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Philosophical Perspectives on Art$
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Stephen Davies

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199202423

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199202423.001.0001

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Ellen Dissanayake's Evolutionary Aesthetic

Ellen Dissanayake's Evolutionary Aesthetic

(p.103) 7 Ellen Dissanayake's Evolutionary Aesthetic
Philosophical Perspectives on Art

Stephen Davies (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

In a series of books, Ellen Dissanayake has developed a subtle, complex account in which art is seen as an evolutionary adaptation. We use it to make ourselves and our environments special and, more generally, to cement familial and social bonds. Dissanayake attempts to argue for the biological relevance of aesthetic quality over the merely agreeable and, hence, to establish the evolutionary importance of art over kitsch; but because she emphasizes art's pre-symbolic biological origins, she cannot give the semantic complexity and cognitive achievements of great art their due. And her theory does not differentiate art from many other socially beneficial practices that work in similar ways.

Keywords:   Ellen Dissanayake, great art, evolutionary adaptation, aesthetic quality, biological relevance

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