The questions related to beauty have troubled the minds of the humanity for centuries. Philosophers, artists, and poets have made beauty the subject of their quest. Traditionally, beauty has been seen as one of the ultimate values just as justice, goodness, and truth. Ancient Greeks, medieval philosophers, and the thinkers in 18-19 centuries interpreted beauty and described it from various perspectives. One of the most neutral and general definitions of beauty was given by Heisenberg, who wrote that beauty was “the proper conformity of the parts to one another and to the whole” (Heisenberg in Chandrasekhar 52). Yet, the understanding of beauty common in modern society often distinguishes between physical beauty and inner beauty. THESIS STATEMENT: Despite the fact that physical and inner beauty differ a lot, they are not controversial, but complement each other. A person who is ugly inside is not likely to be perceived as beautiful even if he or she has attractive looks. On the contrary, people with physical flaws are often said to be beautiful because of their inner beauty.
First, let us discuss the differences between the physical beauty and the inner beauty. In idealist philosophical thought, the inner beauty is understood as the beauty of the soul. In Plato’s account of Socrates’s instructress Diotima’s reflections on beauty, this type of beauty is juxtaposed to the beauty of the body. The latter occupies a lower place in the hierarchy of values and cannot even be compared to the beauty of the soul: “(…) the beauties of the body are as nothing to the beauties of the soul” and “the beauty of the body is not, after all, of so great moment (…)” (Plato 561-563). The great philosopher saw the major difference between the two kinds of beauty in that the beauty of the body is based on love to the form, which is absurd, since one cannot set himself/herself “the lover of every lovely body”, while the beauty of the soul was based on eternal values (Plato 561-563). At the same time, the two kinds of beauty were seen as similar in that both of them made people “fall in love and cherish” (Plato 561-563). Yet, Socrates did not view the two kinds of beauty as opposite; instead, for him beauty was a coherent unity, with bodily beauty occupying the lower ladder of the hierarchy.
Inner and outer beauties differ by the essence, yet they are similar in that they both constitute harmony. Specifically, St. Augustine’s vision of beauty distinguished between inner and outer beauty. The latter was about the symmetry of the parts of the human outer self and about the proper order of the processes that were driving a person’s physical existence, whereas the former was about the symmetry of a person’s good choices and the reality order. This symmetry is a common element. Again, in St.Augustine’s view, the inner beauty is more outstanding because it depends on free choice and results from the spirit of justice. Despite the difference, the philosopher spoke about the unity of the two kinds of beauty, where the inner beauty is essentially the core. According to the great philosopher, the self beauty attracts other people’s love while outward beauty only manages to attract their attention (St.Augustine, “Commentary on the Gospel of John”).
Overall, despite the differences between the two kinds of beauty, both of them are indispensable parts of the universal concept of beauty. In it, however, inner beauty plays a greater role and is associated with a person’s soul. Therefore, it is hard to disagree with Audrey Hepburn, a famous U.S. actress, who said that true beauty gets reflected in a soul and that true beauty is about our care given to others as well as our passion. They are felt beyond the facial mole (in O’Connor 138).
- Chandrasekhar, S. Truth and Beauty: Aesthetics and Motivations in Science, 1990. Print.
- Geddes. John. A Familiar Rain. Chinook Pub Inc., 2011. Print.
- O’Connor, Karen. The Beauty of Aging: Growing Older with Grace, Gratitude, and Grit.
- Gospel Light Publications, 2006. Print.
- Plato. Collected Dialogues. N.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
- St.Augustine. Commentary on the Gospel of John. N.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.