Personal Beauty and Personal Agency

Philosophy Compass 18 (12):e12953 (2023)
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We make choices about our own appearance and evaluate others' choices – every day. These choices are meaningful for us as individuals and as members of communities. But many features of personal appearance are due to luck, and many cultural beauty standards make some groups and individuals worse off (this is called “lookism”). So, how are we to square these two facets of personal appearance? And how are we to evaluate agency in the context of personal beauty? I identify three ways of responding to these questions: beauty advo- cacy, beauty skepticism, and beauty revisionism. Advocates connect an honorific sense of beauty with personal charac- ter. Skeptics focus on beauty standards, and primarily offer a social critique of beauty standards. Some skeptics suggest embracing other aesthetic ideals – even ugliness. Revision- ists critique beauty standards, but retain an honorific sense of beauty. Each position offers tools to evaluate personal agency as aesthetic agency, whether first-personally or through our appreciation of others' appearance.

Author's Profile

Madeline Martin-Seaver
University of South Florida


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