Beauty, together with art and taste, is the main subject of aesthetics, one of the major branches of philosophy.[3][4] Beauty is usually categorized as an aesthetic property besides other properties, like grace, elegance or the sublime.[5][6][7] As a positive aesthetic value, beauty is contrasted with ugliness as its negative counterpart. Beauty is often listed as one of the three fundamental concepts of human understanding besides truth and goodness.[5][8][6]

Objectivists or realists see beauty as an objective or mind-independent feature of beautiful things, which is denied by subjectivists.[3][9] The source of this debate is that judgments of beauty seem to be based on subjective grounds, namely our feelings, while claiming universal correctness at the same time.[10] This tension is sometimes referred to as the “antinomy of taste”.[4] Adherents of both sides have suggested that a certain faculty, commonly called a sense of taste, is necessary for making reliable judgments about beauty.[3][10] David Hume, for example, suggests that this faculty can be trained and that the verdicts of experts coincide in the long run.[3][9]

Beauty is mainly discussed in relation to concrete objects accessible to sensory perception. It has been suggested that the beauty of a thing supervenes on the sensory features of this thing.[10] It has also been proposed that abstract objects like stories or mathematical proofs can be beautiful.[11] Beauty plays a central role in works of art and nature.[12][10]

An influential distinction among beautiful things, according to Immanuel Kant, is that between dependent and free beauty. A thing has dependent beauty if its beauty depends on the conception or function of this thing, unlike free or absolute beauty.[10] Examples of dependent beauty include an ox which is beautiful as an ox but not beautiful as a horse[3] or a photograph which is beautiful, because it depicts a beautiful building but that lacks beauty generally speaking because of its low quality.[9]

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