Essays On Physiognomy

Essays on
PhysiognomyDesigned to Promote the Knowledge
and the Love of Mankindby
John Caspar Lavater

Essays on Physiognomy

Designed to Promote the Knowledge and the Love of Mankind

by John Caspar Lavater

Excerpt


Of the general objections made to physiognomy 73 Various objections to physiognomy answered 78 On dissimulation, falsehood, and sincerity 83 On freedom and necessity 90 Additions 93 On the harmony of moral and corporeal beauty 95 Additions 1 10 Socrates 113 Additions 122 Miscellaneous physiognomonical exercises 123 Of the union between the knowledge of the heart and philanthropy 129 Of the universal excellence of the form of man 132.

Book Details


PIBN10175538
ISBN978-1-332-83840-0
ISBN (Cloth)978-0-331-04107-1
LanguageEnglish
CategoryEssays
Pages778
Words192946
Vocabulary6141

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"Lavater" redirects here. For the surname, see Lavater (surname).

Johann Kaspar (or Caspar) Lavater (15 November 1741 – 2 January 1801) was a Swisspoet, writer, philosopher, physiognomist and theologian.

Early life[edit]

Lavater was born in Zürich, and was educated at the Gymnasium there, where J. J. Bodmer and J. J. Breitinger were amongst his teachers.

Corruption fighter[edit]

At barely twenty-one years of age, Lavater greatly distinguished himself by denouncing, in conjunction with his friend Henry Fuseli the painter, an iniquitous magistrate, who was compelled to make restitution of his ill-gotten gains.

Zwinglian[edit]

In 1769 Lavater took Holy Orders in Zurich's Zwinglian Church, and officiated until his death as deacon or pastor in churches in his native city. His oratorical fervor and genuine depth of conviction gave him great personal influence; he was extensively consulted as a casuist, and was welcomed with enthusiasm on his journeys throughout Germany. His writings on mysticism were widely popular as well.

In the same year (1769), Lavater tried to convert Moses Mendelssohn to Christianity, by sending him a translation of Charles Bonnet's Palingénésie philosophique, and demanding that he either publicly refute Bonnet's arguments or convert. Mendelssohn refused to do either, and many prominent intellectuals took Mendelssohn's side, including Lichtenberg and Herder.

Physiognomy[edit]

Lavater is most well known for his work in the field of physiognomy, Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beförderung der Menschenkenntnis und Menschenliebe, published between 1775 and 1778. He introduced the idea that physiognomy related to the specific character traits of individuals, rather than general types.[1]

The fame of this book, which found admirers in France and England as well as Germany, rests largely upon the handsome style of publication and the accompanying illustrations.[citation needed]

The two principal sources from which Lavater developed his physiognomical studies were the writings of the Italian polymathGiambattista della Porta, and the observations made by Sir Thomas Browne in his Religio Medici (translated into German in 1748 and praised by Lavater).

Poet[edit]

As a poet, Lavater published Christliche Lieder (1776–1780) and two epics, Jesus Messias (1780) and Joseph von Arimathia (1794), in the style of Klopstock. More relevant to the religious temperament of Lavater's times are his introspective Aussichten in die Ewigkeit (4 vols. 1768-1778), Geheimes Tagebuch von einem Beobachter seiner selbst (2 vols., 1772–1773), and Pontius Pilatus, oder der Mensch in allen Gestalten (4 vols., 1782–1785).

Goethe[edit]

From 1774 on, Goethe was intimately acquainted with Lavater, but later had a falling out with him, accusing him of superstition and hypocrisy.

Blake[edit]

In 1788 William Blake annotated Lavater's Aphorisms of Man.[2][3] Lavater published 632 aphorisms in all. Blake considered the following aphorism to be an excellent example of an aphorism. "40. Who, under pressing temptations to lie, adheres to truth, nor to the profane betrays aught of a sacred trust, is near the summit of wisdom and virtue."

Last days[edit]

During his later years, Lavater's influence waned, and he incurred considerable ridicule due to his vanity. His conduct during the French occupation of Switzerland brought about his death. On the taking of Zürich by the French in 1799, Lavater, while trying to appease the aggressors, was shot by an infuriated grenadier; he died over a year later, after protracted sufferings borne with great fortitude.

The Swiss artist and illustrator, Warja Honegger-Lavater, was a direct descendent of Johann Kaspar Lavater.

Works[edit]

  • Vermischte Schriften (2 vols., 1774–1781)
  • Kleinere prosaische Schriften (3 vols., 1784–1785)
  • Nachgelassene Schriften (5 vols., 1801–1802)
  • Sämtliche Werke (poems only; 6 vols., 1836–1838)
  • Ausgewählte Schriften (8 vols., 1841–1844).

References[edit]

  • The Faces of physiognomy : interdisciplinary approaches to Johann Caspar Lavater. Edited by Ellis Shookman. Columbia, SC : Camden House, 1993. (ISBN 1879751518)
  •  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Lavater, Johann Kaspar". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links[edit]

Image of woodcut from Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beförderung der Menschenkenntnis und Menschenliebe (1775-1778)
Lavater's Apparatus for Taking Silhouettes.--(From an ancient engraving of 1783)

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