Easy subject, said hippias major; however Socrates answered "yes, i know, but...", and that's where it all started. The philosophy behind beauty. What IS beauty? What makes us all agree that something is good or not but at the same time makes us argue for hours about what's better, does it lay in the object, or in the observer? Is there a definition? If not, why do we even talk about it?
I would first like to start with two arguments from my favorite author, Robert M. Pirsig, first we'll talk about if beauty actually exists, and second we'll ask ourselves if it is in the object or the observer.
In ZAMM, Pirsig proves that beauty exists by substituting it from our reality and then showing how absurd that world would be (remember, for Pirsig, beauty is equal to quality and value). He first talks about the obvious field that would be affected, art. A world of art without beauty is indescribable, just non-existing, so that one is easy. But then he talks about other fields (unsuspected ones at first) that would be affected by the substitution of beauty. Mathematicians, for example, would not be able to make the difference between a well applied equations and one that is not because the value of something well made wouldn't exist. Why should they say that 2+2=4 if there is no right or wrong. We can also think about sports that wouldn't have any more way to decide what is worth a point or what is worth a penalty, because the value of something wouldn't exist anymore.
After a while, we start noticing that even though we haven't described beauty yet, it is impossible to imagine a world without it.
Now let's see Pirsig's answer on a question that is still being asked today (probably because Pirsig is still not accepted in the world of philosophy, but I think that his metaphysics is the better one). Pirsig's answer on the question ''is beauty subjective or objective??", is neither of them, beauty is the father of the subject and the object. Pretty weird eh?. It took me a while to understand that one but I think the best example is in Lila: an inquiry into morals.
If somebody sits on a hot stove (which doesn't have a lot of value/quality/beauty), it wont take a long time for him to jump off. And that philosophically means that without the low quality of the hot stove, there wouldn't be a stove, neither somebody being burned, in the first place. He is saying that without a connection between an object and a subject, there is no object nor subject, and that connection could be described as quality/beauty.
So the whole problem with the question "is beauty subjective or objective", is actually the question itself, not the lack of answer.
You can also explain this by a famous rethorical question. If a tree falls in the wood and nobody is there to hear it, does it make noise. No, because noise needs someone to make it and some one to hear it, for it to be noise. And in this case, noise is the connection between the tree and the person hearing it.
Now let's try the worst part of this big bad wolf of philosophy, what is beauty? In this part I'll do like hippias and just throw a few ideas out there.
1. The description of beauty a long time ago was how well can you imitate something, a tree, a person etc... however, when photography was discovered, every other art lost his job, but beauty still exists today no? So what happened?
Well I think the description is good, the problem is that when we say imitating we automatically think about an object, but there's also the imitation of a feeling.
Example: If you compare a picture of a tree with a Monet of a tree, the picture obviously looks more like a tree, however, it's not as alive as the Monet. In a painting, or whatever type of art, we don't only imitate the object, but also the feeling we get with that object.
And that explains a lot of things. Abstract art is appreciated because it can describe more then one feeling at the same type, there's more room for some to look at it and say "that's exactly how I feel", and like I've heard before, the deepest psychologically need of a human is to be understood, that's what we all want.
It also explains why scary movies and sad plays are as appreciated as a nostalgic painting, is that every feelings are as close to beauty as the other. If a play describes perfectly how we felt at a moment in our life, it's beautiful.
So attempt #1 is, beauty is imitation (of a feeling or an object)
2. I've also thought that maybe we're looking for a description that explains more then one thing at the same time. Like I said before, before photography was discovered, or that individuality wasn't accepted, the description of beauty was easier. Why? well because there was only one type of beauty. Now everything can be art, from a toilet turned upside down to a tiger shark in an aquarium. Maybe we should separate a few groups in there (not by types of art but by types of beauty). That doesn't mean that they wont be described approximately in the same way, it just means that a small exception in one type of beauty wont screw up the description for the rest of the beauties that are listening to the rules.
The point is, sometime we are so stuck on trying to find an answer to a question that is wrong in the beginning, and that's what I love so much about this problem. People don't really have that mental reflex but we should, "If there's been a question unanswered for centuries, well maybe the question is impossible, not the answer".
And that lack of mental awareness is most beautifully observable in people that are stuck in the small world that they have been studying all there lives. When those people disconnect with reality, they can't even look at something from an other point of view to see that the problem is not even between the question and the answer, it's way more fundamental then that.
I love philosophy because (even though it sounds weird) it empties my mind and fills my heart, it's just something that you have to do in such a romantic way, that you forget you're trying to figure out the world. Maybe being naive is not so wrong in the first place.