the beautiful and the ugly

(star nosed mole – found on

The past two days there have been a few articles about ugliness in the NY Times.  Examples: one about animals (“A Masterpiece of Nature? Yuck!”) and one about humans (“The Phenomenology of Ugly”).  What is driving this discussion about ugliness?  Why are we fascinated by it?  The author of “The Phenomenology of Ugly” draws a correlation between ugliness and philosophers – must one be ugly to practice philosophy?  Meaning, must one essentially “get over” how one looks before one can investigate deeper truths?  He discusses Sartre’s ugliness and his use of that as a tool in his philosophy – that he described it as a disability.

What does it mean to be beautiful, or ugly?  What clues do our features give away to others?  What stories do our disfiguring scars tell?  Can we track these stories?

To watch Umberto Eco (a prominent Italian semiotician, philosopher, literary critic, and novelist) give a lecture On the History of Ugliness, click here.

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