The Personalist Project

Comments (8)

Jules van Schaijik

#1, Feb 12, 2012 1:53pm

I certainly think there is more to it than the genetic, evolutionary explanation. It is hard to think of a more ludicrous example of scientism, and the reductionism it leads to, than this.

As to the importance of physical beauty, it seems to me a strange question. Physical beauty, in this context, is always the beauty of a person—not only in the sense of belonging to a person, but also, and more importantly, in the sense of being expressive of a person.

So, I suppose one can ask the question in the abstract, without having any particular person in mind. In that case, I am not sure how useful it is.  Or one can ask the question in the concrete ("What first attracted you to Jack or Jill?") and in that case it seems to be slightly off the mark. Often physical beauty will have something to do with it, but only as his or her beauty.

As I am typing, though, I wonder if I am wrong about this? Perhaps physical beauty, as an isolated factor, is more important than I realize. Why else the plastic surgery industry?

Teresa Manidis

#2, Feb 13, 2012 2:04pm

So, that's one (very decided) vote against beauty as a by-product of evolutionary processes alone.

But do you think an individual person's possessing 'objective beauty' (i.e., those traits society, as a whole, normally values or considers 'beautiful' - regular features, normal body mass composition; perhaps, clear skin, shiny hair, etc) are important or irrelevant when considering a prospective mate?

Or do you feel the question is completely a subjective one, with attraction to a prospective mate resting solely on his or her unique his-ness or her-ness, having nothing to do with external, conventional ideas of beauty?

Any thoughts are most welcome ~


#3, Feb 15, 2012 3:35pm

This book might be an interesting read.


#4, Feb 15, 2012 3:46pm

As for objective measures of attractiveness, it seems men rate women most attractive when they possess a 20.85 body-mass-index and a 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio. This is pretty consistent across cultures and time periods and probably has to do with evolutionary psychology (perceptions of fertility, etc.).

Speaking from the perspective of a single young man, who wouldn't want to marry a beautiful woman? Why wouldn't you want to choose beauty? Of course beauty is important -- it's what is noticed first, and though it isn't the most important factor, it is the factor that enables all the others to be noticed at all.

I don't see myself being attracted to someone I don't perceive as beautiful.

Jules van Schaijik

#5, Feb 15, 2012 8:28pm

Dominik, Feb. 15 at 3:46pm

I don't see myself being attracted to someone I don't perceive as beautiful.

This makes sense. The question I have is whether, in this context, beauty can be defined prior to the perception of some particular person as beautiful, or prior to being attracted by him/her.

Katie van Schaijik

#6, Feb 15, 2012 9:29pm

It seems to me that the deeper and more serious we are as a person, the more the personal values will stand out to us in our encounters with others.  Intelligence and sweetness and humor in the face will become more significant in the attraction, while hair color and bodily proportions less so.

I've known women with flawless features but who carried a sour or jaded or vulgar or superficial air.  They didn't seem to me beautiful.  I've known other women who, considered from a purely objective, aesthetic point of view, were rather plain. But their faces were so radiant with lively personality that that plainness disappeared into the background.

Jules is like this even more than I am.  I remember how often I'd be surprised, even back in college, by the girls he thought were attractive and the girls he thought weren't at all.  It had everything to do with the spirit that came through.

Katie van Schaijik

#7, Feb 16, 2012 10:57am

Which is not to say that physical beauty is irrelevant.  It's interesting to think about the way certain physical traits seem in themselves to bespeak non-physical features of the personality.  A high forehead is thought to indicate intelligence.  Full lips can give an impression of either sensuality or sensitivity.  Small, beady eyes say: "Untrustworthy" or "small minded".  A bulbous nose is associated with dissipation. Tall stature make us think: Leaderlike.  And so on.


#8, Feb 27, 2012 11:21am

This discussion is so interesting, I just created my post in response to this idea.

I just discussed this idea with a student who came into my work (I work at a writing center, as a writing tutor). She is a young Catholic girl that I have been getting to know. Somehow, the discussion of physical attraction came up, and I think I opened her eyes a bit.

I discussed how physical attraction is a second-order concern (at least, for me) to metaphysical attraction, explaining to her (in simple terms) the idea of the value-response. I told her that, initially, I was not physically attracted to my current beau (to be fair, he had a large beard, and had just left his journey into the priesthood. It was a lot to take in; all I could see him as was my bearded priest friend!). However, as I grew close to him, studying together for my Philosophy of Love course (I know, how fitting), I came to recognize a spiritual beauty within him. 

I quite literally was granted a "Tabor vision" of him, and one day he became incredibly attractive to me (shaving the beard might have helped, too)!

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