Arts as Adaptations

Stephen Davies

in The Artful Species

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199658541
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746253 | DOI:
Arts as Adaptations

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This chapter argues that the arts best considered for their potential as adaptations are narrative fiction and music, given the background of evolution-relevant data and argument. Literary Darwinists apply models from evolutionary psychology to the analysis of narrative fictions and argue that this form of literature is adaptive, but differ over what it is an adaptation for: sexual status, social status, refining our knowledge of human minds and sociality, calibrating automatic programs for mind reading and cheater detection. Whether narrative fictions uniquely provide such benefits is debated, however, and little effort usually is made to show that the relevant behaviors were evolutionarily selected for those benefits. Narrating and thinking in terms of what is not the case probably are adaptive, but narrative fiction draws on these rather than preparing the ground for them. Meanwhile, claims about music’s evolutionary functions or neurological bases are equally varied, contested, and uncompelling.

Keywords: adaptation; art; fiction; literary Darwinism; literature; music; narrative; theory of mind

Chapter.  12692 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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