Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 11–21 | Cite as

Physical beauty: only skin deep?

  • Medard T. Hilhorst


Personal appearance and physical beauty are becoming increasingly important in our societies and, as a consequence, enter into the realm of medicine and health care. Adequate and just health care policies call for an understanding of this trend. The core question to be addressed concerns the very idea of beauty. In the following, a conceptual clarification is given in terms of beauty's meaning, value and function (i.e. beauty that is used instrumentally, and beauty that is attained). Furthermore, some relevant distinctions are drawn between physical and artistic beauty, and physical beauty in a human sense. The core idea for this is formed by a Kantian notion of the beauty concept. It is argued that beauty judgements should be understood as relative to persons and their contexts. Physical beauty should be taken seriously when it is understood in this deeper sense of being related to the shaping of a person's identity.

aesthetic surgery beauty ethics personal identity 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Medard T. Hilhorst
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Medical Ethics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Care, and Department of Ethics, Faculty of PhilosophyErasmus University RotterdamThe Netherlands

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