Some think that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. David Hume, the Scottish philosopher, thought that. So, everyone gets to decide for themselves what beauty is – but then we have a problem. Whose opinion matters more?
Iris Murdoch thought Hume was wrong, and I agree with her on this. Beauty requires a clear mind, a correct way of thinking, and it is therefore no less objective than science. Take the beauty of a complex work of art, such as Dostoevsky’s ‘Brothers Karamazov’, for example. Initially, it may seem like turgid and over long, but once you engage with it for a long time, its profound mysteries become apparent. Beauty is not an instantaneous pleasure, but the result of hard & sustained intellectual effort.
One quotable claim of Murdoch's that has stuck with me is: "It is the role of tragedy, and also of comedy, and of painting to show us suffering without a thrill and death without a consolation." It's a pretty grim view to hold, but then again, most interesting views are.