Beauty in Perfumery from Plato's "Hippias Major"

Beauty in Perfumery from Plato's "Hippias Major"

Beauty in Perfumery. The link seems too intuitive, very empirical, but it is hardly stated properly. What is Beauty, in the first place? The following article aims to a definition of Beauty concerning some quotes of Hippias Major. 

Hippias Major is a dialogue between two people - Hippias and Socrates - on several subjects being one of them the definition of Beauty. In this dialogue one can determine 3 possible definitions by Hippias and 4 from Socrates. Firstly Hippias' statements.

Angelina Jolie Mon Guerlain

287e - Beauty is a beautiful girl.  The first interpretation of Beauty is antropomorphical. Beauty is something that lays beyond our human sphere but has some connection with it. I find it most interesting that in that time, as today, Beauty is portraited as a beautiful woman; you can see it very clearly on perfume advertising where  beautiful women - like Angelina Jolie on Mon Guerlain, for example - play the central role on the storytelling.

289e - Everything ornamented with gold is beautiful
. Yes, gold seem to have some magnetical power with it. Gold has led men to madness, triggered bloody wars and separating families and friends appart. How can something like that be beautiful? Think on the great handcrafts made by gold, the sumptuous baroque churches and 1 Million, this gold-like bottle that is, successfully, reached top sales worldwide. Gold, truly, has some Beauty.

285e - Beauty is to be rich and respected. Hippias' third definition is the most interesting: Beauty can be neither on people nor on things but on our character. There's a certain true on this words because - I think is generally acknowledged - men is capable of the noblest gestures and the kindest acts. Those realities are, in point of view, the materialization of a common sense of Beauty. "L'Homme Ideal is a Myth, he's fragrance a reality" is the motto of L'Homme Ideal by Guerlain but I think the perfume that explores better this notion is Invictus by Paco Rabbane.

Socrates has got some deeper notions of Beauty, in my opinion.

290d - Beauty is that which is appropriate. Appropriateness is an interesting synonym of Beauty as it gives Beauty a human feature but it is, somewhat, subjective. For Socrates, answering Hippias, a wooden spoon is more beautiful than a golden spoon because no one would eat with a golden spoon. 

It is hard, for me, to think on the appropriateness on perfumery but I like to think that perfumes, as aesthetically objects, can be used also for decoration which leads me to think that Yes I Am is not only beautiful but it is also proper.

295d - Beauty is what is usefull
. Socrates states that something is beautiful if it fulfills the ends for that it was made. In this part of the dialogue Socrates also says that having power [to be usefull] is something beautiful and not having that power is something ugly. I think the issue here is not so much the utility but the potential use of something and I can see that so much on perfumes like Everbloom: it smells great as all the 99% perfumes but this fragrance has a special feature, to me, that is the capacity to exhale a fresh scent as if a flower was perpetually blooming. That capacity, I think, is beautiful.

Hermés Un Jardin sur Le Nil

296e - Beauty is beneficial.  Here's the key aspect of Beauty, for me: Beauty can only be connected to Good or, as my dear Pope John Paul II stated, "Good is the metaphysical condition of Beauty". I do not wish to develop this notion, at least for now, but let me example this idea with a perfume which is Terre d'Hermés: a perfume that is the ultimate ennoblement of Earth as the source of our Life.

298 - Beauty are all those things that come from our vision and earing that please us. This is the best definition, on this dialogue, for beauty and it is the last. Henceforth Beauty is related to Aesthetics. 

Beauty comes from either a human source or a natural source, it can be material or not, but has always some degree of pleasure associated. Personally I understand quite well this definition when i experience Un Jardin Sur Le Nil from Hermés; the fragrance composition, the bottle, the package and even the adversting is all about the Nil river and when the fragrance comes from the bottle I can instantly travel to the Egipt where Time stops and all my concerns seem to vanish for a moment. That is Beauty.

Even though both Socrates and Hippias, on this dialogue, tried to reach a definition of Beauty through the well known "Socratic Dialetics" they turn without a unquestionable definition of Beauty, ending up with an aporia.

José Cândido | August 2019