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How does beauty work?

  1. Aug 31, 2004 #1
    I'm curious about how beauty works. Are there qualities that genetically make people more attractive to others? Is beauty all subject to individual perception or has it developed due to societies influence?

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 31, 2004 #2
    Beauty has been shown to be related to symmetry among other things. The more bilateral symmetry a person displays, the more physically attractive. Among the Masi warriors, those with the most bilateral symmetry can jump the highest, which the women find very attractive. Likewise, the more symmetrical the face, the more attractive it is considered. In addition, the proportions of the features to each other is considered more attractive the closer they follow the Fibonacci series, another ubiquitous type of symmetry found in nature.

    All of this symmetry is an indication of healthy genes. Dwarves, for example, do not possess the same ratio of length of limbs to body that is the most symmetrical in the fibonacci series. Likewise, the facial features of people with Down Syndrome do not follow this symmetry. In general, the more asymmetrical the body, the more damaged the genes.

    Among humanity the health of our genes is of particular concern. Half of our DNA are what is sometimes called "junk DNA" that allows for extremely fast evolutionary changes and, recent evidence indicates, this is what distinguishes us from Chimps who otherwise share 98% of our DNA. Having the physical ability to evolve rapidly must be counter balanced by the ability to maintain a stable genome once an advantageous adaptation has been achieved. Hence the necessity for beauty, if not the desire for beauty.
  4. Aug 31, 2004 #3


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    Here's a link to a Plato dialogue about beauty. As always with Socrates, the conclusion of the dialogue is that "we don't know" but at leats you know what beauty IS NOT. I would have liked to sumarize it to you but it's been too long since I last read it. I do remember however that it is the most comical of all dialogues so it's really worth it!

    http://www.sliderfamily.net/hippiasmajor.html [Broken]

    I've been looking for the correct definition of beauty since I first read that dialogue and none of the definitions I came up with seemed accurate. Until I read what Spinoza had to say about it in The Ethics. I have the book in french so the translation might not be extremely accurate.

    "[...] Eventually, men got to think that everything in Nature was intended for him. And so he began to think that the essential in something is that which is more useful for him. And thus he began considering as 'superior' the things which affected him in the best ways. And this is how were formed in his mind the notions we use to explain the nature of things. These notions include Good, Bad, Order, Confusion, Hot, Cold, Beautiful, Ugly, etc. [...]"

    This definition pretty much ressemble Hippias's "the beautiful is the useful" definition but Spinoza's refers to our feelings towards that object instead of our simple judgment of wheter is it more or less "uselful".

    I find this definition satisfying for objects other than other humans. In the case of human, I think beauty/attractivenes is defined by "good genes", more or less how wuliheron said. But this gene buisiness is a complete freakshow. If you want to get blown away, read 'The Red Queen' by Matt Ridley!

    There is also Kant's "Critique of Judgement" that adresses the topic of beauty. I'm not crazy enough to read that one though! :yuck:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  5. Aug 31, 2004 #4
    Interesting post wuliheron - I had heard some of that, but not all of it. Do you have any references for further reading, especially on the link between genes and beauty?
  6. Aug 31, 2004 #5
    Sorry, I don't really have any references for these studies. However, a quick google search turned up the following:

    http://is2.dal.ca/~kcollin2/sex_and_attraction.html [Broken]



    In addition to bilateral symmetry and certain ratios, studies of the major works of art show a consistent preference for a rather complex symmetry known as a Fractal Dragon. These include musical works of art as well as visual ones.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
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