Truth and Beauty, it would seem, have much in common after all. Many thinkers, however, including most non-Western theorists, reject the notion that beauty is a universal objective reality. They argue that it is different in each of its instances. Beauty is the unique character of a thing, the way in which its specific elements are specifically related. The creation or the study of beautiful things is not a science but an art: conducting a tea ceremony, achieving inner peace through meditation or in action, freeing a statue from the marble block, telling an edifying story. For G. E. Moore (1873–1958), beauty is undefinable precisely because it is particular; it can only be directly experienced, like seeing the color red. …

Subjective interpretations

Although there have always been those who claim that beauty is only in the eye of the beholder, modern science and the Cartesian separation of mind and body combined to reserve objectivity for physical bodies and their publicly-verifiable quantitative features. Beauty was therefore relegated to the realm of private mental things, to ideas and the sentiments. The Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711–1776) says that beauty is a matter of taste, a disinterested pleasure we take in certain of our sensations. The twentieth-century American poet and philosopher George Santayana (1863–1952) says beauty is pleasure objectified: pleasure experienced as the quality of a thing, our subjective responses projected onto their source.

The extreme version of subjectivism is found in the claim by C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards, made in the 1950s, that aesthetic judgments have no truth functional significance: They are neither true nor false but rather emotive ejaculations akin to saying “wow.” Marxist and Postmodernist forms of relativism make this subjectivism a function of race, ethnicity, religion (ideology), economic class, political power, or gender, critiquing objectivity claims as attempts to hide their self-serving character.