Innate human nature, or social indoctrination below the level of conscious thought? How else to explain it when an intelligent academic (whose identity will mercifully not be revealed here) writes in a recent book:

This link between goodness and beauty is often noted in regard to the human face. The face of a good person is apt to radiate the virtue within, thus acquiring a beauty it would not otherwise have; while the face of a bad person will tend to reflect the inner ugliness and be repellant to the gaze. ...

S/he goes on to qualify the above, but not enough to get out of the hole s/he's dug. And others have fallen into the same fallacy, at times from the opposite direction. In "How Mrs. Piper Bamboozled William James" (from The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal, reprinted in Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries?) Martin Gardner catches the famous psychologist/philosopher:

Here is what I consider the most stupid remark in all of James's writings: "When a man's pursuit gradually makes his face shine and grow handsome, you may be sure it is a worthy one. Both Hodgson and Myers kept growing ever handsomer and stronger-looking."

Ugliness equals evil. Heroes are pale-skinned and pretty. Villains are dark and deformed.

Ridiculous, and utterly commonplace. Some childrens' books, using animals as anthropomorphic stand-ins, carry this to extremes that would be blatant racism if done with people. In one noteworthy example the big black apes are all bullies; the little pink chimps are the ones readers are supposed to identify with.

Is there a correlation between physical attractiveness and virtue? (And "attractiveness" as defined by whom?) Show me the data --- or admit that it's a delusion, a post hoc fantasy-justification for prejudice ...

TopicPhilosophy - TopicArt - TopicLife - TopicLiterature - 2003-12-07

(correlates: GorillaPhilosopher, MoreMetaforestry, Let It Snow, ...)