Physiognomy

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physiognomy

[‚fiz·ē′äg·nə·mē]
(psychology)
The prediction of personality functioning from facial appearances and expression.

Physiognomy

 

in the science of antiquity and of certain later periods, the study of the direct connection between the outward appearance and character of a person or an animal.

Physiognomy is rooted in the ancient practice of incorporating experience of life into folklore and the lore of sorcerers, fortune tellers, and the like. Physiognomic observations became part of the cultures of the ancient East; in the classical era they were systematized in the same way as other scientific disciplines of the time. Proportions of the face and body, characteristic gestures and facial expressions, and types of posture, build, and carriage of the body were described and classified.

In antiquity physiognomy was associated with the theory of temperaments and with Hippocrates’ theory of the dependence of an individual’s or a people’s physical and mental makeup on climate. Physiognomy was also related to the system of moral types (“characters”) worked out by Theophrastus and other students of Aristotle and to the use of types in classical literature, as exemplified by the character masks in New Comedy and the techniques of verbal portraiture in classical rhetoric, historiography, and biography.

Physiognomy was based on the notion prevalent in antiquity that the actions and behavior of every person are rigidly determined by his inborn character. According to Heraclitus, a person’s character was his “demon,” that is, his fate; similar statements were made by Epicharmus, Democritus, and Plato. It was believed that every person’s association with a moral type was just as clear and obvious, just as tangible and biological, as his physical features.

The classical tradition of physiognomy was reflected in the culture of Byzantium and of medieval Western Europe; it had a particularly strong influence on Arab science and on the cabala of Jewish mysticism. Some Western European scientists, for example, G. della Porta in De humana physiognomonia (1586), resumed the study of physiognomy between the 16th and 18th centuries. However, the establishment of new scientific criteria in the 17th and 18th centuries relegated physiognomy to the realms of common sense and artistic intuition. In his Physiognomical Fragments (1775–78), J. K. Lavater failed in an attempt to restore physiognomy to the status of a science. Similar attempts by such epigones of German romanticism as R. Kassner and L. Klages also failed to achieve acceptance. Klages’ graphology and characterology may be mentioned in this connection.

REFERENCES

Scriptores physiognomonici graeci et latini, vols. 1–2. Edited by R. Foerster. Leipzig, 1893.
Evans, E. C. Physiognomies in the Ancient World. Philadelphia, 1969.

S. S. AVERINTSEV

References in periodicals archive ?
Even within purely Sphagnum bogs, several physiognomic types have been distinguished depending on the nutrient supply, the height of the Sphagnum stands, the water table and its fluctuations, and so on.
The kind of technical literature found in Dead Sea Scroll fragments--such as physiognomic omens, lunar eclipse omens, or omens based upon thunder--would hardly be comprehensible to a non-specialist, in the same way that an advanced physics textbook would not be of general interest today.
This review of Chinese tropical forests shows that the forests of China have almost the same forest profile and physiognomic characteristics as equatorial lowland rain forests (Richards, 1996).
From the physiognomic spectrum of lichens collected from the study area, physiognomic types of lichens show a clear predominance of crustose species with 45 species followed by 11 foliose species and 8 species fruticolous whereas only 3 species were composites.
Some Reflections on August Sander and His Physiognomic Portraits", en PERCIVAL, Melissa y TYTLER, Graeme (ed.
Examples of physiognomic scrutiny can be found in Lady Susan and Northanger Abbey.
Therefore, generalisation of settlements should be subordinated to the principles and constraints of visual perception on the one hand, and on the other this process should take into account the characteristic spatial, physiognomic and functional features of settlements.
The new settlement reported in this work, the Islote Lobos, presents the typical physiognomic characteristics that have been described for most of the SAFS colonies: rocky, steep, isolated from the continent and with tide pools (Vaz-Ferreira, 1960; Schiavini, 1987; Bastida & Rodriguez, 1994; Crespo et al.
The fact that THE SET-TOO does not report the Jewish phase of the riots but rather formed part of the discourse of this phase by an accident of timing is made all the more ironic by future prints which made increasingly explicit the physiognomic connections between Dan Mendoza and John Philip Kemble.
Writers were attracted to physiognomic thinking; it influenced the descriptions of characters in Balzac, Dickens, Hardy, and Charlotte Bronte.
The two sexes are highlighted as are the shades of skin colour, the signifiers of religious observance or lack thereof and the physiognomic features of ethnic categorisation.
As we reported, Dai seems to exhibit no special physiognomic talents when he's going about his daily habits, liKe gardening.