The article leads off from Denis Dutton's book The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution, which I haven't read yet but hope to get to.
Today’s Darwinists treat the aesthetic as if it were a collection of preferences and practices, each of which can be explained as an adaptation. But the preferences and the practices are secondary, made possible only by the fact that the aesthetic itself is a distinct dimension of human experience—not the by-product of something more fundamental, but itself fundamental. This dimension is defined in many ways—by its love of the hypothetical, of order and symbol, of representation for its own sake, of the clarity that comes from suspending the pragmatic; and it has, perhaps, as much in common with theoretical knowledge and contemplation as it does with sensory enjoyment. The “usefulness” of this whole way of being is what must be explained, if there is to be a plausible Darwinian aesthetics. Even if there were, it is hard to see how it would change the way we experience art, any more than knowing the mechanics of the eye makes a difference to the avidity of our sight
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Art and Evolution
We were discussing why people want to produce art last week. Here's a long article in the New Republic on whether our art instinct can be explained in evolutionary terms.