Archive for the ‘The Myth Of “Inner Beauty”’ Category

Content Declaration

It cannot be emphasised too strongly that “beautiful on the inside” and all similar locutions are a mere metaphor. The non-metaphorical inside of a person is blood and guts; what we are actually talking about here is behaviour, which is in all cases external. And the metaphor is downright useless, as we do not respond […]

Unburned Offerings At Beijing

The Beijing Olympics were sung in by a pretty little girl called Lin Miaoke, wearing a red dress and pigtails. Only afterwards was it revealed that she was lip-syncing to the real singer, one Yang Peiyi. The latter was not allowed to appear because she was less “flawless”. Now, this is a word one normally […]

Anatomy Of A Word

The very word “good-looking” repays some thought. We are so used to the whole hyphenated word and its unambiguous meaning of physically attractive that we do not notice that it could in theory mean something else, especially with the stress on the first component instead of the second. That is, someone with a shaky grasp […]

Beauty, Truth And Goodness

In one way the identification of Beauty and Goodness goes back to Plato, inasmuch as the latter taught us about the eidola of these qualities and identified them with the deity itself. Rather than being in the eye of the beholder, Beauty thus became a heavenly reality. In later ages this manoeuvre would serve to […]

Coo! Coo! Who’s A Homo Superior, Then?

If beauty is not important, why then do we always compliment mothers on their beautiful babies? One obvious answer is that there is nothing else on which we could possibly compliment them; it is far too early to say that they are intelligent, wise, kind or otherwise virtuous. Non-parents may even have trouble understanding how […]

Why We Talk About Inner Beauty

The way people often talk about “inner beauty” when they wish to praise an unattractive person gives the whole game away. For they could perfectly well have said “inner goodness“, “goodness” without a topological qualifier, “ethical character”, “kindness and sincerity”, or a great number of other things. And these things they do say as well. […]

The Halo Effect

Experimental psychologists speak of the “halo effect”: a high perceived cross-correlation between all positive and all negative traits. That is, human beings seem unable or unwilling to consider that others may be good and bad in different areas; we want to assign everybody entirely to good or bad categories, so as to praise or condemn […]

Beauty And Patronage

One explanation for the medieval conviction that nobility, beauty and goodness were all the same thing is that the rich and noble had better nutrition, hygiene and care, and also practiced eugenics (the weak and ugly to the cloister). Ergo they were actually more beautiful than the peasantry. A second suggestion is that in the […]

Are The Fair Folk Being Fair?

Nietzsche made his name with a philological analysis of morality, suggesting that words for good and bad were derived from racial terminology; our language reflects the self-admiration of a blond conqueror people lording it over a subject dark-haired folk. His examples were German, but the multiple meanings of the English ‘fair’ – blond, beautiful and […]

Fisher Contra Zahavi

One of the great debates in evolutionary biology was over whether there could be such a thing as runaway selection processes, or whether apparently daft results of sexual selection nevertheless made evolutionary sense. The classic case was the Argus Pheasant, a species in which the females fancy males in proportion to the length of their […]