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The Aesthetic BrainHow We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art$
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Anjan Chatterjee, MD

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199811809

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199811809.001.0001

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A tail or a song?

(p.172) Chapter 9 Art
The Aesthetic Brain

Anjan Chatterjee

Oxford University Press

If art is not an instinct, how do we explain the fact that we are surrounded by art? How do we explain the fact that rudiments of art exist as far back into the past as we can see? The belief that art must be an expression of a deep instinct in our collective psyche is hard to shake. At the same time, the sheer variety of art cannot be ignored. We cannot be blind to the fact that art is shaped profoundly by history and culture. Art can be an object of contemplation or of reverence just as easily as it can be a commodity buoyed by institutional and market forces. When we emphasize the universality of art, we slide into thinking of art as an instinct. When we acknowledge the sheer diversity and cultural fashioning of art, we slide into thinking of art as a spandrel. Is there a third way to think about art? To answer this question, this chapter looks at the evolution of the tail of the peacock and the song of the Bengalese finch.

Keywords:   art, culture, history, instinct, evolution, Bengalese finch, peacock

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