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69 Posts

Posted - 30 Jan 2014 :  11:30:34  

I have always believed that the laws of beauty were "Symmetry, Proportion and Harmony". That which the ancient Greeks discovered.

I ran across this in Aristotle's Metaphysics, XIII, iii, sec. 11. (Loeb).
"The main species of beauty are orderly arrangement, proportion and definiteness". The Greek reads, "taxis, kai summetria, kai to orismenon". The translator translates "summetria" as "proportion" as you see above. But the Greek word is obviously "symmetry".

I'm confused because in Younges, English-Greek Lexicon, Proportion in Greek is "logos", "analogos", "metron", "summetria" and "evrethmia"! And the entry for "symmetry" is "evmorphia", "rythmos".

Isn't the English "symmetry" a direct transliteration of the ancient Greek word "symmetria"?

Does the Greek word "symmetria" mean both proportion and symmetry? How does the context point to what meaning it is supposed to have?

Proportion for me is 1:2, 3:4, 4:6 etc and the divine proportion of 1:6. Symmetry is the body form of one arm opposite of another arm.

I thought Greek was a very precise language or is it the case that in the early history of the creation of knowledge, Greek words were indiscriminate and yet to be solidified into a single meaning? Is Younge's Lexicon correct?



615 Posts

Posted - 28 Mar 2014 :  00:56:11  


Dear Wheeler, first of all please let me apologize for a technical problem that hindered posting in the forum for months!

As regards, your question, let me thank you for being so clear and precise.

The crucial aspect of the translation problem here comes from the fact that symmetry, although used in English, is as you say a simple transliteration from Greek, i.e., the word does not have linguistic roots in English, it is essentially a foreign body, which explains why the translator preferred to use a synonym.

Is proportion really a synonym of symmetry? Yes and no. They share a common reference (to stay to your example, having two hands means that you stay inside the proportion that defines man -- 2 hands : 2 legs, etc.) Symmetry also means a symphonia, to agree with a meter, a rule, even with a proportion!

Glad to hear from you Wheeler!

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