Evolutionary Aesthetics: Contemporary Evolutionary Aesthetics: The View from the Humanities (and Humanists)
In this paper, I assess the current state of evolutionary aesthetics by reviewing four recent books by scholars in art history, literary studies, and psychology. Each book is humanistic in a broad sense. While they all address evolutionary themes and share a commitment to understanding aesthetic experience via methodological pluralism, they differ substantially in perspective and tone. That of Cupchik, a psychologist, expansively discusses the aesthetics of emotion. That of Rampley, an art historian, is the most polemical, with a strong critique of the encroachment of biology into questions of cultural history. Those of Hogan and Aldama, both literary scholars, deal primarily with literature and are the most personal and ultimately the most thought-provoking. The collective humanistic perspective is a departure from more neuroscience-intensive recent volumes, and it highlights the importance of themes like the emergence of aesthetics from the interaction between nature and culture—potentially in different ways at different times throughout the phylogenetic history of our species.
Keywords: evolutionary aesthetics, neuroaesthetics, evolution, aesthetic cognition, art appreciation, literary studies, emotion, two cultures
Books under Review
Aldama, Frederick Luis, and Patrick Colm Hogan. 2014. Conversations on Cognitive Cultural Studies: Literature, Language, and Aesthetics. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press. x, 203 pages. Hardcover $62.95. Softcover $27.95.
Cupchik, Gerald C. 2016. The Aesthetics of Emotion: Up the Down Staircase of the Mind-Body. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. xxv, 387 pages. Hardcover $125.00.
Hogan, Patrick Colm. 2016. Beauty and Sublimity:A Cognitive Aesthetics of Literature and the Arts. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ix, 286 pages. Hardcover $110.00.
Rampley, Matthew. 2017. The Seductions of Darwin: Art, Evolution, Neuroscience. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press. ix, 189 pages. Softcover $34.95.
Chatterjee, Anjan. 2014. The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art. New York: Oxford University Press.
Darwin, Charles. 1859. On the Origin of Species. London: John Murray.
Darwin, Charles. 1871. The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. London: John Murray.
Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God Delusion. New York: Bantam Books.
Dissanayake, Ellen. 2000. Art and Intimacy: How the Arts Began. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (1790/1988). The metamorphosis of plants. In Douglas Miller (Editor and Translator), Goethe: Scientific Studies (pp. 76-97). New York: Suhrkamp Publishers.
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. 1809/1962. Faust. Translated by Walter Kauffman. New York: Anchor Books.
Goren-Inbar, Naama, and Peltz, S. 1995. “Additional remarks on the Berekhat Ram figurine.” Rock Art Research 12: 131-132.
Gould, Stephen J. 1993. Eight Little Piggies. London: Jonathan Cape
Gould, Stephen J., and Lewontin, Richard C. 1979. “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 205 (1161): 581-598.
Hugo, Victor. 1864/1899. William Shakespeare. Translated by Melville B. Anderson. Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Company.
Kozbelt, Aaron. 2009. “The Evolution of Evolvability, Applied to Human Creativity.” International Journal of Creativity and Problem Solving 19 (1): 101-121.
Kozbelt, Aaron. 2011. “Neuroaesthetics: Where Things Stand Now.” The Evolutionary Review 2: 137-146.
Kozbelt, Aaron. 2017. “Neuroaesthetics: The State of the Domain in 2017.” Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture.
Lauring, Jon O. (Editor). 2014. An Introduction to Neuroaesthetics. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press.
Lewis-Williams, David. 2002. The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origin of Art. London: Thames and Hudson.
Luhmann, Niklas. 2000. Art as a Social System. Translated by Eva Knodt. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
Mithen, Stephen. 1996. The Prehistory of the Mind: The Cognitive Origins of Art and Science. London: Thames and Hudson.
Morin, Olivier. 2013. “How Portraits Turned Their Eyes upon Us: Visual Preferences and Demographic Change in Cultural Evolution.” Evolution and Human Behavior 34: 222-229.
Onians, John. 2008. Neuroarthistory: From Aristotle and Pliny to Baxandall and Zeki. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Pinker, Steven. 2002. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. New York: Penguin Books.
Shimamura, Arthur P., and Stephen E. Palmer (Editors). 2012. Aesthetic Science: Connecting Minds, Brains, and Experience. New York: Oxford University Press
Starr, G. Gabrielle. 2013. Feeling Beauty: The Neuroscience of Aesthetic Experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Snow, Charles P. 1959. The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Vos, Piet G., & Jim M. Troost. 1989. “Ascending and Descending Melodic Intervals: Statistical Findings and their Perceptual Relevance.” Music Perception 6: 383-396.
Wilson, Edward O. 1998. Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. New York: Vintage.
- There are currently no refbacks.