Beauty and Civilization
Buffon’s considerations on human somatic features in Histoire Naturelle de l’Homme
The presence of an aesthetic judgment in an anthropological, scientific study may seem incongruous. One would think that the human body should be approached only in terms of "objective" criteria of functionality and measurable proportions.
However, to our surprise, two adjectives keep coming up in Buffon's description of the human body in his Histoire naturelle de l'Homme: 'beautiful' and 'ugly'.
To be sure, it is possible to determine that a person is beautiful through measurements and observations of bodily and facial symmetry, but most often, these proportions are not enough to explain why we find a person beautiful.
How does Buffon think about beauty when he writes the Natural History of Man? Does he understand it as a classificatory tool based on an objective system of measurement, or does he use his personal preference? On what criteria does he judge the physical aspect of the varieties in the human species?
Guédron, Martial. 2002. « Le nu héroïque ou les vertus régénératrices de la beauté au XVIIIe siècle », Champ psychosomatique, vol. n°26, no. 2, 2002, pp. 27-36.
Jobart, Jean-Charles. 2012. « Laideur objective et beauté subjective du corps en droit », Droit et société, vol. 80, n°1, 2012, pp. 189-210.
Mariana de Lurdes Carrito, Isabel Maria Barbas dos Santos, Carmen Emilia Lefevre, Ross David Whitehead, Carlos Fernandes da Silva, David Ian Perrett. 2016. "The role of sexually dimorphic skin colour and shape in attractiveness of male faces", Evolution and Human Behavior, Vol. 37, Issue 2, 2016, pp. 126-133.
Nahoum-Grappe, Véronique. 1988. « Beauté et laideur : histoire et anthropologie de la forme humaine », Chimères. Revue des schizoanalyses, n°5-6,1988, pp. 1-27.
Sagaert, Claudine. 2012. « La laideur, un redoutable outil de stigmatisation », Revue du MAUSS, vol. 40, n°2, 2012, pp. 239-256.
Slaney, Frances. 1986. " Maquillage, sexualité et culte de la Vierge Marie en Occident ", Anthropologie et Sociétés, vol.10, n°3, , 1986, p.81-90
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. Note: up to volume 4 issue 2, an incorrect copyright line appears in the PDFs.
Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).