Face Reading

FACE READING (Physiognomy) 

Physiognomy (from the Gk. physis meaning "nature" and gnomon meaning "judge" or "interpreter") is the assessment of character or personality from a person's outer appearance, especially the face. The term can also refer to the general appearance of a person, object, or terrain without reference to its implied characteristics as in the physiognomy of an individual plant (see plant life-form) or of a plant community (see vegetation).

Credence of such study has varied from time to time. The practice was well accepted by the ancient Greek philosophers, but fell into disrepute in the Middle Ages when practised by vagabonds and mountebanks. It was then revived and popularised by Johann Kaspar Lavater before falling from favour again in the late 19th century. Physiognomy as understood in the past meets the contemporary definition of a pseudoscience.

No clear evidence indicates physiognomy works, though recent studies have suggested that facial appearances do "contain a kernel of truth" about a person's personality.

Physiognomy is also sometimes referred to as anthroposcopy, though the expression was more common in the 19th century when the word originated.


Ancient Physiognomy


Notions of the relationship between an individual's outward appearance and inner character are historically ancient, and occasionally appear in early Greek poetry. Siddhars from ancient India are also known to have defined samudrika lakshanam that identifies personal characteristics with body features. Chinese physiognomy or face reading (mianxiang) reaches back at least to the Northern Song period.[4] The first indications of a developed physiognomic theory appear in fifth century BC Athens, with the works of Zopyrus (who was featured in a dialogue by Phaedo of Elis), who was said to be an expert in the art. By the fourth century BC, the philosopher Aristotle made frequent reference to theory and literature concerning the relationship of appearance to character. Aristotle was apparently receptive to such an idea, as evidenced by a passage in his Prior Analytics:

It is possible to infer character from features, if it is granted that the body and the soul are changed together by the natural affections: I say "natural", for though perhaps by learning music a man has made some change in his soul, this is not one of those affections natural to us; rather I refer to passions and desires when I speak of natural emotions. If then this were granted and also that for each change there is a corresponding sign, and we could state the affection and sign proper to each kind of animal, we shall be able to infer character from features.

The first systematic physiognomic treatise to survive to the present day is a slim volume, Physiognomonica (English: Physiognomonics), ascribed to Aristotle (but probably of his "school" rather than created by the philosopher himself). The volume is divided into two parts, conjectured to have been originally two separate works. The first section discusses arguments drawn from nature or other races, and concentrates on the concept of human behavior. The second section focuses on animal behavior, dividing the animal kingdom into male and female types. From these are deduced correspondences between human form and character.

Ancient Greek mathematician, astronomer, and scientist Pythagoras—who some believe originated physiognomics—once rejected a prospective follower named Cylon because, to Pythagoras, his appearance indicated bad character.

After inspecting Socrates, a physiognomist announced that he was given to intemperance, sensuality, and violent bursts of passion—which was so contrary to Socrates's image that his students accused the physiognomist of lying. Socrates put the issue to rest by saying that originally he was given to all these vices, but had particularly strong self-discipline.