How can one define what is beautiful (and what is ugly)?
This question was already asked so often in the times of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and later that it was actually already answered. Was it?
As long as beauty is understood as an intrinsic property of an object or set of objects, the answer constantly eludes us. It eludes so much that it eventually becomes “what is in the eyes of the beholder”, as many famous artists and philosophers have noted. Thus beauty is transformed from something entirely objective (intrinsic property of an object) into a purely subjective feeling.
In fact, it seems that only my personal feeling, for example when the AirPods slide smoothly into my pocket, is perceived as beautiful.
Should we be satisfied with such a subjectivist conclusion that leaves no room for a beauty that could be shared by individual subjects? No, we should not, because our experience contradicts it. Many of us rave about the beauty of AirPods, just as many of us admire the beauty of Rothko paintings or the gardens of Versailles.
When we are alone and contemplate this or that beauty, we often say that a person with whom we could share the sight would enhance the feeling of that beauty. So beauty is necessarily intersubjective. I would even argue, in parallel with Kant, that beauty can only exist as shared, as intersubjective, just as the case of an unobserved tree does not exist. Let me give another example: Would this post be considered beautiful if it existed only for me?
But there is another non-objectivity and non-subjectivity inherent in beauty. It can only be defined in the context of power and wisdom. Power and wisdom are the only rational substances that can define beauty. Beautiful is something that is both powerful and wise. It is the balance, the harmony of these three pillars of our reality, that creates beauty, not the harmony or balance of an object or set of objects.
Beauty, then, along with power and wisdom, is an ontological and not phenomenological property of reality and, as such, is also the fundamental memetic property of human beings.
Again, I apologise for being so condensed. Many of my readers complain for this reason. I understand this and sympathise, but I cannot deflect.