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Socrates & Beauty. By Kelly and Amy. T he view of beauty. The earliest Western theory of beauty can be found in the works of early Greek philosophers from the pre-Socratic period, they have a strong connection between mathematics and beauty.

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socrates beauty

Socrates & Beauty

By Kelly and Amy

t he view of beauty
The view of beauty
  • The earliest Western theory of beauty can be found in the works of early Greek philosophers from the pre-Socratic period, they have a strong connection between mathematics and beauty.

Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. He is as one of the founders of Western philosophy and an enigmatic(难以理解的,神秘的) figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato, and the plays of his contemporary Aristophanes.


These definitions come from Hippias Major(is one of the dialogues of Plato)

  • In the Hippias Major, Socrates and Hippias set out to find a definition for "beauty"
socrates s four definition
Socrates’s four definition

beauty is that which is appropriate


The second hypothesis istempting:

even a ridiculous man, dressed in nice

clothing, will appear more beautiful.

But inside he would stillbe

ridiculous; thus appropriate and

beautiful are not the same.

Does the appropriateness

Make things beautiful?


Does it simply make them

Appear to be beautiful?


Second definition: beauty is that which is useful

  • But here again problems surface: it is through power that men make things useful. Nevertheless, as is well known, power can as much serve evil as it serves good.

Third definition: beauty is that which is favorable

  • Identifying the beautiful and the favorable leads to a paradox: the favorable procreates the beautiful, as a father procreates a son.

Fourth definition: beauty is the pleasure that comes from seeing and hearing

  • This hypothesis, while appealing, contains according to Socrates himself a fundamental flaw; that it ignores the beauty of the more noble pleasures, drawn from the studious occupations or the study of laws.

Direct experience, Socrates claims, is unreliable. It reveals a complex of contradicting qualities that cohabit in the same object: any beautiful object is at the same time not beautiful when compared with a higher beauty.

  • Appearance can be misleading. A person may appear beautiful when wearing suitable clothes, although he is not truly beautiful. Socrates in fact dismisses all expressions of physical beauty as untrustworthy. The ultimate beauty that contains no contradicting elements is beyond earthly experience.

Plato portrays such absolute beauty in the Phaedo,where Socrates sees its heavenly form. Socrates rejects further the idea that beauty is that which functions properly: an object may function well, but if its purpose is evil, the object is not beautiful.

  • He also disagrees that beauty should be defined as a cause of delight. The good, Socrates argues, also causes delight, and the two should be kept distinct.
socrates quotes about beauty
Socrates quotes about beauty
  • By means of beauty all beautiful things become beautiful .For this appears to me the safest answer to give both to myself and others; and adhering to this, I think that I shall never fall, but that it is a safe answer both for me and any one else to give — that by means of beauty beautiful things become beautiful.
  • Beauty is a short-lived tyranny.
  • Beauty is the bait which with delight allures man to enlarge his kind.
  • Give me beauty in the inward soul; may the outward and the inward man be at one.

SOCRATES: Is all that is beautiful good, or is all that is good beautiful?

  • ATREUS: All that is beautiful is good.
  • SOCRATES: Yes, but what about the second part of the question, Atreus? Is all that is good beautiful?
  • ATREUS: No, Socrates. All that is good is not beautiful. For example, we might say that Pythagoras is good at math, but it would be inaccurate to say that Pythagoras is beautiful at math. So good and beauty are not interchangeable terms.
  • SOCRATES: Very good Atreus. So we shall say that beauty must be good in order to be rightfully considered beauty. But let me ask you this Atreus. Do you consider plays to be beautiful?
  • ATREUS: Of course Socrates, there is great beauty in plays. A play is a work of art. A play is a beautiful thing, it expresses raw human emotion, it teaches, it entertains, etc.

Socratic dialogue investigating the meaning of beauty

the explanation
The explanation
  • What I have intended to show here is an example of a Socratic dialogue. Like most other dialogues, Socrates, or one of his friends is confronted with a dilemma of a philosophical nature. At the heart of this dilemma is the true meaning of the term "beauty."
  • In this dialogue, Socrates claims to have no clear notion about what beauty is, yet his interlocutor, Atreus is considered somewhat of an expert in this area. Atreus, feeling confident he knows what beauty is, gives in to Socrates' plea to define the term. In Atreus' attempt to define beauty, Socrates finds problems with each definition.