The Importance of Beauty
KNIGHT Dunlap (1875–1949; pictured) was an American psychologist who made a special study of human beauty. He wrote, “Whatever its importance for the individual, beauty is for the race and for civilization of such profound importance that no other fundamental consideration of human welfare and progress can be divorced from it.” He also wrote: “Ugliness, it is true, is often skin deep, but beauty never. Beauty is something which depends upon the whole organism.”
Why does beauty appear to us? For what reason do we perceive it? After examination, Dunlap found that “It is evident now that whether there are other considerations or not, the most important element in the beauty of any individual is the evidence of her (or his) fitness for the function of procreating healthy children of the highest type of efficiency, according to the standards of the race; and ability to protect these children” and that “The standard of beauty in complexion, whether light or dark, is that which goes with the full bloom of sexual vigor, when the human organism is at its perfect development for the perpetuation of the species.”
He also said, “Human beauty is a sign of fitness for parenthood; fitness to propagate children who shall be, in high degree, able to hold their own in the mental and physical struggle with nature and with their human competitors. It is the sign which is intuitively recognized by the race and upon which the process of sexual selection is based. It is therefore nothing superficial: it is the external appearance of the germinal possibility which is the most important of all things for society.”
In other words, beauty is the composite, or a kind of summary, of all those qualities that experience has taught people, across perhaps thousands of years, are to be found in the members of their own race who are best fitted to perpetuate the species through the generation and protection of children. Beauty is therefore not merely decorative, but has a primary importance to survival.
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