Aesthetics and Evolutionary Psychology

Denis Dutton

in The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics

Published in print January 2005 | ISBN: 9780199279456
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Aesthetics and Evolutionary Psychology

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The applications of the science of psychology to our understanding of the origins and nature of art is not a recent phenomenon; in fact, it is as old as the Greeks. Plato wrote of art not only from the standpoint of metaphysics, but also in terms of the psychic, especially emotional, dangers that art posed to individuals and society. It was Plato's psychology of art that resulted in his famous requirements in The Republic for social control of the forms and contents of art. Aristotle, on the other hand, approached the arts as philosopher more comfortably at home in experiencing the arts; his writings are to that extent more dispassionately descriptive of the psychological features he viewed as universal in what we would call ‘aesthetic experience’. Although Plato and Aristotle both described the arts in terms of generalizations implicitly applicable to all cultures, it was Aristotle who most self-consciously tied his art theory to a general psychology.

Keywords: evolutionary psychology; aesthetic experience; metaphysics; nature of art; Plato; general psychology

Article.  5559 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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