Skin Deep: The Beauty Bias

Francesca Minerva
In this 3-session seminar, we will discuss the issue of discrimination based on physical appearance, AKA “lookism”. Do attractive people have an advantage over those who are unattractive? Are beauty standards imposed by society, or are they “hardwired” in our brains? Is cosmetic surgery a good option for people who don’t match beauty expectations? We will discuss these and other questions related to beauty privilege from a philosophical perspective – but one that is informed by empirical evidence from scientific studies.
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Francesca Minerva

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We often assume that beautiful people are luckier when it comes to romance, that they have more sexual partners and happier relationships. In fact, the advantages of attractiveness go well beyond the romantic sphere. Being considered more attractive has an impact on one’s career prospects, academic success and income, as well as on the chances of winning elections and even of raising money for charities.

In this seminar, we will learn about the spheres of life where beauty is an advantage, and the extent of the disadvantage experienced by unattractive people.  We will discuss the various explanations that have been put forward for beauty privilege, including both social and evolutionary accounts.

We will discuss whether this form of privilege is morally problematic, and if so, what measures could be introduced to alleviate the disadvantages experienced by unattractive people.

At the end of the three sessions, you will be able to develop your own answers to these questions. You will be provided not only with the empirical evidence, but also with the tools of philosophical analysis necessary to answer complex ethical questions.

What to expect