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 ?
Evans, 'Roman descriptions of personal appearance in history and biography', HSCP 46 (1935) 43-84, at 64-67, 82 with references to ancient physiognomical texts; E.
As with the original incident, the play hinges on the idea that Chinese bodies are imitable: according to Carson, all it takes to achieve the illusion of a 'Chinaman' is the recreation of specific physiognomical features like slit eyes, a pigtail and yellowish skin.
Although he repeatedly tries to question the validity of the physiognomical argument he has read, he cannot quite bring himself to question the 'vieux monsieur sage' (p.
Al-Khazraji,(219) "it is not even required that a victim of discrimination be of a distinctive physiognomical sub-grouping [from the perpetrator of the discrimination].
Or, if one follows the implications of classical physiognomical theory, which states that external appearance is a visual manifestation of inner character, the Monstrous Races were malformed owing to their various moral shortcomings.
48) The next step--selection for labor--was usually a more difficult hurdle for women than for men due to biological, physiognomical, and even cosmetic factors.
Reading this physiognomical verse, one hears echoes and premonitions of flyting.
17-53 as well as his "The Power of a Thousand Eyes: Johann Caspar Lavater's Science of Physiognomical Perception," Criticism 28 (1986), pp.
Second, I shall indicate why Physiognomy might be taken to be related to the epistemological attitudes of the sceptics about other minds and I shall outline the origins, principles, and methods of that science Third, I shall point out some respects in which there is interaction between physiognomists and philosophers, concentrating on humoral psychology and on physiognomical typology.
Sarah Peterson, Acquired Taste: The French Origins of Modern Cooking; Christopher Rivers, Face Value: Physiognomical Thought and the Legible Body in Marivaux, Lavater, Balzac, Gautier, and Zola.
59 Gombrich, "Leonardo's Grotesque Heads," reprinted in Gombrich, 1976, 157-75 (citing Leonardo's Trattato, making more or less explicit physiognomical references); see also Klaiber; Juynboll; Pedretti, 1962; Moffitt, 1994.
However, she does not have Martha's Nordic blond hair (a lock of which is preserved at Mapledurham), and the physiognomical resemblance to Kneller's portrait is less convincing.