Everyone quotes Thomas Aquinas as defining beauty as "id quod visum placet." No one gives a citation. Can any of you folks supply such citation?

  • 2
    The 'quote' is bastardized. What appears in are Summa Theologiae are pulchra enim dicuntur quae visa placent, "beautiful things are those which please when seen" (I.5.4 ad1); and pulchrum autem dicatur id cuius ipsa apprehensio placet, "what is said to be beautiful is that which, when perceived, pleases" (IIa.27.1 ad3).
    – Conifold
    Commented May 17 at 2:53
  • 1
    For a comprehensive account, see Sevier, Aquinas on Beauty.
    – Conifold
    Commented May 17 at 2:54

1 Answer 1


I believe you are looking for Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 5, Article 4, Reply to Objection 1. In the Benziger translation (1920) the passage reads:

Beauty and goodness in a thing are identical fundamentally; for they are based upon the same thing, namely, the form; and consequently goodness is praised as beauty. But they differ logically, for goodness properly relates to the appetite (goodness being what all things desire); and therefore it has the aspect of an end (the appetite being a kind of movement towards a thing). On the other hand, beauty relates to the cognitive faculty; for beautiful things are those which please when seen. Hence beauty consists in due proportion; for the senses delight in things duly proportioned, as in what is after their own kind—because even sense is a sort of reason, just as is every cognitive faculty. Now since knowledge is by assimilation, and similarity relates to form, beauty properly belongs to the nature of a formal cause.

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