The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, & Human Evolution

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Oxford University Press, 2009 - Aesthetics - 278 pages
The Dinka have a connoisseur's appreciation of the patterns and colours of the markings on their cattle. The Japanese tea ceremony is regarded as a performance art. Some cultures produce carving but no drawing; others specialize in poetry. Yet despite the rich variety of artistic expression to be found across many cultures, we all share a deep sense of aesthetic pleasure. The need to create art of some form is found in every human society.In The Art Instinct, Denis Dutton explores the idea that this need has an evolutionary basis: how the feelings that we all share when we see a wonderful landscape or a beautiful sunset evolved as a useful adaptation in our hunter-gather ancestors, and have been passed on to us today, manifest in our artistic natures. Why do people indulge in displaying their artistic skills? How can we understand artistic genius? Why do we value art, and what is it for? These questions have long been asked by scholars in the humanities and in literature, but this is the first book to consider the biological basis of this deep human need.This sparking and intelligent book looks at these deep and fundamental questions, and combines the science of evolutionary psychology with aesthetics, to shed new light on longstanding questions about the nature of art.

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User Review  - Razinha - LibraryThing

So... I learn from Pascal Boyer that religious belief is genetically coded into us and now from Denis Dutton that art appreciation is as well. Recommended. Read full review

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User Review  - ValerieAndBooks - LibraryThing

My husband spied this book at Christmas time, thought it'd be something I'd like, and gave it to me as a gift. On the surface (and leafing through it), The Art Instinct *does* look like a book I could ... Read full review


1 Landscape and Longing
2 Art and Human Nature
3 What Is Art?
4 But They Dont Have Our Concept of Art
5 Art and Natural Selection
6 The Uses of Fiction
7 Art and Human SelfDomestication
Three Aesthetic Problems
9 The Contingency of Aesthetic Values
10 Greatness in the Arts

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About the author (2009)

Professor Denis Dutton teaches the philosophy of art at The University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He is also well known as the founder and editor of the highly respected web publication, iArts and Letters Daily/i (, and editor of the journal iPhilosophy andLiterature/i.

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