The Aesthetics of Human Beauty

Stephen Davies

in The Artful Species

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199658541
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746253 | DOI:
The Aesthetics of Human Beauty

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Evolutionary psychologists reduce human beauty to female sexual attractiveness in the context of mate selection. Rather than considering other forms of human beauty, this chapter shows how their account is flawed. After reviewing the evidence and debating whether our ancestors shared similar preferences, it is accepted than many markers of female physical beauty are recognized cross-culturally. The main variable is body mass: the more unreliable the food supply, the higher the weight found attractive. But the main argument is that our interest in beauty typically takes in more than physical appearance. It is concerned with identity, self-presentation, and social performance more generally. As such it is decoupled from mate selection, being implicated in a wider social assessment. This account makes clearer how human physical beauty falls into line with other varieties of human and nonhuman beauty that call forth aesthetic reactions.

Keywords: attractiveness; beauty; halo effect; love; mate selection; venus figurines; social competence

Chapter.  7981 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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