Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Western alchemy: The Greek principle of domination by the beautiful person as work of art is implicit in Western culture

Western alchemy: The Greek principle of domination by the beautiful person as work of art is implicit in Western culture. Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, 1990.

The Greek principle of domination by the beautiful person as work of art is implicit in western culture, rising to view at charged historical moments. I see it in Dante and Beatrice and in Petrarch and Laura. There must be distance, of space or time. The eye elects a narcissistic personality as galvanizing object and formalizes the relation in art. The artist imposes a hieratic sexual character on the beloved, making himself the receptor (or more feminine receptacle) of the beloved’s mana. The structure is sadomasochistic. Western sexual personae are hostile with dramatic tension. Naturalistic ally, Beatrice’s expansion into a gigantic heavenly body is grandiose and even absurd, but she achieves her preeminence through the poet’s sexually hierarchizing western imagination. The aesthetic distance between personae is like a vacuum between poles, discharging electric tension by a bolt of lightning. Little is known of the real Beatrice and Laura. But I think they resembled the beautiful boy of homosexual tradition: they were dreamy, remote, autistic, lost in a world of androgynous self-completion. Beatrice, after all, was barely eight when Dante fell in love with her in her crimson dress. Laura’s impenetrability inspired the “fire and ice” metaphor of Petrarch’s sonnets, which revolutionized European poetry. “Fire and ice” is western alchemy. It is the chills and fever of Sappho’s and Plato’s uncanny love experience. Agonized ambivalence of body and mind was Sappho’s contribution to poetry, imitated by Catullus and transmitted to us through folk ballads and pop torch songs. Western love, Denis de Rougemont shows, is unhappy or death-ridden. In Dante and Petrarch, self-frustrating love is not neurotic but ritualistic and conceptualizing. The west makes art and thought out of the cold manipulation of our hard sexual personae.

Domination by the beautiful personality is central to Romanticism, specifically in its dark Coleridgean line passing through Poe and Baudelaire to Wilde. The Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti, imitating his namesake, invented his own Beatrice, the sickly Elizabeth Siddal, who obsessively appears throughout his work. That Siddal, like Beatrice and Laura, was a female version of the beautiful boy is suggested by the speed with which her face turned into the face of beautiful young men in the paintings of Rossetti’s disciple, Edward Burne-Jones. The beautiful boy’s narcissistic remoteness and latent autism became somnambulism in Rossetti’s pensive Muse. Antinous, Beatrice, Laura, and Elizabeth Siddal passed with ease into art because in their cool, untouchable impersonality they already had the abstract removal of an objet d’art. Transcendance of sexual identity is the key.

[...] The absence of moral obligation in this sexual religiosity explains the amorality of aestheticism. Oscar Wilde believed the beautiful person has absolute rights to commit any act. Beauty replaces morality as the divine order. As Cocteau said, following Wilde, “The privileges of beauty are enormous.”

The beautiful boy, the object of all eyes, looks downward or away or keeps his eyes in soft focus because he does not recognize the reality of other persons or things. By making the glamourous Alcibiades burst drunk into the Symposium, ending the intellectual debate, Plato is commenting in retrospect on the political damage done to Athens by its fascination with beauty. Spoiled, captivating Alcibiades was to betray his city and end in exile and disgrace. When the beautiful boy leaves the realm of contemplation for the realm of action, the result is chaos and crime. Wilde’s Alcibiades, Dorian Gray, makes a science of corruption. Refusing to accept the early death that preserved the beauty of Adonis and Antinous, Dorian compacts with a fellow art object, his portrait, projecting human mutability onto it. The ephebic Dorian is serene and heartless, the beautiful boy as destroyer. In Death in Venice , Mann’s homage to Wilde, the beautiful boy does not even have to act to destroy.  His blinding Apollonian light is a radiation disintegrating the moral world.

The beautiful boy is the representational paradigm of high classic Athens. He is pure Apollonian objectification, a public sex object. His lucid contour and hardness originate in Egypt’s monumental architectonics and in Homer’s gleaming Olympian sky-cult. The Apollonian beautiful boy dramatizes the special horror of dissolved form to Pheidian Athens, with its passionate vision of the sunlit human figure. Unity of image and unity of personality were the Athenian norm, satirized by Euripides in his chthonian dismemberments, symbol of fragmentation and multiplicity. The androgynous beautiful boy has an androgynous sponsor, the male-bom Uranian Aphrodite whom Plato identifies with homosexual love. While the Archaic kouros is vigorously masculine, the early and high classic beautiful boy perfectly harmonizes masculine and feminine. With the Hellenistic tilt toward women, prefigured by Euripides, the beautiful boy slides toward the feminine, a symptom of decadence.

Praxiteles registers this shift in his ephebic Hermes (ca. 350 b.c.), which misaligns the elegance of classic contrapposto. Hermes awkwardly leans away from the engaged leg rather than toward it, curving his hips in a peculiar swish. His arm, supporting infant Dionysus, rests heavily on a stump. Farnell says of the Praxitelean “languor,” “Even the gods are becoming fatigued.” 16 Kenneth Clark finds in high classic Greek art a perfect “physical balance of strength and grace.” 17 In the Hellenistic beautiful boy, grace drains strength. Rhys Carpenter sees Praxiteles’ Knidian Aphrodite as a sexual degeneration of Polycleitus’ canonical fifth-century Doryphoros , a “languid devitalization of the male victor-athlete into an equivalent feminine canon.” 18 Hauser says of the Hermes and Lysippus’ Apoxyomenos , “They give the impression of being dancers rather than athletes.” 19 Jane Harrison denounces Praxiteles’ Hermes on the grounds that as Kourotrophos (“boy-rearer”) he “usurps the function of the mother”: “The man doing woman’s work has all the inherent futility and something of the ugly dissonance of the man masquerading in woman’s clothes.” 20 Again, Harrison recognizes sexual duality but finds it repugnant. Clark points out that wherever contrapposto appears in world art, it shows Greek influence, even in India, to which it was carried by Alexander. Originally a male motif, it entered female iconography to become “a vivid symbol of desire.” 21 What seems overlooked is that contrapposto was erotic from the start, in the dignified exhibitionism of the early classic kouros. Hellenistic ephebes use a more extreme hip-shot pose, ripe with sexual solicitation.  It is the street stance of harlot and drag queen, ancient or modem. Male contrapposto with hand on hip, as in Donatello’s David, is provocative and epicene.

Portraits of Dionysus illustrate the sensual feminization of male personae in Greek art. The Archaic transvestite Dionysus fuses a bearded adult man with a sexually mature woman. In the fifth century, he loses his beard and becomes indistinguishable from the ephebic Apollo of the Parthenon frieze. The Hellenistic Dionysus is a voluptuously appealing beautiful boy. A third-century head at Thasos could be mistaken for a woman, a movie queen, with thick shoulder-length hair and expectant parted lips. Scholars have generally been repelled by these beautiful objects, with their overt homoeroticism. Even Marie Delcourt, in her excellent study, Hermaphrodite , attacks the “effeminacy” of the Hellenistic Dionysus, which “pandered” to Greek homosexual desire. 22 But it was the Hellenistic Dionysus and Apollo who were the androgynous models for the exquisite Antinous sculptures.

The long, decentralized Hellenistic era was like our own time, lively, anxious, and sensationalistic. Hellenistic art teems with sex and violence. High classic Greek art honors ideal youth, while Hellenistic art is full of babies, brutes, and drunks. Athenian eroticism is pornographic in kitchen and tavern pottery but sublime and restrained in major sculpture. Hellenistic sculpture, on the other hand, likes large-scale wrestling and rapine—massacre, pugilism, and priapism. Hellenistic sex is in such free flow that the gender of shattered statues can be doubtful. Misidentifications have been common.

Dover speaks of the change in homosexual taste in Athens from the fifth century, which glorified athletic physiques, to the fourth, when softer, passive minions came into vogue. It is in the fourth century that the hermaphrodite first appears in classical art. The plush creature with female breasts manages to expose its male genitals, either by a slipping cloak or a tunic boldly raised in ritual exhibitionism. The Sleeping Hermaphrodite influenced later art, like eighteenth-century reclining female nudes. From one side, the drowsy figure displays ambiguously smooth buttocks and the half-swell of a breast; from the other, female breast and male genitals pop out clear as day. I found the Villa Borghese copy prudently pushed against the wall to discourage inspection! The decorative popularity of hermaphrodites is paradoxical, for everywhere in antiquity the birth of a real hermaphrodite was greeted with horror.  This condition, hypospadias, may be examined ad stuporem in the hundreds of photographs of Hugh Hampton Young’s pioneering text, Genital Abnormalities, Hermaphroditism, and Related Adrenal Diseases (1937). Since a hermaphrodite birth was a bad omen presaging war, disaster, or pestilence, the infant was usually destroyed or left to die by exposure. As late as Paracelsus, hermaphroditic children were thought “monstrous signs of secret sins in the parents.” 23 The annalist Diodorus Siculus, in the Roman era, records a case where an Arabian girl’s tumor burst open to reveal male genitals. She then changed her name, donned men’s clothes, and joined the [cavalry]. 24

The source of the Hermaphrodite legend is unknown. It may be a vestige of the sexual duality of early fertility deities of Asia Minor. Later stories improvised upon the name to claim he/she was the child of Hermes and Aphrodite. Ovid started a mythographic muddle with his version in the Metamorphoses, possibly based on a lost Alexandrian romance. The amorous nymph Salmacis traps the beautiful boy Hermaphroditus in her forest pool, entwining him with her arms and legs, until the gods grant her prayer to unite them into one being, like Plato’s primeval androgynes. The tale may have begun as a folk legend about a cursed pool sapping the virility of men who bathed in it.

Greek androgyny evolved from chthonian to Apollonian and back: vitalistic energy to godlike charisma to loss of manhood. I do not agree with the disparagement of the later androgyne by Jane Harrison and Marie Delcourt. Effeminate men have suffered a bad press the world over. I accept decadence as a complex historical mode. In late phases, maleness is always in retreat. Women have ironically enjoyed a greater symbolic, if not practical freedom. Thus it is that male and not female homosexuality has usually been harshly punished by law. A debater in Lucian declares, “Far better that a woman, in the madness of her lust, should usurp the nature of man, than that man’s noble nature should be so degraded as to play the woman.” 25 Similarly today, lesbian interludes are a staple of heterosexual pornography. Ever since man emerged from the dominance of nature, masculinity has been the most fragile and problematic of psychic states.

Rome inherited Greek style in the Hellenicization of the Mediterranean world in the centuries before Christ. But the Roman mind was neither speculative nor idealist. A Greek temple is solid, rare marble. A Roman temple is usually brick faced with marble. Economy and practicality outweigh abstract aesthetics. The pedimental Parthenon sculptures are finely carved front and back, even though tiny crimps of drapery would be hidden from the ground. But the back of a Roman statue in a niche could be left relatively rough. Egyptian and Greek Apollonianism was a metaphysic of the eye, an aristocratic aestheticism making spiritual order of the visible and concrete. The Romans, except for Hellenophiles like Hadrian, were not aesthetes. Rome took the eroticism and dreamy obliqueness out of Greek iconic sculpture. The great Prima Porta statue of Augustus, for example, is kouros turned suave, sober diplomat. Law and custom became sacred ends in themselves. The Roman persona was a public construction: it had severity, weight, density. The Greeks were peripatetic, walking and talking.  Argument was mobile and improvisatory. But the Romans were declamatory, oratorical. They took stage and held it. The Roman persona was the stable prow of an ancient ship of state. Indeed, a “rostrum” is a ship’s prow, the trophy-hung speaker’s platform of the Forum.

Roman personality was equivalent to Greek epic, a repository of racial history. The group was paramount. The hero legends of early Rome, Marcus Curtius, Mucius Scaevola, Horatius Codes, Lucius Brutus, teach self sacrificed to state. The Roman legion, much larger than the Greek phalanx, was an extrapolation of Rome’s political will: fortitude, resolution, victory. Rome began in combat against its Italic neighbors and finally reduced the known world to servitude. Its growth was a martial clash of identities, celebrated in the lavish triumph, another procession miming the linearity of history. Roman art was documentary, while Greek art treated contemporary history as allegory.  Gisela Richter remarks: “We have not a single representation of the battles of Thermopylai or Salamis, of the Peloponnesian war, of the great plague, of the Sicilian expedition. . . . How different the Romans or the Egyptians and Assyrians with their endless friezes recording their triumphs over their enemies.” 26 Roman art used facts to magnify reality; Greek art transformed reality by avoiding facts. Roman architecture was equally pragmatic, excelling in brilliant engineering, colossal public works like baths, aqueducts, and a far-flung network of paved roads, so sturdy they are still in use. Greek Apollonianism was a sublime projection, mind made radiant matter. But Roman Apollonianism was a power play, a proclamation of national grandeur. The hard Roman persona ultimately descended from pharaonic self-conceptualization, the Old Kingdom’s foursquare enthronements. State and self were monuments carved by Apollonian borderline.

What of Apollo’s rival? Roman Bacchus is not Dionysus’ peer. He is merely a rowdy wine god, a tippler and mirthmaker. Dionysus was so strong in Greece because of the dominance of Apollonian conceptualism. The combat between Apollo and Dionysus, never resolved, produced the rich diversity of Greek culture. Dionysus was unnecessary in Rome because of the ancient chthonianism of Italian religion. Buying Greek prestige wholesale, the Romans identified their gods willy-nilly with the Olympians, an imperfect match-up in the case of rough Diana.  The manes , the deified dead, occupied a sepulchral chthonian realm.  Ancestor-worship is also ancestor-fear. Roman memoriousness was part celebration, part propitiation. At the Parentalia in February, the family dead were honored for a week. At the Lemuria in May, wandering ghosts were driven out of the family house. The dead pressed upon the dutiful consciousness of the living.

To this day, relatives in my mother’s village near Rome visit the cemetery every Sunday to lay flowers on the graves. It is a kind of picnic.  I remember childhood feelings of chill and awe at the candle kept burning by my grandmother before a photograph of her dead daughter Lenora, the small, round yellow flame flickering in the darkened room.  A sense of the mystic and uncanny has pervaded Italian culture for thousands of years, a pagan hieraticism flowering again in Catholicism, with its polychrome statues of martyred saints, its holy elbows and jawbones sealed in altarstones, and its mummified corpses on illuminated display. In a chapel in Naples, I recently counted 11 2 gold and glass caskets of musty saints’ bones stacked as a transparent wall from floor to ceiling. In another church, I found a painting of the public disembowelling of a patient saint, his intestines being methodically wound up on a large machine like a pasta roller. Nailed like schools of fish to church walls are hundreds of tiny silver ears, noses, hearts, breasts, legs, feet, and other body parts, votive offerings by parishioners seeking a cure. Old-style Italian Catholicism, now shunned by middle- class WASP-aspiring descendants of immigrants, was full of the chtho- nian poetry of paganism. The Italian imagination is darkly archaic. It hears the voices of the dead and identifies the passions and torments of the body with the slumbering spirits of mother earth. A ritual fragment survives from a southern Italian mystery-cult: “I have entered into the lap of the queen of the underworld.” I believe I understand this with every atavistic fiber of my being—its pagan conflation of longing, lust, fright, ecstasy, resignation, and repose. It is the daemonic sublime.

If there is an Apollonian-Dionysian dialectic in Rome, it is in the tension between individual and group. This is the theme of the first four books of Vergil’s AeneicL, symbolized by red and gold. Carnal red is emotion, sex, life in the body here and now. Imperial gold is the Roman future, harsh and glorious. Dutiful Aeneas must harden and limit himself. He carries ancestors and posterity on his back. Apollonian gold wins over Dionysian red, flaming up in Dido’s funeral pyre. In Homer as in Vergil, woman is an obstacle to the heroic quest. The epic journey must free itself from female chains and delays. The Trojan women bum the ships, and Dido makes Aeneas her consort.

Half of Aeneas’ destiny, says the opening of the poem, is to find the true wife Lavinia, his passage into Italian bloodlines. But Lavinia, no Penelope, shrinks as the poem goes on. Vergil oddly gives his imaginative sympathies to Amazon enemies of Rome. Carthage, founded by a Phoenician queen, is a transplant of Near East autocracy and goddess cult. Woman is in mythic ascendancy. Venus, appearing as Diana to her son Aeneas, says her huntress’s quiver and high red boots are the Carthaginian female style. Aeneas inspects murals of the Trojan War in the rising temple of savage Juno. When he comes to “Penthesilea furens,” Dido enters the poem. She is the Amazon of the first half of the Aeneid, just as Camilla is the Amazon of the second. Aeneas falls under her sway, and the male will is stymied. He builds her city instead of his own.

Venus armed is Aeneas’ lesson. Carthage is both the pleasure principle and the Orient from which he uproots himself. East yields to west, Asia to Europe. The Italian tribes think Aeneas effeminate. Tumus calls him a “half-man”: “Let me foul in the dust that hair crimped with curling-tongs and oiled with myrrh!” Dido’s suitor Iarbas calls him “this second Paris, wearing a Phrygian bonnet to tie up his chin and cover his oily hair, and attended by a train of she-men.” 27 Aeneas must purify his masculinity, creating the simplicity and gravity of Roman personality.  The Volscian warrior Camilla, apparently Vergil’s invention, is a new burst of female furor that must be quelled for Rome to be bom. The Aeneid is remarkably attracted to the glamourous androgynes, Dido and Camilla, who steal the thunder of pallid Lavinia. The poem follows its hero through a war of sexual personae. Female deviance, losing to decorous femininity, takes the poetry with it. The twin viragos win in defeat.

Vergil writes at the borderline between republic and empire. In under a century, Rome accelerated in size and ambition. The new cosmopolitan sexual personae broke with tradition. There was a shift from Apollonian unity and narrowness to Dionysian pluralism, uncontrolled and eventually decadent. Granting universal citizenship, Rome brought civilization to the world but diluted itself. Eight hundred years intervene between Homer and Vergil. When Vergil picks up the epic genre, it no longer obeys poetic command. Epic plot, the male trajectory of history, is the weakest thing in the Aeneid. Homer’s great rhetorical rhythms are missing. The Iliad and Odyssey were all-day performance art, recited to live audiences by a professional bard of athletic stamina. The Aeneid is closet drama. Vergil was melancholic, reclusive, possibly homosexual.  His nickname Parthenias, “the maidenly man,” is a pun on Vergil/t tirgo and Parthenope, a poetic name for Naples, near which his villa was located.

Vergil, unlike Homer, knew urban coteries of aristocratic refinement, a court milieu of febrile worldliness. This experience affects the Aeneid in unsuspected ways. Its sexual personae have undergone the same transformation as its epic gifts. Homer’s heroes exchange iron cauldrons and tripods, functional ware of high Bronze Age value. Vergil’s gifts are objets d’art, gold and silver and studded with jewels. Alexandrian museum consciousness has come into being. Vergil’s detachment and connoisseurship, so damaging to epic’s male pyrotechnics, intensify the erotic aura around persons and things. There is an intricate psychological meshing between poet and poem not present in Homer. Vergil is “involved” with Dido. Her obsession, suffering, and passion of love-hate are the grandest things in literature since Euripides’ Medea. Vergil’s identification with her is as palpable as Flaubert’s with Madame Bovaiy or Tolstoy’s with Anna Karenina. The suicide of a male-willed heroine, in all three cases, may be a rite of exorcism, objectifying and terminating a male artist’s spiritual transsexualism. Falling on Aeneas’ sword, Dido cries, “Sic, sic iuvat ire sub umbras” (“Thus, thus is it pleasing to go beneath the shades”). The liquid Latin is thrillingly, hypnotically autoerotic, like honey and dark wine. The shadowy tongue tapping in our mouth is as private and phallic as the fetishistic sword.

Little else in the Aeneid approaches the brilliance of the Carthaginian books. The poet probably knew it, as he ordered the unfinished poem burnt after his death—like self-immolating Dido. Vergil is a decadent poet, a virtuoso of destruction. His fall of Troy is a cinematic apocalypse, flames filling the night sky as violation and profanation swirl below. His characteristic imagery is sinuous, writhing, glistering, phosphorescent. The only translation that captures the Aeneid's uncanny daemonism is by W. F. Jackson Knight, in prose. In this poem, Roman ritualism falls to forces of the irrational, so long kept in check. Vergil, an admirer of Augustus, shows the costs of political destiny—most recently, the suicide of another Oriental queen, Cleopatra, Dido’s model.  Epic plot in the Aeneid is failed self-containment, a made scheme to bridle transsexual reverie. Vergil’s relation to his own poem is perverse.  At a historical crisis in sexual personae, he turns to epic to stop it and stop himself. Spenser reproduces this conservative but deeply conflicted strategy in The Faerie Queene. Sexual personae are vampires on plot in the Aeneid) a phenomenon I find in Coleridge’s Christabel and call psychoiconicism.

The Roman republic made the persona, Greek theater’s wooden mask, a legal entity, sharp-contoured in the Apollonian way.  The Roman decadence, ingenious in pleasures and cruelties, was a reaction against and satiric commentary on the austerity of republican personae, a profanation of ancestor cult. Republic to empire was like high classic to Hellenistic, unity to multiplicity. Roman religion’s chthonian reverence turned into Dionysian orgy, now removed from fertile nature. Maenadism was un-Roman. There was no Asiatic wildness in Roman cult, with its priestly hierarchy, as in Egypt but not Greece.  There was program, formula, decorum, even in the honoring of omen- filled nature. The Roman priest was an interpreter who kept his wits about him. He did not go into trance like the Delphic oracle.

True Greek orgy meant mystic loss of self. But in imperial Roman orgy, persona continued. The Roman decadent kept the observing Apollonian eye awake during Dionysian revel. More Alexandrian connoisseurship, here applied to the fashionable self. Eye plus orgy equals decadence. Salaciousness, lewdness, lasciviousness: such interesting hyperstates are produced by a superimposition of mind on erotic action.  The west has pioneered in this charred crimson territory. Without strong personality of the western kind, serious decadence is impossible.  Sin is a form of cinema, seen from a distance. The Romans, pragmatically adapting Greek ideas, made engineering out of eroticism too. The heir of Greek theater was not Roman theater but Roman sex. The Roman decadence has never been matched in scale because other places and times have lacked the great mass of classical forms to corrupt. Rome made daemonic music of gluttony and lust from the Dionysian body. The Maenadism absent from Roman cult became imperial ecstasy, mechanized greed.

Roman literature’s sexual personae are in hectic perpetual motion.  Greek aristocratic athleticism split in two in Rome: vulgar gladiatorship by ruffians and slaves, and leisure-class sexual adventurism, a sporting life then as now. As the republic ends, Catullus records the jazzy promiscuity of Rome’s chic set. Patrician women loitering on dark streets, giving themselves to common passers-by. Half-clad men molested by their mothers and sisters. Effeminates soft as a rabbit and “languid as a limp penis.” A sodomite waking with battered buttocks and “red lips like snow,” mouth rimmed with last night’s pasty spoils. The strolling poet, finding a boy and girl copulating, falls upon the boy from behind, piercing and driving him to his task. Public sex, it is fair to say, is decadent. Oh, those happy pagan days, romping in green meadows: one still encounters this sentimental notion, half-baked Keats. It is quite wrong. Catullus, like Baudelaire, savors imagery of squalor and filth.  His moral assumptions remain those of republican Rome, which he jovially pollutes with degeneration and disease. His poetry is a torch-lit descent into a gloomy underworld, where we survey the contamination and collapse of Roman personae. Men and women are suddenly free, but freedom is a flood of superfluous energy, a vicious circle of agitation, quest, satiation, exhaustion, ennui. Moral codes are always obstructive, relative, and man-made. Yet they have been of enormous profit to civilization. They are civilization. Without them, we are invaded by the chaotic barbarism of sex, nature’s tyranny, turning day into night and love into obsession and lust.

Catullus, an admirer of Sappho, turns her emotional ambivalence into sadomasochism. Her chills and fever become his “odi et amo,” “I hate and I love.” Her beloved maidens, fresh as orange flowers, become his cynical Lesbia, adulteress and dominatrix, vampiristically “draining the strength of all.” The urban femme fatale dons the primitive mask of mother nature. Lesbia, the wellborn Clodia, introduces to Rome a depraved sexual persona that had been current, according to aggrieved comment of the Old Testament, for a thousand years in Babylon. Female receptivity becomes a sinkhole of vice, the vagina a collector of pestilence to poison Roman nobility and bring it to an end.

Catullus is a cartographer of sexual personae. His lament for the dying god Attis (Carmen 63) is an extraordinary improvisation on gender. Castrating himself for Cybele, Attis enters a sexual twilight zone.  Grammatically, the poem refers to him as feminine. “I a woman, I a man, I a youth, I a boy”: in this litany of haunting memory, Attis floats through a shamanistically expanded present tense of gender, all things and nothing. Like imperial Rome, he has been pitched into an ecstatic free fall of personae. Suspension of sexual conventions brings melancholy, not joy. He is artistically detached from ordinary life but feels “sterile.” Attis is the poet himself, mutating through gender in a strange, new, manic world.

Ovid, bom forty years later, is the first psychoanalyst of sex. His
masterpiece is aptly called Metamorphoses: as Rome changes, Ovid
plunders Greek and Roman legend for magic transformations—man
and god to animal and plant, male to female and back. Identity is liquid.
Nature is under Dionysian spell; Apollo’s contours do not hold. The
world becomes a projected psyche, played upon by amoral vagaries of
sexual desire. Ovid’s encyclopedic attentiveness to erotic perversity will
not recur until Spenser’s Faerie Queene , directly influenced by him. His
successors are Sade, Balzac, Proust, Krafft-Ebing, and Freud.

The Metamorphoses is a handbook of sexual problematics. There is
Iphis, a girl raised as a boy who falls in love with another girl and is
relieved of her suffering by being changed into a man. Or Caeneus,
once the girl Caenis, who rejects marriage and is raped by Neptune. As
compensation, she is changed into a man invulnerable to wounds,
martial and sexual. According to the Homeric scholiast, Caeneus set up
his spear as a phallic totem in the marketplace, prayed and sacrificed to
it, and commanded people hail it as a god, angering Zeus. In Vergil’s
underworld, Aeneas sees Caeneus as a woman, the morphological
ghost of her femaleness reasserting itself. Ovid’s complications of viola¬
tion and fetishism are theory, not titillation. The theme is our “double
nature,” his term for the centaurs who smother impenetrable Caeneus
after a horrifying orgy of Maenadic pulverizations. Like Freud, Ovid
constructs hypothetical models of narcissism and the will-to-power. His
point of view comes from his position between eras. Sexual personae, in
flux, allow him to bring cool Apollonian study to bear upon roiling
Dionysian process.

In his lesser works, Ovid lightens Catullus’ bitter sex war into parlor
politics. In The Art of Love, he says the seducer must be shrewd and
changeable as Proteus. This is the Roman Dionysus, metamorphic
Greek nature reduced to erotic opportunism. Sex-change is a foxy
game: the wise adulteress, counsels Ovid, transsexualizes her letters,
turning “he” to “she.” The empire diverted Roman conceptual energy
into sex. So specialized is Martial’s sexual vocabulary that it influenced
modem medical terminology. Latin, an exact but narrow language,
became startlingly precise about sexual activity. The Latinist Fred
Nichols tells me that a verb in Martial, used in poetry for the first time
by Catullus, describes the fluttering movement of the buttocks of the
passive partner in sodomy. There were, in fact, two forms of this verb:
one for males and another for females.

Classical Athens, exalting masculine athleticism, had no conspic¬
uous sexual sadomasochists and street transvestites. The Roman em¬
pire, on the other hand, if we believe the satirists, was overrun by
epicene creatures. Ovid warns women to beware of elegant men with
coiffures “sleek with liquid nard”—they may be out to steal your dress!
“What can a woman do when her lover is smoother than she, and may
have more boyfriends ?” 28 Ausonius tells a sodomist with depilated anus
and buttocks, “You are a woman behind, a man in front.” Girlish boys
and long-haired male prostitutes appear in Horace, Petronius, and
Martial. Gaius Julius Phaedrus blames homosexuals of both sexes on
drunken Prometheus, who attached the wrong genitalia to human
figures he was molding. Lesbianism, infrequent in Greek literature,
makes a splash in Rome. Martial and Horace record real-life tribads,
Baiba, Philaenis, and Folia of Arminum, with her “masculine libidi¬
nousness.” There are lesbian innuendos about the all-woman rites of
the Bona Dea, crashed by Publius Clodius in drag. Lucian’s debater
condemns lesbian acts as “androgynous passions” and calls dildos “in¬
famous instruments of lust, an unholy imitation of a fruitless union .” 29
Rome’s sexual disorientation was great theater, but it led to the collapse
of paganism.

Pursuit of pleasure belongs on the party circuit, not in the centers of
power. Today too, one might like playfulness and spontaneity in a
friend, lover, or star, but one wants a different character in people with
professional or political authority. The more regular, unimaginative,
and boring the daily lives of presidents, surgeons, and airline pilots, the
better for us, thank you very much. Hierarchic ministry should be
ascetic and focused. It does not profit from identity crises, the province
of art. Rome had a genius for organization. Its administrative structure
was absorbed by the Catholic Church, which turned an esoteric Pales¬
tinian sect into a world religion. Roman imperial bureaucracy, an ex*
tension of republican legalism, was a superb machine, rolling over
other nations with brutal force. Two thousand years later, we are still
feeling the consequences of its destruction of Judaea and dispersion of
the fractious Jews, who refused to become Roman. We know from
Hollywood movies what that machine sounded like, its thunderous,
relentless marching drums pushing Roman destiny across the world
and through history. But when the masters of the machine turned to
idleness and frivolity, Roman moral force vanished.

The Roman annalists give us the riveting gossip. Sodomy was re¬
ported of the emperors Tiberius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Commodus, Tra¬
jan, and Elagabalus. Even Julius Caesar was rumored to be bisexual.

The Greek beautiful boy hovered between a female past and male future; dreamy and removed, oscillating between vigor and languor; synthesis of male and female beauties

The Greek beautiful boy hovered between a female past and male future; dreamy and removed, oscillating between vigor and languor; synthesis of male and female beauties. Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, 1990.

The Athenian cult of beauty had a supreme theme: the beautiful boy. [...]

Though the homosexuality of Greek high culture has been perfectly obvious since Winckelmann, the facts have been suppressed or magnified, depending on period and point of view. Late nineteenth-century aestheticism, for example, was full of heady effusions about "Greek love." Yet Harvard’s green and red Loeb Library translations of classical literature, published early this century, are heavily censored. The pendulum has now swung toward realism. In Greek Homosexuality (1978), K. J. Dover wittily reconstructs from the evidence of vase painting the actual mechanics of sexual practice. But I depart from sociological rationales for Greek love. For me, aesthetics are primary. The Athenian turn away from women toward boys was a brilliant act of conceptualization. Unjust and ultimately self-thwarting, it was nevertheless a crucial movement in the formation of western culture and identity.

The Greek beautiful boy, as I remarked earlier, is one of the west’s great sexual personae. Like Artemis, he has no exact equivalent in other cultures. His cult returns whenever Apollonianism rebounds, as in Italian Renaissance art. The beautiful boy is an androgyne, luminously masculine and feminine. He has male muscle structure but a dewy girlishness. In Greece he inhabited the world of hard masculine action. His body was on view, striving nude in the palestra. Greek athletics, like Greek law, were theater, a public agon. They imposed mathematics on nature: how fast? how far? how strong? The beautiful boy was the focus of Apollonian space. All eyes were on him. His broad-shouldered, narrow-waisted body was a masterwork of Apollonian articulation, every muscle group edged and contoured. There was even a ropy new muscle, looping the hips and genitals. Classic Athens found the fatty female body unbeautiful, because it was not a visible instrument of action. The beautiful boy is Adonis, the Great Mother’s son-lover, now removed from nature and cleansed of the chthonian. Like Athena, he is reborn through males and clad in the Apollonian armour of his own hard body.

Major Greek art begins in the late seventh century B.C. with the Archaic kouros (“youth”), a more than life-size nude statue of a victorious athlete (fig. 12). He is monumental human assertion, imagined in Apollonian stillness. He stands like Pharaoh, fists clenched and one foot forward. But Greek artists wanted their work to breathe and move. What was unchanged for thousands of years in Egypt leaps to life in a single century. The muscles curve and swell; the heavy wiglike hair curls and tufts. The smiling kouros is the first fully free-standing sculpture in art. Strict Egyptian symmetry was preserved until the early classic Kritios Boy , who looks one way while shifting his weight to the opposite leg (fig. 13). In the broken record of Greek artifacts, the Kritios Boy is the last kouros. He is not a type but a real boy, serious and regal. His smooth, shapely body has a white sensuality. The Archaic kouros was always callipygian, the large buttocks more stressed and valued than the face. But the buttocks of the Kritios Boy have a feminine refinement, as erotic as breasts in Venetian painting. The contrapposto flexes one buttock and relaxes the other. The artist imagines them as apple and pear, glowing and compact.

For three hundred years, Greek art is filled with beautiful boys, in stone and bronze. We know the name of none of them. The old- fashioned generic term, “Apollo,” had a certain wisdom, for the solitary, self-supporting kouros was an Apollonian idea, a liberation of the eye. His nudity was polemical. The Archaic kore (“maiden”) was always clothed and utilitarian, one hand proffering a votive plate. The kouros stands heroically bare in Apollonian externality and visibility. Unlike two-dimensional pharaonic sculptures, he invites the strolling spectator to admire him in the round. He is not king or god but human youth. Divinity and stardom fall upon the beautiful boy. Epiphany is secularized and personality ritualized. The kouros records the first cult of personality in western history. It is an icon of the worship of beauty, a hierarchism self-generated rather than dynastic.

The kouros bore strange fruit. From its bold clarity and unity of design came all major Greek sculpture, by the fourth century female as well as male. Hellenic art spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean as Hellenistic art. From that grew medieval Byzantine art in Greece, Turkey, and Italy, with its dour mosaic icons of Christ, Virgin, and saint (fig. 14). The Italian Renaissance begins in the Byzantine style. Thus there is a direct artistic line from Archaic Greek kouroi to the standing saints of Italian altarpieces and the stained-glass windows of Gothic cathedrals. Homoerotic iconicism goes full circle in the popular Italian theme, St. Sebastian, a beautiful seminude youth pierced by phallic arrows (fig. 15). Those arrows are glances of the aggressive western eye, solar shafts of Apollo the archer. The Greek kouros, inheriting Egypt’s cold Apollonian eye, created the great western fusion of sex, power, and personality.

In Greece the beautiful boy was always beardless, frozen in time. At manhood, he became a lover of boys himself. The Greek boy, like the Christian saint, was a martyr, victim of nature’s tyranny. His beauty could not last and so was caught full-flower by Apollonian sculpture. There are hundreds of pots, shards, and graffiti hailing so-and-so kalos, “the beautiful,” flirtatious public praise of males by males. Dover demonstrates the criteria governing depiction of male genitalia, opposite to ours: a small thin penis was fashionable, a large penis vulgar and animalistic. Even brawny Hercules was shown with boy’s genitals.

Therefore, despite its political patriarchy, Athens cannot be considered—horrid word—a phallocracy. On the contrary, the Greek penis was edited down from an exclamation point to a dash. The beautiful boy was desired but not desiring. He occupied a presexual or suprasexual dimension, the Greek aesthetic ideal. In convention, his adult admirer could seek orgasm, while he remained unaroused.

The beautiful boy was an adolescent, hovering between a female past and male future. J. H. Van den Berg claims the eighteenth century invented adolescence. 10 It is true children once passed more directly into adult responsibilities than they do now. In Catholicism, for example, seven is the dawn of moral consciousness. After one’s First Communion, it’s hell or high water. Brooding identity crises were indeed the Romantic creations of Rousseau and Goethe. But Van den Berg is wrong to make adolescence entirely modem. The Greeks saw it and formalized it in art. Greek pederasty honored the erotic magnetism of male adolescents in a way that today brings the police to the door. Children are more conscious and perverse than parents like to think. I agree with Bruce Benderson that children can and do choose. The adolescent male, one step over puberty, is dreamy and removed, oscillating between vigor and languor. He is a girl-boy, masculinity shimmering and blurred, as if seen through a cloudy fragment of ancient glass. J. Z. Eglinton cites images of youthful “bloom” in Greek poetry: “The adolescent in bloom is a synthesis of male and female beauties.” 11 The slightly older ephebos gained in gravity but retained a half-feminine glamour. We see it in the pedimental Apollo, the Delphic Charioteer, the bronze Apollo at Chatsworth, the white-lekythos Eretrian warrior seated before a gravestone. These youths have a distinctly ancient Greek face: high brow, strong straight nose, girlishly fleshy cheeks, full petulant mouth, and short upper lip. It is the face of Elvis Presley, Lord Byron, and Bronzino’s glossy Mannerist blue boy. Freud saw the androgyny in the Greek adolescent: “Among the Greeks, where the most manly men were found among inverts, it is quite obvious that it was not the masculine character of the boy which kindled the love of man; it was his physical resemblance to woman as well as his feminine psychic qualities, such as shyness, demureness, and the need of instruction and help.” 12 Certain boys, especially blondes, seem to carry adolescent beauty into adulthood. They form an enduring class of homosexual taste that I call the Billy Budd topos, fresh, active, and ephebic.

The beautiful boy is the Greek angel, a celestial visitor from the Apollonian realm. His purity is inadvertently revealed in Joseph Campbell’s negative critique of fifth-century Athens: “Everything that we read of it has a wonderful adolescent atmosphere of opalescent, timeless skies—untouched by the vulgar seriousness of a heterosexual commitment to mere life. The art, too, of the lovely standing nude, for all its grace and charm, is finally neuter—like the voice of a singing boy.” Campbell quotes Heinrich Zimmer’s praise of the “heterosexual flavor” and yogic awareness of Hindu sculpture: “Greek art was derived from experiences of the eye; Hindu from those of the circulation of the blood.” 13 Campbell’s “neuter” is a blank, a moral nothing. But the beautiful boy’s androgyny is visionary and exalted. Let us take Campbell’s own example, “the voice of a singing boy.” In a Seraphim recording of Faure’s Requiem that substitutes the King’s College choir for the usual women, the treble parts are taken by boys from eight to thirteen. Alec Robertson’s review seeks a tonality of emotion for which our only language is religious: boys’ voices “add an unforgettable radiance and serenity to their part, impossible to sopranos, however good”; the soloist’s singing has “an ethereal beauty that no words can describe.” 14 The rosy English or Austrian choirboy, disciplined, reserved, and heart- stoppingly beautiful, is a symbol of spiritual and sexual illumination, fused in the idealizing Greek manner. We see the same thing in Botticelli’s exquisite long-haired boy-angels. These days, especially in America, boy-love is not only scandalous and criminal but somehow in bad taste. On the evening news, one sees handcuffed teachers, priests, or Boy Scout leaders hustled into police vans. Therapists call them maladjusted, emotionally immature. But beauty has its own laws, inconsistent with Christian morality. As a woman, I feel free to protest that men today are pilloried for something that was rational and honorable in Greece at the height of civilization.

The Greek beautiful boy was a living idol of the Apollonian eye. As a sexual persona, the kouros represents that tense relation betweeen eye and object that I saw in Nefertiti and that was absent in the Venus of Willendorf, with her easy, forgiving, spongy female amplitude. Zimmer correctly opposes heterosexual Hindu “circulation of the blood” to Greek aesthetics of the eye. The beautiful boy is a rebuke to mother nature, an escape from the labyrinth of the body, with its murky womb and bowels. Woman is the Dionysian miasma, the world of fluids, the chthonian swamp of generation. Athens, says Campbell, was “untouched by the vulgar seriousness of a heterosexual commitment to mere life.” Yes, mere life is indeed rejected by the idealizing Apollonian mode. It is the divine human privilege to make ideas greater than nature. We are bom into the indignities of the body, with its relentless inner movements pushing us moment by moment toward death. Greek Apollonianism, freezing the human form into absolute male externality, is a triumph of mind over matter. Apollo, slaying the Python at Delphi, the navel of the world, halts the flood of time, for the coiled serpent we carry in our abdomen is the eternal wave-motion of female fluidity. Every beautiful boy is an Icarus seeking the Apollonian sun. He escapes the labyrinth only to fall into nature’s sea of dissolution.

Cults of beauty have been persistently homosexual from antiquity to today’s hair salons and houses of couture. Professional beautification of women by homosexual men is a systematic reconceptualizing of the brute facts of female nature. As at the nineteenth-century fin de siecle, the aesthete is always male, never female. There is no lesbian parallel to Greek worship of the adolescent. The great Sappho may have fallen in love with girls, but to all evidence she internalized rather than externalized her passions. Her most famous poem invents the hostile distance between sexual personae that will have so long a history in western love poetry. Gazing across a room at her beloved sitting with a man, she suffers a physical convulsion of jealousy, humiliation, and helpless resignation. This separation is not the aesthetic distance of Apollonian Athens but a desert of emotional deprivation. It is a gap that can be closed—as Aphrodite laughingly promises Sappho in another poem. Lascivious delectation of the eye is conspicuously missing in female eroticism. Visionary idealism is a male art form. The lesbian aesthete does not exist. But if there were one, she would have learned from the perverse male mind. The eye-intense pursuit of beauty is an Apollonian correction of life in our mother-born bodies.

The beautiful boy, suspended in time, is physicality without physiology. He does not eat, drink, or reproduce. Dionysus is deeply immersed in time—rhythm, music, dance, drunkenness, gluttony, orgy. The beautiful boy as angel floats above the turmoil of nature. Angels, in Judaism too, defy chthonian femaleness. This is why the angel, though sexless, is always a youthful male. Eastern religion does not have our angels of incorporeal purity, for two reasons. A “messenger” (angelos) or mediator between the divine and human is unnecessary, since the two realms are coexistent. Second, eastern femaleness is symbolically equivalent to and harmonious with maleness—though this has never improved real women’s social status.

The pink-cheeked beautiful boy is emotional vernality, spring only. He is a partial statement about reality. He is exclusive, a product of aristocratic taste. He flees the superfluity of matter, the womb of female nature devouring and spewing out creatures. Dionysus, we noted, is “the Many,” all-inclusive and ever-changing. Life’s totality is summer and winter, floridity and devastation. The Great Mother is both seasons in her benevolent and malevolent halves. If the beautiful boy is pink and white, she is the red and purple of her labial maw. The beautiful boy represents a hopeless attempt to separate imagination from death and decay. He is form seceding from form-making, natura naturata dreaming itself free of natura naturans. As an epiphany, eye-created, he binds up the many into a transient vision of the one, like art itself.

Besides the Kritios Boy , the preeminent examples of this persona are the bronze Benevento Boy of the Louvre (fig. 16), the Antinous sculptures commissioned by the emperor Hadrian (fig. 17), Donatello’s David, and Thomas Mann’s Tadzio in Death in Venice. The Apollonian is a mode of silence, suppressing rhythm to focus the eye. The beautiful boy, sexually self-complete, is sealed in silence, behind a wall of aristocratic disdain. The adolescent dreaminess of the Antinous sculptures is not true inwardness but a melancholy premonition of death. Antinous drowned, like Icarus. The beautiful boy dreams but neither thinks nor feels. His eyes fix on nothing. His face is a pale oval upon which nothing is written. A real person could not remain at this stage without decadence and mummification. The beautiful boy is cruel in his indifference, remoteness, and serene self-containment. We rarely see these things in a girl, but when we do, as in the magnificent portrait photographs of the young Virginia Woolf, we sense catatonia and autism. Narcissistic beauty in a postadolescent (like Hitchcock’s Mamie) may mean malice and ruthlessness, a psychopathic amorality. There is danger in beauty.

The beautiful boy has flowing or richly textured hyacinthine hair, the only luxuriance in this chastity. Long male hair, sometimes wrapped round the head, was an aristocratic fashion in Athens. Antinous’ thick hair is crisply layered, as in Van Dyck’s silky princes or Seventies rock stars. In its artful negligence and allure, the hair traps the beholder’s eye. It is a nimbus, a pre-Christian halo, scintillating with fiery flakes of stars. The beautiful boy, glittering with charisma, is matter transformed, penetrated by Apollonian light. Greek visionary materialism makes hard crystal of our gross fleshiness. The beautiful boy is without motive force or deed; hence he is not a hero. Because of his emotional detachment, he is not a heroine. He occupies an ideal space between male and female, effect and affect. Like the Olympians, he is an objet d'art , which also affects without acting or being acted upon. The beautiful boy is the product of chance or destiny, a sport thrown up by the universe. He is, I suggested, a secular saint. Light makes beautiful boys incandescent. Divinity swoops down to ennoble them, like the eagle falling upon Ganymede, who is kidnapped to Olympus, unlike the pack of female lovers like Leda whom Zeus casually abandons as types of the generative mother.

In the Phaedrus, Plato sets forth Greek homosexuality’s ritualization of the eye. Socrates says the man who gazes upon “a god-like countenance or physical form,” a copy of “true beauty,” is overcome by a shudder of awe, “an unusual fever and perspiration”: “Beholding it, he reverences it as he would a god; and if he were not afraid of being accounted stark mad, he would offer sacrifice to the beloved as to a holy image of divinity.” 15 Beauty is the first step of a ladder leading to God. Writing in the fourth century about memories of the fifth, Plato is already postclassical. He is suspicious of art, which he banishes from his ideal republic. Visionary materialism has failed. In the Phaedrus, however, we still see the aesthetic distance vibrating between Greek personae. Plato has Sappho’s fever, but it is cooled by the dominating and dominated western eye. In Greece, beauty was sacred and ugliness or deformity hateful. When Odysseus bludgeons Thersites, a lame, hunchback commoner, Homer’s heroes laugh. Christ’s ministry to the lepers was unthinkable in Greek terms. In the Greek cult of beauty, there was mystical elevation and hierarchical submission, but significantly without moral obligation.

Mental Time Travel: Thoughts about the present (on average highly happy & pleasant but low in meaningfulness) were frequent, thoughts about the future also were common, thoughts about the past were rare

Everyday Thoughts in Time: Experience Sampling Studies of Mental Time Travel. Roy F. Baumeister et al. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, March 25, 2020.

Abstract: Time is among the most important yet mysterious aspects of experience. We investigated everyday mental time travel, especially into the future. Two community samples, contacted at random points for 3 (Study 1; 6,686 reports) and 14 days (Study 2; 2,361 reports), reported on their most recent thought. Both studies found that thoughts about the present were frequent, thoughts about the future also were common, whereas thoughts about the past were rare. Thoughts about the present were on average highly happy and pleasant but low in meaningfulness. Pragmatic prospection (thoughts preparing for action) was evident in thoughts about planning and goals. Thoughts with no time aspect were lower in sociality and experiential richness. Thoughts about the past were relatively unpleasant and involuntary. Subjective experiences of thinking about past and future often were similar—while both differed from present focus, consistent with views that memory and prospection use similar mental structures.

Keywords: time, prospection, social cognition, future

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Branch, Jared. 2020. “Involuntary Mental Time Travel into the Episodic Future, Episodic Past, and Episodic Counterfactual Past in Everyday Life.” PsyArXiv. January 27.

“Fake news” sharing is fueled by the same psychological motivations that drive other forms of partisan behavior, including sharing partisan news from traditional and credible news sources

Osmundsen, Mathias, Alexander Bor, Peter B. Vahlstrup, Anja Bechmann, and Michael Bang Petersen. 2020. “Partisan Polarization Is the Primary Psychological Motivation Behind “fake News” Sharing on Twitter” PsyArXiv. March 25. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: The rise of “fake news” is a major concern in contemporary Western democracies. Yet, research on the psychological motivations behind the spread of “fake news” on social media is surprisingly limited. Are citizens who share fake news ignorant and lazy? Are they fueled by sinister motives, seeking to disrupt the social status quo? Or do they seek to attack partisan opponents in an increasingly polarized political environment? This manuscript is the first to test these competing hypotheses based on a careful mapping of psychological profiles linked to behavioral data and a sentiment analysis of shared news headlines from over 2,300 American Twitter users. The findings contradict the ignorance perspective, but provide some support for the disruption perspective and strong support for the partisan polarization perspective. Thus, individuals who report hating their political opponents are the most likely to share “fake news.” Overall, our findings demonstrate that “fake news” sharing is fueled by the same psychological motivations that drive other forms of partisan behavior, including sharing partisan news from traditional and credible news sources.

Moral preference for agents acting with well-understood motives performing an additional immoral act compared to agents performing an action in an unusual way (e.g., striking a man with a frozen fish)

Walker, Alexander C., Martin H. Turpin, Jonathan A. Fugelsang, Igor Grossmann, and Michal Bialek. 2020. “Better the Two Devils You Know, Than the One You Don’t: Predictability Influences Moral Judgment.” PsyArXiv. March 24. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Across four studies (N = 1,806), we demonstrate the role that perceptions of predictability play in judgments of moral character, finding that participants judged agents they perceived as less predictable to also be less moral. In Studies 1-3, participants judged hypothetical agents performing an immoral action (e.g., assault) for an unintelligible reason as less predictable and less moral than agents performing the same immoral action for a well-understood yet immoral reason. Notably, we observed a moral preference for agents acting with well-understood motives despite these agents performing an additional immoral act (e.g., theft) compared to their unpredictable counterparts. In Study 4 we find that agents performing an action in an unusual way (e.g., striking a man with a frozen fish) are judged as less predictable and less moral compared to agents performing the same action in a common manner (e.g., striking a man with their fist). These results challenge dominant monist theories of moral psychology, which reduce morality to a single dimension (e.g., harm) as well as pluralist accounts which fail to consider the role predictability plays in moral judgments. We propose that predictability contributes to judgments of moral character for its ultimate role in facilitating cooperation and discuss how the present findings may be accommodated by theories of morality-as-cooperation.