The Real Point of the Kalokagathos

Friedrich Nietzsche made part of his name on a “naturalistic” explanation of ethics. In a revolutionary move, he turned his back on the substance of ideals of The Good or Virtue or Duty, and looked instead at who was formulating these and for what purpose. The young philologist reckoned that he could derive words for good and bad from the self-description of a putative master race keen to distinguish itself from its menial subjects. He thought mostly in German, but contemplation of the multiple meanings of the English “fair” may also be instructive.

In linking ethics to external and physical qualities Nietzsche was not intrinsically wrong; but I would suggest that he was led astray by the concept of race, which we have since come to deconstruct and abominate. Let us focus more on the individual, while by all means keeping in sight the biological, the “healthy body” that the sickly philosopher worshipped. We know from lab work on the “halo effect” that if a person is beautiful, he (or less likely, she) will be accorded all sorts of other qualities as well, such as intelligence or good will – which may be a dangerous mistake.

The baseline of ethics may be, not membership in any master race, but a purely individual beauty, which is the outward and visible sign of an inward genetic health. That the Athenian word for gentleman, the kalokagathos, puts the beauty part first may not be chance but rather an expression of the correct order: one becomes an honorary beautiful (kalos) by having been good (agathos).

(Fiddle to May 17, 2009)

Posted on April 23, 2021 at 17:20 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, The Myth Of "Inner Beauty"

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