General Theories of Art as an Adaptation and the Origins of Art

Stephen Davies

in The Artful Species

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199658541
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746253 | DOI:
General Theories of Art as an Adaptation and the Origins of Art

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By way of a warning, this chapter begins by noting the strong feelings sometimes invested in arguing that the arts are evolutionary adaptations. Two theories of the arts as an adaptation are considered: Geoffrey Miller sees art as sexual display and Ellen Dissanayake views it as a form of “making special.” Both views are criticized. In seeking a common function for art, they tend to be reductive and imply that the adaptation lies elsewhere, with art as only one of its implementations. Dissanayake follows the methodology of evolutionary psychology in seeking a behavior’s adaptive origin in our ancestral past. Like many others, she thinks that art originated in play. Meanwhile, many different and competing origins for music have been proposed, which points to their speculative character. It also raises questions about whether the focus on origins explains much about the form and function of the developed art.

Keywords: adaptation; art; making special; origin; music; play; sexual selection

Chapter.  7133 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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