Race and Face By Brian Simpson


German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Physiognomy,” in The  Essential Schopenhauer, (Unwin, 1962), wrote: “That the outer man is a picture of the inner, and the face an expression and revelation of the whole character, is a presumption likely enough in itself, and therefore a safe one to go by; evidenced as it is by the fact that people are always anxious to see anyone who has made himself famous by good or evil, or as the author of some extraordinary work … every human face is a hieroglyphic, and a hieroglyphic, too, which admits of being decipheral, the alphabet of which we carry about with us already perfected.” And, in the same paper he put it even more concisely: “In private, people always proceed upon the principle that a man is what he looks.” Similar remarks were also made latter in the 20th century by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Psychological evidence tends to confirm this.

The paper by R. E. Jack (et al.), “Cultural Confusions Show that Facial Expressions Are Not Universal,” Current Biology, vo. 19, 2009, pp. 1543-1548, showed that Whites and East Asians significantly differed in their understanding of facial expressions, and the consequent identification of emotions conveyed by such expressions. Whites tend to focus their attention upon the eyes and mouth equally, while East Asians focus upon the eyes, which results in a difficulty with emotions that are different but still similar around the eyes. The psychological testing involved subjects viewing images of faces classified by the Facial Action Coding System (FACS). It was found that East Asians confused fear with surprise and disgust with anger.

The pattern found in the East Asian identifications, showed a bias towards the less threatening emotions, so given a choice between say fear and surprise, they chose surprise. While the paper hypothesised that this was due to cultural causation, it could also be genetically based, arising from the way that East Asians scan the face, predisposing then to choose the least threatening emotions.

The research paper concluded that “Our results question the universality of human facial expressions of emotion, highlighting their true complexity, with critical consequences for cross-cultural communication and globalization.” With fundamental disagreements at such a basic cognitive level, there is thus a major challenge to the sustainability of multiracial societies, since racial conflict and misunderstandings will always be present. Further material supporting this line, I believe, can be culled from Edward Dutton, How to Judge People by what they Look Like, (2018).


In conclusion, the globo-commo dream of multicultural multiracial diversity, fragile at the best of times, with vast evidence that such societies face drains in social capital, will be even more subject to likely breakdown in the coming breakdown.



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Sunday, 05 December 2021
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