The Art Instinct : Beauty, Pleasure & Human Evolution

Author(s): Denis Dutton

General Art

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-gatherer 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. First published 2009.


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Dutton's book is entertaining and amusing. Jeff Sawtell, Morning Star


His arguement takes us on an entertaining tour of science and art. Art Newspaper


This is a wonderful, mind-changing book. Peter Forbes, The Independent


Dutton's prose is direct, entertaining and stylish..Unlike most works on aesthetics, this book is a great read. Nigel Warburton, Prospect


Dutton ranges widely and entertainingly over the arts. Roger Kimball, Times Literary Supplement


In 250 elegant pages, Dutton demonstrates that aesthetics are linked at the profoundest level to our biological and cognitive prehistory. Brian Morton, The Observer


Beautifully written... The easy elegance of the writing is no accident of charm... Dutton is moved by a passion for art itself or, to be more precise, a conviction that art is essential to our humanity. Spiked


Provocative... punchy... a hard-hitting amalgamation of critical theory and evolutionary science... Both cogent and exhilarating. The Atlantic

Introduction; 1. Landscape and Longing; 2. Art and Human Nature; 3. What Is Art?; 4. "But They Don't Have Our Concept of Art"; 5. Art and Natural Selection; 6. The Uses of Fiction; 7. Art and Human Self-Domestication; 8. Intention, Forgery, Dada: Three Aesthetic Problems; 9. The Contingency of Aesthetic Values; 10. Greatness in the Arts

General Fields

  • : 9780199539420
  • : Oxford University Press
  • : Oxford University Press
  • : January 2009
  • : 234mm X 156mm X 27mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Denis Dutton
  • : Hardback
  • : 701.15
  • : 288
  • : 5 colour plates