Chapter

How Might the Aesthetic, Art, and Evolution be Related?

Stephen Davies

in The Artful Species

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199658541
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746253 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199658541.003.0004
How Might the Aesthetic, Art, and Evolution be Related?

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Aesthetic and art behaviors might be adaptations, by-products of adaptations (aka spandrels), vestiges, or they might be so distanced from biology that they are purely cultural technologies. Being universal would provide good evidence that they are part of human nature. Aesthetic sensibilities do seem to be universal and some aesthetic preferences (e.g. for landscape) are widely shared. Also, almost everyone can make some art (e.g. singing or dancing) and has a deep knowledge of some of their culture’s art forms. We cannot understand the symbolic and culturally inflected meanings of other cultures’ art, but we can achieve a partial understanding of such art with comparatively little help. Despite all this, we must be careful in tying aesthetic or art behaviors to evolution: not every valuable behavior is selected by evolution; and knowledge of the origins of such behaviors might not explain their current function or form.

Keywords: adaptation; aesthetics; art; evolution; origins; pan-cultural; spandrel; vestige; universals

Chapter.  9334 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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