Is beauty a quality of the world or merely our perception of it? Certainly when it comes to issues of fashion we can appreciate the degree in which it is historically and culturally influenced. [No one can deny that the painter Reuben’s voluptuaries would not be embraced by contemporary woman as their ideal].
Even one’s notion of beautiful individuals has some cultural bias–but most interestingly, there is some component of physical beauty [facially that is] which transcends race and culture. There are presumably some proportions of facial structures which attract the eyes of newborn babies, suggesting that there is some innate conformational appeal.
But clearly it is our minds which do the appreciating. Our universal human disdain for certain fellow creatures on this planet [insects, eels perhaps] reflects our own bias. Is it for us to tell an eel that it is rather disgusting? Of course not. I have no doubt that a female rat would rather ‘be with’ a male rat than another organism which humans have designated to be more beautiful.
We have arranged the beauty pageant and crowned the winners–peacocks, puppies, kittens, pandas, tigers….whatever.
So we can conclude that there is no beauty ‘in’ the world–merely in our minds.
But wait–perhaps there is beauty ‘out there’. After all our minds are the products of an evolutionary process which has obviously taken place on this particular speck within this particular universe. It seems reasonable to find human qualities such as the search for beauty, likely to be an inherent property of this universe.
I am not implying any spiritual dimension to reality with this discussion. Of course it does not exclude the possibility that beauty and ugliness [not physical but in terms of human actions and choices] have a spiritual underpinning.
Just as consciousness is a product of humanity and, I believe, arose from a universe which ‘desired’ consciousness to exist, so, too, can beauty be seen as a desired quality of this cosmos in which we live.