Information Technology (HIT) innovations that help in monitoring healthcare and fitness improvement. Besides, this HIT improves health outcomes and ensures efficiency in workflow among others.

Find out more on 260+ Ethical Paper Topics – Types | Guide | Topics

Improving College Student Fitness Routine

Essay prompt: It is a well-known fact that people need to exercise to prevent being afflicted with diseases, especially those that are caused by an unhealthy lifestyles.

Physical Education Unit Plan: Fitness for Health And social awareness

SWOT Analysis of Physical Fitness Facility

Essay prompt: The Pure Barre franchise is a boutique gym line of studios that has branches across North America- the US and Canada.

The Benefits of Physical Activity for Physical & Mental Health

Essay prompt: Numerous studies have explored the benefits of physical activity to the physical and mental well-being of an individual. A literature review on the subject suggests that there is a positive relationship between physical activity, and physical and mental health.

Analysis Of Fitness And Health Claims In The Future

Essay prompt: How will you approach your analysis of fitness and health claims in the future? How will this help you in your future training endeavours?

Classroom-Based Physical Activity, Cognition, And Academic Achievement

Essay prompt: Evidence suggests that there is an observable association between cardiovascular fitness, cognitive function, and physical activity during early childhood and adolescence. The above variables are linked to the academic performance of an individual.

How the Covid-19 Regulations have Affected Students at the Gym

Essay prompt: The COVID-19 Pandemic has subjected the world to a life-threatening situation, judging by the mortality and morbidity rates. More than 6.2 million people have died of COVID-19, and over 505 million cases have been reported worldwide as of 2022 (de Abreu et al., 2022).

There are plenty of good argumentative essay topics on health and fitness to choose from. You can write about a healthy lifestyle

Argumentative Research Paper Topics

There is no shortage of ideas when it comes to writing an argumentative research paper . The key is to find a topic that is interesting to you and that you can make a strong case for. Here are some potential topics to get you started:

  • Should the drinking age be lowered?
  • Should the voting age be lowered?
  • Should there be stricter gun control laws?
  • Should the death penalty be abolished?
  • Should abortion be legal?
  • Should same-sex marriage be legal?
  • Should marijuana be legalized?
  • Are humans causing climate change?
  • Is the welfare system effective?
  • Do schools need to do more to prevent bullying?

Whether you’re a diehard sports fan or someone who doesn’t really follow any particular teams, there’s no denying that sports can be a great source of debate. From which sport is the most exciting to watch to whether certain players or teams are truly the best in their respective leagues, there are plenty of topics to choose from when it comes to sports debates.

To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of some potential sports debate topics. Whether you’re looking for something lighthearted or something a little more serious, we’re sure you’ll find something on this list that gets your blood pumping.

So without further ado, here are 20 sports debate topics to get you started:

  • Which sport is the most exciting to watch?
  • Are certain players or teams overrated?
  • Who are the best players in each sport?
  • Who are the biggest busts in each sport?
  • What are the best and worst moments in each sport?
  • Are there too many teams in each league? Not enough?
  • What changes would you make to each sport?
  • Which teams are due for a championship

Sports Persuasive Speech Topics

When it comes to giving a persuasive speech, there are many different topics that you can choose from. However, one topic that always seems to be popular is sports. Sports persuasive speech topics can be about anything related to sports, from the benefits of playing a particular sport to the dangers of not playing any sport at all.

  • Some good sports persuasive speech topics include:
  • The benefits of playing team sports
  • The importance of staying active and participating in physical activity
  • The dangers of using performance-enhancing drugs in sports
  • The negative effects of not playing any sport at all
  • Why children should be encouraged to play sports
  • How adults can benefit from playing sports

Informative Speech Topics about Sports

When it comes to choosing a topic for an informative speech, there are many directions you could go. You could choose to give a speech about a particular sport, or about the history of sports, or about some of the great athletes who have made their mark on the world of sports.

If you’re a fan of sports, then giving an informative speech about sports could be a great way to share your love of the game with others. There are so many different aspects to sports that you could focus on, from the rules of the game to the training and conditioning that athletes undergo. You could even give a speech about some of the great moments in sports history.

If you’re not a big sports fan, don’t worry – there are plenty of other topics you could choose for your informative speech. You could focus on the history of a particular sport, or on the evolution of sports over time. You could even choose to give a speech about some of the great athletes who have made their mark on the world of sports. No matter what angle you choose, there’s sure to be an informative speech topic about sports that will interest you and your audience

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Health and Hygiene essay for Students and Children

500+ words essay on health and hygiene.

In modern times, it has become so important to take care of one’s health and hygiene. With the rising population levels, pollution levels, emission of harmful gases, it has to be a priority for everyone to maintain their health and hygiene. The health and hygiene essay guides you the different ways into which a person should be aware of his/her health. 

Health And Hygiene Essay

For the human body, health is a positive state where every part of the mind and body is in harmony. Additionally, it is also functioning and balancing the other parts. Thus, in other words, when all parts of the body are functioning well, this physical well-being state of the human body is called health. It is well said and proved that a healthy person is someone who has a sound body and a sound mind. Health is one of the characteristics of life that helps a person live longer. 

According to WHO, health is a state of complete mental, spiritual, physical, and social well being and not only the absence of disease. If a person is in a good physical state and free from any diseases but is under constant stress, greed, tension, anger, etc, then that person is not healthy. 

Hygiene refers to good practices and rituals that prevent diseases and leads to good health. Thus, it mainly includes proper sewage disposal, cleanliness, and safe drinking water supply. So, it includes all the activities that are done for preserving and improving as well as maintaining sound health. 

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Good habits for Better Health and Hygiene

Nutritious food .

For good health, one needs to eat wholesome food. Some part of the food that we take in serves as fit to keep the body warm. While another part results in the flesh that helps in giving strength. One of the most nutritious food is considered as pure milk. There are many other things like vegetables that we generally take in order to have nutritious food. For a human body, a mixed diet is considered the best option. It should have an adequate amount of minerals, vitamins, and calories required to run our body. 

One of the major sources of good health and hygiene is pure water. Although it seems like a normal thing, water is one essential that makes up our body. Many people get sick because of drinking impure water. Also, it mostly happens in villages where people bathe, washcloths, and clean the cattles in the same water. Thus, when this water is used for drinking purposes, then it may result in hazardous health. 

Cleanliness

Cleanliness is one of the most important elements of good health. Thus, it is an important hygiene habit to keep yourself and your surroundings neat and clean. Whenever there is dirt, there are germs that thrive in it. Also, the dirt is light in air and thus it moves around in the air. So, a dirty man is often the one that is attacked easily with various diseases. 

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