New Voices Talk Series – Women and Their Body (2)

Maria Borges: “Body and the duty to be beautiful”

On November 17th, 2022, at 4 pm, we will have the pleasure to hear Maria Borges on Body and the duty to be beautiful.

In her presentation, she aims at analyzing the importance of beauty for contemporary women. She begins by showing some traditional views in the history of Philosophy, such as Kant´s conception that “woman is beautiful while man is sublime”. She claims that beauty is still considered one of the main assets for women, not only in the “dating scene” but also in the pursue of a carrier. Maria Borges will show the criticism of beauty practices in the feminist literature. She then argues that in the XXI century, beauty is not only a natural asset but became a duty. From the 20th century on, we see aesthetic procedures becoming popularized, that can be enjoyed by an increasing number of women. Liposuction, Botox, breast prosthesis implants, dental bleaching, modification of the capillary structure are becoming increasingly common and accessible.

If, on the one hand, this indicates greater autonomy in relation to the construction of the desired body, on the other hand, being beautiful becomes a duty. Beauty ceases to depend on the natural lottery and becomes a moral duty. Failure to fulfill this duty will be punished more harshly than if ugliness were simply given by nature. Whoever is ugly, is by her own decision, or by weakness of will, by akrasia, a term well known in ethics since Aristotle. For this reason, ugliness is so much more critical and unforgivable. Among the ugliness, one of the most obnoxious features is being fat. In a world that values productivity, speed, and movement, being fat appears as the great sin of contemporaneity. Fat still has an association with two traditional sins: laziness and gluttony.

At the end she argues whether beauty is always oppressive, or if we could reconceptualize the concept of beauty in order to create a new inclusive idea that incorporates a plurality of bodies.

Biography: Maria Borges is Full Professor of Philosophy at the University of Santa Catarina (Brazil) She was Visiting Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania (USA), Humboldt Universität (Germany) and Columbia University (USA). She is researcher of the CNPq/Brazil. She is the author of the books Body and Justice (Cambridge Scholars Publishing) and Emotion, Reason, and Action in Kant (Bloomsbury, 2019), and  the following books in Portuguese: História e Metafísica em Hegel/ History and Metaphysics in Hegel ( 1998), Amor/ Love (2004), Atualidade de Hegel/ Actuality of Hegel (2008), co-author of O que você precisa saber sobre Ética/ All you should know about Ethics (2003). She co-edited Kant: Liberdade e Natureza/ Kant: Freedom and Nature (2005), and Filosofia: Machismo e Feminismo/ Philosophy: Sexism and Feminism (EdUFSC, 2014). Her philosophical interests are Kantian ethics, theory of emotions and feminist philosophy.

This online talk will be held on Zoom. I hope many of you will be able to join us for an interesting talk and a friendly and engaged discussion!  Please register (no registration fees) here:

If you already have registered for the previous talk, you do not have to register again. The Zoom link will be the same.

The whole program can be found here.


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