St. Thomas Aquinas did not bequeath to the world extensive treatises on the topic of beauty.
However, he did provide posterity with a simple definition of beauty consisting of four words that, according to the great Thomistic scholar Jacques Maritain, "says all that is necessary." For Aquinas, beauty is id quod visum placet, "that which pleases upon being seen."
In order to be faithful to the meaning of Aquinas' words, we must understand the specific meanings of the words visumand placet. The former connotes more than meets the eye. Its meaning is closer to our understanding of the word "vision" (as opposed to "eyesight") and refers to an intuitive knowledge that includes the senses. The two senses that are involved in the apprehension of beauty are what St. Thomas calls "the senses of knowledge," that is, sight and hearing.The word placet means more than a mere sensual pleasure. It is better rendered as "a delight for the soul." This delight is conferred when a person beholds a beautiful object by means of an intuitive knowledge that incorporates either sight or hearing..More>>