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  #1  
Old 01-30-2009, 05:23 PM
Bloggingheads Bloggingheads is offline
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Default Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

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  #2  
Old 01-31-2009, 12:17 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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This dingalink not designed to foster civil discussion.
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  #3  
Old 01-31-2009, 12:54 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Interesting diavlog. Uplifting, even, in the summary at the end.

Thanks to Denis for speaking in organized paragraphs and to John for letting him do so.
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  #4  
Old 01-31-2009, 03:10 AM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Great diavlog. I can't wait to read the book. Agree with Brendan on kudos to John for letting Denis speak at length. Not that John has issues with this usually, but it was extremely helpful with Denis because his points were complex and well worth the wait.

My only two mits to pick: Denis never really spelled out from an EP perspective WHY we love watching virtuoso performers. But I'm guessing it's in the book.

And I sincerely hope his dig at Billy Joel was based on Joel's less-than-stellar forays into classical composition, and not Joel's totally stellar early 70's songwriting. Movin'*Out, Honesty, Angry Young Man, Vienna, Streetlife Serenader etc., I hope Denis appreciates these great works of art. Uptown Girl, We Didn't Start the Fire (gag)...ok, not so much.

Quote:
You've got your passion
you've got your pride
but don't you know that only fools are satisfied?
Dream on, but don't imagine they'll all come true.-- Joel
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  #5  
Old 01-31-2009, 08:59 AM
graz graz is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer View Post
And I sincerely hope his dig at Billy Joel was based on Joel's less-than-stellar forays into classical composition, and not Joel's totally stellar early 70's songwriting. Movin'*Out, Honesty, Angry Young Man, Vienna, Streetlife Serenader etc., I hope Denis appreciates these great works of art. Uptown Girl, We Didn't Start the Fire (gag)...ok, not so much.
Since arguing taste is rather endless, beyond identifying preferences, I offer a nod to BJ as a chronicler of Lawn Guyland life. Hal Hartley is the filmic equivalent, whom I much prefer. I wonder if you saw this hatchet job by a less than ardent listener:


http://www.slate.com/id/2209526/
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  #6  
Old 01-31-2009, 09:08 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Quote:
Originally Posted by graz View Post
Since arguing taste is rather endless, beyond identifying preferences, I offer a nod to BJ as a chronicler of Lawn Guyland life. Hal Hartley is the filmic equivalent, whom I much prefer. I wonder if you saw this hatchet job by a less than ardent listener:


http://www.slate.com/id/2209526/
Heh. I saw that a couple of days ago, and speaking as someone who is decidedly not a Billy Joel fan, that article almost made me want to like him.

I did have to laugh at one line, though: when he called Jeff Jarvis the Billy Joel of blog theorists.
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  #7  
Old 01-31-2009, 02:00 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Touche. Actually that was quite a funny article that's making me re-evaluate my stance on Joel. Chuck Klosterman wrote a flip-side essay explaining why Joel's music has been so succesfull over the years in his book "IV" which is pretty good. I guess my defense for my own opinion would be that I tend more towards music based on the chordal arrangements rather than lyrics. In this respect Joel's stuff (especially some of the non-hits) is very solid. Relatedly I love the "mood" of music, and frankly Joel's angst-driven piano bar sound, still has a vibe that I love. I admit his lyrics can get pretty sappy and I think one of the reasons I don't hang him on it is that I started listening to him when I was like 8 years old and wasn't nearly as sophisticated in my evaluation of "good" lyrics vs. "sappy" ones. And anyways, life is filled with sappy feelings, so while they sometimes annoy me, I understand why they appeal to people.

As Jeff said there's no accounting for taste. I could (and have) made the same arguments of pretense against Dylan, Springsteen or the other guys mentioned in the Slate argument, while also adding in the fact that I believe that people elevate many of the "greats" into much higher importance than their art would deserve. This is why art-criticism/evaluation to me is so boring. It's hard to make statements that any art is "bad" when it sells tons, people go see the guy live and many of them have felt that the artist's work contributed a valuable piece to their lives. If critics would start with phrases like "here's what I don't like about..." it would be much less annoying than pronouncements on high about artistic quality.

[Added] Also I think Duton downplays the importance of cultural experience in our artistic taste. While I agree that there are general tendencies in taste, so much more of it has to do with your life experience. This is why older people rave about music from their formative years, and yet when you listen to it, you feel like they are vastly inflating it's importance. And then the next generation feels the same about YOUR music. Etc. Then there's the more personal aspect. If your parents had certain taste you probably have a much stronger feeling about it than someone whose parents did not. You might kinda like Billy Joel because your mom came from Long Island and she loved his music and played it all the time in the car when you were growing up. Or you might violently wretch at Billy Joel's music because your mom came from Long Island....

But you will probably have much stronger feelings either way than say a guy of the same age who grew up in Compton and whose parents listened to Motown and P-funk.

As a personal example: I am a die-hard Red Sox fan. But my grandfather was a die-hard Yankee lover. So while I hate the Yankees with almost every fiber of my being, the remaining fibers feel kinda nostalgaic for them because of the memories of grampa watching Yankee games in his brooklyn apartment. This is the personal element to our taste that I think Duton gives short-shrift.

Surprisingly, I kinda agree with John Horgan on this one.

Last edited by uncle ebeneezer; 01-31-2009 at 02:16 PM..
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  #8  
Old 02-01-2009, 10:05 AM
Tyrrell McAllister Tyrrell McAllister is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer View Post
Denis never really spelled out from an EP perspective WHY we love watching virtuoso performers. But I'm guessing it's in the book.
The EP explanation that comes immediately to mind is that virtuosos are demonstrating their genetic fitness, and we find genetic fitness in others attractive.

It's easy to see why we would find genetic fitness attractive in potential mates. Maybe it's less clear why we would find genetic fitness attractive in members of our own sex. Perhaps that can be explained by the fact that, as a social species, our own fitness depends on the fitness of those around us, even of those who aren't potential mates and who aren't related to us.
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  #9  
Old 01-31-2009, 05:49 AM
BeachFrontView BeachFrontView is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

super good diavlog. really interesting.
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  #10  
Old 01-31-2009, 09:32 AM
SkepticDoc SkepticDoc is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

http://www.aldaily.com/

Denis Dutton is the editor

http://video.google.com/videosearch?...&oq=denis+dut#

is like the diavlog without the dialogue, without John...
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  #11  
Old 01-31-2009, 11:27 AM
SkepticDoc SkepticDoc is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-col...9/denis-dutton
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  #12  
Old 01-31-2009, 09:36 AM
bbenzon bbenzon is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Interesting discussion.

I've not read Dutton's book, but I've read some of his articles and reviews and have interacted with him on an evolutionary psych listserve. I'm ambivalent about the whole EP & art project. That art has some biological foundation doesn't bother me at all; I've been looking at that for over three decades. In his NYTimes review, Anthony Gottlieb says that "His discussion of the arts and of our responses to them is uniformly insightful and penetrating, and I doubt whether much of it really depends on the ideas of evolutionary psychology." That feels right to me. EP is a good way to toss out a certain range of older and extant ideas, but once that operation is over, it is short on new insights.

The observation about preferences in landscape pictures is certainly interesting; it's the most interesting EP insight into art that I'm aware of. It's certainly useful for pounding a couple of nails into the coffin of doctrinaire cultural relativism and social constructivism. But, what does it actually explain? If indeed that preference harkens back to ancestral savannahs, then we really need to know just how that preference is carried in the genes consequently to be expressed, I presume, in the brain. As far as I know we aren't even close to understanding that.

Thus I feel that the value of adaptive explanation (and, in Dutton's case, sexual selection too) is oversold. So far, at least, it tells us very little about how art works.
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  #13  
Old 01-31-2009, 12:26 PM
Me&theboys Me&theboys is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Quote:
Originally Posted by bbenzon View Post
The observation about preferences in landscape pictures is certainly interesting; it's the most interesting EP insight into art that I'm aware of. It's certainly useful for pounding a couple of nails into the coffin of doctrinaire cultural relativism and social constructivism. But, what does it actually explain? If indeed that preference harkens back to ancestral savannahs, then we really need to know just how that preference is carried in the genes consequently to be expressed, I presume, in the brain. As far as I know we aren't even close to understanding that.

Thus I feel that the value of adaptive explanation (and, in Dutton's case, sexual selection too) is oversold. So far, at least, [U]it tells us very little about how art works.[/I]
Bbenzon - I am much more familiar with EP than with art theory. Thus, would you be willing to elaborate some on your comments above (the ones I have put in bold italics)? What is it that needs explaining and what does "how art works" mean? EP is not relevant to many questions, but its relevance can't be assessed without a very clear understanding of the question being asked. Whether EP is relevant to how art works depends on what you mean by how art works.

Last edited by Me&theboys; 01-31-2009 at 01:25 PM.. Reason: bad english, typos
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  #14  
Old 01-31-2009, 05:33 PM
bbenzon bbenzon is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Here's an extended example of an attempt to deal with how "art works in the mind," in this case, a poem by Coleridge, "Kubla Khan." The first part of the essay is descriptive and analytic in character while the second is a speculative attempt to relate the poem to psychological and neural mechanisms. Asserting the Coleridge was expressing an adaptive imagination hardly tells us anything interesting about the poem, nor does adding in the possibility that he was making a elaborate sexual display.

Here's a longish post that takes the form of an open letter to Steven Pinker about literature in which I suggests that his recent book (The Stuff of Thought) contains the seeds of an account of why we value literature and that begins to get at the underlying mechanisms, rather than simply asserting (possibly) adaptive value. Pinker has posted a brief reply. Here's an extended critique of a collection of essays of Darwinian literary criticism. It doesn't really speak to the issue of mechanisms but it works its way around to a concluding observation about the rhetorical staging of a lot of recent EP work on art, it seems too dependent on criticizing post-modern modes of thought:
Quote:
I feel strongly that the Darwinians must moderate — if not altogether eliminate — their irritating attacks on postmodernist thought. It is not that I think things are fine in postanalytic–demodernist-psychoconstructionist theoryland. I do not. That is why I turned to the cognitive sciences years ago (e.g. Benzon, 1976; Benzon and Hays 1976). But sticking your tongue out and making hex signs — even the most sincere and earnest ones — is not helpful. This kind of activity, while a common feature of intellectual warfare, does little to win over the thinkers you oppose, who fully anticipate your magical gestures and are prepared with their own counter magic.

What is worse, this kind of warfare tempts you to lower your intellectual standards. Being different from Them is easy. Being deeper and truer is not.
Finally, consider language, plain and simple, which Dutton refers to here and there. Pinker has proposed that language is a biological adaptation for communication through a serial arrangement of symbols. OK. But there isn't a theory of model of language that cannot accommodate that proposed adaptive function. Yet linguistics is riven with major disputes about the mechanisms of language. It thus would seem that the notion that language is an adaptation tells us relatively little about how language actually works.
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  #15  
Old 02-01-2009, 10:14 AM
Tyrrell McAllister Tyrrell McAllister is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Quote:
Originally Posted by bbenzon View Post
Here's an extended example of an attempt to deal with how "art works in the mind," in this case, a poem by Coleridge, "Kubla Khan." The first part of the essay is descriptive and analytic in character while the second is a speculative attempt to relate the poem to psychological and neural mechanisms. Asserting the Coleridge was expressing an adaptive imagination hardly tells us anything interesting about the poem, nor does adding in the possibility that he was making a elaborate sexual display.

Here's a longish post that takes the form of an open letter to Steven Pinker about literature in which I suggests that his recent book (The Stuff of Thought) contains the seeds of an account of why we value literature and that begins to get at the underlying mechanisms, rather than simply asserting (possibly) adaptive value. Pinker has posted a brief reply. Here's an extended critique of a collection of essays of Darwinian literary criticism. It doesn't really speak to the issue of mechanisms but it works its way around to a concluding observation about the rhetorical staging of a lot of recent EP work on art, it seems too dependent on criticizing post-modern modes of thought:

Finally, consider language, plain and simple, which Dutton refers to here and there. Pinker has proposed that language is a biological adaptation for communication through a serial arrangement of symbols. OK. But there isn't a theory of model of language that cannot accommodate that proposed adaptive function. Yet linguistics is riven with major disputes about the mechanisms of language. It thus would seem that the notion that language is an adaptation tells us relatively little about how language actually works.
I would expect that the value of EP in those fields (language, art criticism, etc) lies in eliminating hypotheses, not in singling out one hypothesis above all others. Taking EP seriously just means that all hypotheses should have to formulate themselves in a way consistent with EP. Many hypotheses won't be able to do that while retaining their essential features, and we can safely dismiss those ones. However, many hypotheses will be able to accommodate EP, and we will have to turn to other means to distinguish these. That doesn't mean the EP had nothing to say. It just means that it couldn't tell us everything.
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  #16  
Old 02-01-2009, 07:56 PM
testostyrannical testostyrannical is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

This seems to be a common critique of EP explanations. I recently read a book called "The Triumph of Sociobiology" by John Alcock. He talks at great length about there being basically two kinds of questions, which he calls "proximate" and "ultimate". Proximate questions about behavior would examine the neurological and hormonal mechanisms that influence how humans act, and "ultimate" questions attempt to puzzle out how the actions of animals effect adaptive fitness. It's true that saying language is "adaptive" isn't saying much, but there are situations where adaptive questions are extremely useful when examining certain kinds of darwinian puzzles (especially behaviors like altruism, especially when it is of the life-threatening variety), because they open up avenues of inquiry that might not otherwise be considered. As far as art goes, I can't say I know just how useful an evolutionary framework is in assigning theoretical relevance to artistic endeavor, but it can have uses-there is a particularly interesting example in the Alcock book where a researcher, following a line of inquiry dependent on sociobiological assumptions, discovered that an island bird species could affect the gender ratio of its offspring, something that might not have been tested at all otherwise.
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  #17  
Old 01-31-2009, 01:11 PM
jhorgan@highlands.co jhorgan@highlands.co is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

FYI I just posted some mildly critical comments on The Art Instinct on my blog at Stevens: http://www.stevens.edu/csw/cgi-bin/blogs/csw/?p=221.
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  #18  
Old 02-02-2009, 06:03 PM
Me&theboys Me&theboys is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Quote:
Originally Posted by jhorgan@highlands.co View Post
FYI I just posted some mildly critical comments on The Art Instinct on my blog at Stevens: http://www.stevens.edu/csw/cgi-bin/blogs/csw/?p=221.
Quoting from John Horgan’s article on his web site (http://www.stevens.edu/csw/cgi-bin/blogs/csw/?p=221), “First, I worry that evolutionary art theory and lit crit will be excessively reductionist, unimaginative, uninteresting.…… Art theory is an imaginative exercise, like literature itself, and it will be impoverished if theorists all feel the need to conform to some adaptationist ideology.”

The idea that the validity of a theory is legitimately undermined by its potential for disappointing implications strikes me as a form of romanticism we are better off without. People can and do use this line of thinking to object to scientific theories about the age and origin of the earth, to perpetuate misanthropic religious beliefs and practices, to remain ignorant about horrific realities, to block access to birth control and sex education, to protect their delusions and ideologies. To quote Steven Pinker quoting Anton Chekov, “Man will become better when you show him what he is like”. To the degree that EP can help show man what he is like, and to the degree that man can use that knowledge to become better, then it is preferable to mine EP for its gold than to sneer at it. If there is a price to be paid in terms of lost illusions and much of art theory being reclassified as wishful thinking, so be it.
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  #19  
Old 01-31-2009, 01:59 PM
nikkibong nikkibong is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Now that is how it's done: what a great diavlog!

Cheers to Denis for providing a riposte the cultural relativists that still call the shots within the social "sciences" in higher education. Within ten minutes of the start of diavlog, I was pumping my fist in delight.
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  #20  
Old 01-31-2009, 04:14 PM
Nogbad Nogbad is offline
 
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Default Ravi Shankar

I do not remember whether it occurred in San Francisco
but the story about Ravi Shankar is NOT an 'urban legend'
because I witnessed it on my TV.

He was tuning his sitar and when he finished
some people in the audience applauded.
Shankar sourly commented that he hoped they would like the music
as much as the tuning.

(Likely this happened to him on more than one occasion)
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  #21  
Old 01-31-2009, 04:34 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Ravi Shankar

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nogbad View Post
I do not remember whether it occurred in San Francisco
but the story about Ravi Shankar is NOT an 'urban legend'
because I witnessed it on my TV.

He was tuning his sitar and when he finished
some people in the audience applauded.
Shankar sourly commented that he hoped they would like the music
as much as the tuning.

(Likely this happened to him on more than one occasion)
Maybe they were just applauding with relief (or in support) that he'd finally finished?
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  #22  
Old 01-31-2009, 05:16 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: Ravi Shankar

It's posiible it was also a light-hearted ribbing. Like giving a player a standing ovation for hitting a free-throw after he's missed 10 in a row. I've been in some concert crowds that did this sortof thing when our $30 ticket had thus far only bought us a reall lengthy "soundcheck."
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  #23  
Old 02-01-2009, 09:43 AM
Jon Jon is offline
 
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Default Re: Ravi Shankar

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nogbad View Post
I do not remember whether it occurred in San Francisco
but the story about Ravi Shankar is NOT an 'urban legend'
because I witnessed it on my TV.

He was tuning his sitar and when he finished
some people in the audience applauded.
Shankar sourly commented that he hoped they would like the music
as much as the tuning.

(Likely this happened to him on more than one occasion)
I've just been replaying my copy of George Harrison's Concert for Bengladesh, Side One, where Ravi Shankar is tuning and the audience applauds. He does not tune for "ten minutes", nor does all the audience (in NYC) applaud. It's easy to see how the story, even if this was the only example, became exaggerated.
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  #24  
Old 01-31-2009, 05:47 PM
nikkibong nikkibong is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

denis dutton on High Art:

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/174...4:58&out=45:18
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  #25  
Old 01-31-2009, 07:02 PM
bbenzon bbenzon is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

John, I've got a question about Dutton's book. Does he argue that "high" art is biologically adaptive while "popular art" is not? The question arises because he'd offered such a suggestion in a review he did of a book of essays by Joseph Carroll, the premier EP literary critic. As you know, in How the Mind Works Pinker had argued that art is not adaptive but, rather, is cheese cake of the mind, delicious but not particularly nutritious. Well, Carroll had argued that Pinker was wrong, that art really is biologically adaptive. Thus, in his review of Carroll, Dutton offered the suggestion that high art is adaptive, but low art is not.

I'm not sure where I stand on the issue of the biological adaptiveness of art, though I argued in favor of the notion in my book on music, Beethoven's Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture. However, I suspect that high and low art come out the in the same place. Given Dutton's obvious relish for certain popular art ("The Simpsons" "Ren and Stimpy"), perhaps he's arrived at that position as well.
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  #26  
Old 02-01-2009, 12:36 AM
Titstorm Titstorm is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

denis, i love your site.
wow, will anyone else finally agree that having new guests who are experts makes bheads "worth it," rather than having repeat bloggers 90% of the time? this is the first one i've watched all the way through in 3 months.
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  #27  
Old 02-01-2009, 06:40 AM
thornybranch thornybranch is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

I have not read the book, and do not intend to, for the following reasons.

Dutton, in his public appearances, seems to fail to understand foundations of what he is talking about.

The populist art survey that he is referencing was a SATIRICAL interpretation of market research techniques, made by conceptual artists, Komar and Melamid. The link is here

The artists themselves admitted that these were not scientific results. You can clearly see survey questions, and how they would direct participants towards landscapes. For example: "Which do you prefer, Modern Art, or Traditional Art?" or "Do you prefer indoor or outdoor scenes?" and then "What type of landscapes do you prefer?"

Hopefully we are all aware that our pre-conceived thesis will always influence the outcome of experiments more than truth, through the form of our questions.

Without understanding the concept of his source, Dutton continues to build his theories.

There is nothing in the satirical survey about the types of trees that people prefer. This is an example of the surveyors' "poetic license" However, Dutton quickly (and strangely) attaches this re-occurrence as analogous to primitive preference for low-branched trees because they represent "Escape Routes." Same point for every analogy that Dutton made, although he did make a very pretty metaphor about our desire for roads being present because "We are the ones that took that path."

Perhaps Dutton should be a poet instead of a theorist, since he really doesn't seem to grasp fundamentals of philosophical theories. He misunderstands globalization as evidence against cultural relativity, which he incorrectly believes in motivated by an exoticization. To dismiss Duchamp as being "bad for art theory" because he made it hard to quantify is just offensive. Even the Supreme Court understands that the value of art lies in its ability to transform our perception.

Art is not a bi-product of the evolution of consciousness. Art is the evolution of consciousness. Whenever free will is actualized, that is Art. The fact that a market has emerged around products of this act of free will, does not mean that it's value can be pinned down by a statistic.
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Old 02-01-2009, 10:31 AM
Tyrrell McAllister Tyrrell McAllister is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Quote:
Originally Posted by thornybranch View Post
I have not read the book, and do not intend to, for the following reasons.

Dutton, in his public appearances, seems to fail to understand foundations of what he is talking about.

The populist art survey that he is referencing was a SATIRICAL interpretation of market research techniques, made by conceptual artists, Komar and Melamid. The link is here

The artists themselves admitted that these were not scientific results. You can clearly see survey questions, and how they would direct participants towards landscapes.
...
Without understanding the concept of his source, Dutton continues to build his theories.
Dutton seemed perfectly aware that that survey wasn't scientific. He said something about how they'd basically conned their way into getting funding. However, he used their survey as a springboard to talk about some earlier German literature on the subject. That literature was the source on which he built his theories.

Quote:
There is nothing in the satirical survey about the types of trees that people prefer. This is an example of the surveyors' "poetic license" However, Dutton quickly (and strangely) attaches this re-occurrence as analogous to primitive preference for low-branched trees because they represent "Escape Routes." Same point for every analogy that Dutton made, although he did make a very pretty metaphor about our desire for roads being present because "We are the ones that took that path."
Again, Dutton wasn't relying on that survey at all, except as a rhetorical springboard. So it's no surprise that he was recounting information that wasn't in the survey. One presumes that his claims about trees and so forth comes from the broader literature that he referred to. If it's not to be found in there, then you have a valid criticism. But you're just making a mistake if you think that it's absence from the Komar--Melamid survey has any significance.

Quote:
Perhaps Dutton should be a poet instead of a theorist, since he really doesn't seem to grasp fundamentals of philosophical theories. He misunderstands globalization as evidence against cultural relativity, which he incorrectly believes in motivated by an exoticization.
It seems very plausible to me that a lot of po-mo thinking on other cultures is motivated by exoticization. Certainly some members of those cultures think so. You've offered nothing to show that exoticization doesn't play at least a part.

Quote:
To dismiss Duchamp as being "bad for art theory" because he made it hard to quantify is just offensive.
He doesn't "dismiss" Duchamp. He just argues for addressing things in their proper order. Deal with the simple cases first, then move to the hard cases. Learn algebra before you try to understand calculus.

Quote:
Even the Supreme Court understands that the value of art lies in its ability to transform our perception.
And where did Dutton express any disagreement with this claim? He himself called Duchamp an "incandescent genius".

Quote:
Art is not a bi-product of the evolution of consciousness. Art is the evolution of consciousness. Whenever free will is actualized, that is Art. The fact that a market has emerged around products of this act of free will, does not mean that it's value can be pinned down by a statistic.
Nothing that Dutton said conflicts with any of this. You are simply misunderstanding him if you think it did. Reading his book might rectify this misunderstanding, but I guess you'll never know.
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  #29  
Old 02-01-2009, 04:16 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyrrell McAllister View Post
[...]
I don't know the truth here, not having read Denis's book nor any of the other references that you and Thorny cite, but I did want to compliment you on the quality of your rebuttal.
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  #30  
Old 02-01-2009, 06:30 PM
thornybranch thornybranch is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

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Originally Posted by Tyrrell McAllister View Post
Dutton seemed perfectly aware that that survey wasn't scientific. He said something about how they'd basically conned their way into getting funding.
The hornswaggle link that you provided proves that Dutton considers this to be "very serious scientific research." The hornswaggling was in reference to Dutton's amazement that they were able to acquire funding for such an ambitious project.
Quote:
However, he used their survey as a springboard to talk about some earlier German literature on the subject. That literature was the source on which he built his theories.
I can't seem to find a citation for the "Early German Literature." Do you mind providing it, (If it is relevant)? Wasn't Dutton using this fake survey as proof that artistic preferences, and artistic values for that matter, were objective?

Quote:
He doesn't "dismiss" Duchamp. He just argues for addressing things in their proper order. Deal with the simple cases first, then move to the hard cases. Learn algebra before you try to understand calculus.
First of all, I agree that one person should learn algebra before understanding calculus. But drawing from this parallel, would you then say that Calculus is Bad for math? Should people that study Quantum Physics stop what they are working on, and go back to re-examine the question of Long Division?

Second of all, On the "proper" order of things: It is appropriate to make a linear hierarchy of complexity when dealing with things like math. You can even make a linear hierarchy of complexity with theory. But making a linear hierarchy of the value of Art based on arbitrary statistics seems inappropriate and counterproductive. Who decides "proper" order? I will attempt to explain Duchamp to a 3-year old in one sentence. "We've been putting objects into museums and galleries to appreciate their beauty and their value, but we can also look elsewhere" I would never say "Don't look at that yet. It's a waste of time unless you understand the Hudson School."

Let me give a simplistic Art-History lesson in one paragraph.
Modernism, in part, was a progression towards an ideal shape. Nobody knew exactly what the perfect shape was, but there was a presumption that someday everything would be perfect, (as long as we excluded the "imperfect" shapes.)
Post-Modernism, being one of the most deflated and misused words in the English language, was simply the lesson of relativity. It is the acceptance that human subjectivity is more complex than mathematical linearity. It is the acceptance that technological progress does not equal moral progress. Therefore, the "proper" order or value should not be decided by one man, or by a survey.

The fact that the Chinese can enjoy Hollywood movies or Italian Operas does contradict the fact that they their culture assumes a different value system than the United States. (Whether or not globalization is a colonization is a different discussion.)

Of course, this idea of relativity, like any, can be pushed too far, to the point of immobility.

Should I be interpreting Dutton's book as a reaction against extremist cultural relativists, or as a naive attempt to quantify the artistic experience?
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Old 02-02-2009, 12:29 PM
Tyrrell McAllister Tyrrell McAllister is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

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Originally Posted by thornybranch View Post
The hornswaggle link that you provided proves that Dutton considers this to be "very serious scientific research." The hornswaggling was in reference to Dutton's amazement that they were able to acquire funding for such an ambitious project.
On your reading, you have Dutton thinking that they (1) asked for funding for "very serious scientific research" and that they (2) really did perform "very serious scientific research". If that were what he thought happened, it wouldn't make sense for him to call it a "hornswaggle". It's not hornswaggling to get funding for an ambitious project if you in fact do what the funder expected.

On my reading, when Dutton referred to "very serious scientific research" he was talking about what they said they'd do to get the funding. But, instead of doing scientific research, they took the funding and did something that was, as you said, not scientific. On that reading, it makes perfect sense for him to call it a hornswaggle.

Quote:
I can't seem to find a citation for the "Early German Literature." Do you mind providing it, (If it is relevant)? Wasn't Dutton using this fake survey as proof that artistic preferences, and artistic values for that matter, were objective?I haven't read his book. I'm just going by what he said.
He only said that there was a German literature out there. That was what he used as proof, not the fake survey, at least as I heard him. I assume it's in the book. Like I said last post, if it's not in there, then you have a valid critique.

But I don't think he intended to use the survey as his proof. On your reading, you have him calling the proof of his argument a "hornswaggle". Even if you don't buy my interpretation above of what he meant by that, "hornswaggle" is certainly a disparagement, so your reading has him explicitly disparaging the only proof that (on your reading) he offered. That would be a bizarre rhetorical choice on his part. It's more plausible that he didn't mean to be relying much on that survey at all.

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First of all, I agree that one person should learn algebra before understanding calculus. But drawing from this parallel, would you then say that Calculus is Bad for math?
If showing students calculus made them abandon their efforts to understand algebra, then, yes, it would be bad to show them Calculus. In this counterfactual scenario, they would end up knowing less math.

But there would be two ways to describe this situation, and which one you choose is just a matter of rhetorical emphasis, I think. The first way is to say, as I just did, that showing them calculus is bad. The second way is to say that it's bad that they lack the self-control to continue their algebra studies. If they had that self-control, you could show them calculus and it wouldn't hamper their learning. (Of course, that is how it usually works out in our world.)

Similarly, I read Dutton as really meaning that it's bad when art theorists lack the self-control to continue in their effort to understand more unambiguous cases of art. Instead, they drop the unambiguous cases altogether, and go straight to the hardest cases. Dutton is making the case (plausibly, I think) that just like the math students above, these theorists end up knowing less about what makes something art in the end.

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Should people that study Quantum Physics stop what they are working on, and go back to re-examine the question of Long Division?
If they have any uncertainty whatsoever about how long division works, then, yes, they most certainly should.

Quote:
Second of all, On the "proper" order of things: It is appropriate to make a linear hierarchy of complexity when dealing with things like math. You can even make a linear hierarchy of complexity with theory. But making a linear hierarchy of the value of Art based on arbitrary statistics seems inappropriate and counterproductive.
I don't think that anyone has proposed a linear hierarchy of the value of art.

Quote:
Who decides "proper" order? I will attempt to explain Duchamp to a 3-year old in one sentence. "We've been putting objects into museums and galleries to appreciate their beauty and their value, but we can also look elsewhere" I would never say "Don't look at that yet. It's a waste of time unless you understand the Hudson School."
I completely agree, but I don't think that Dutton or anyone else has suggested otherwise. Dutton was saying that if your purpose is to construct a theory of art, then you shouldn't build your theory around the Duchamp case. Most of the time that you spend gathering material for your theory should be spent on less difficult cases.

But what you choose to spend you time on as an appreciator of art is another matter altogether. I didn't hear Dutton say anything with regards to that.

Quote:
Let me give a simplistic Art-History lesson in one paragraph.
Modernism, in part, was a progression towards an ideal shape. Nobody knew exactly what the perfect shape was, but there was a presumption that someday everything would be perfect, (as long as we excluded the "imperfect" shapes.)
Post-Modernism, being one of the most deflated and misused words in the English language, was simply the lesson of relativity. It is the acceptance that human subjectivity is more complex than mathematical linearity. It is the acceptance that technological progress does not equal moral progress. Therefore, the "proper" order or value should not be decided by one man, or by a survey.

The fact that the Chinese can enjoy Hollywood movies or Italian Operas does contradict the fact that they their culture assumes a different value system than the United States. (Whether or not globalization is a colonization is a different discussion.)
(Did you mean "does not contradict"?)

Quote:
Of course, this idea of relativity, like any, can be pushed too far, to the point of immobility.

Should I be interpreting Dutton's book as a reaction against extremist cultural relativists, or as a naive attempt to quantify the artistic experience?
All I know about the book is what I saw in the diavlogue. But I saw nothing that gave me any hint that he proposed to "quantify the artistic experience". (In what units would one measure such quantities? sublimes, maybe ?)

His book does seem to be a "reaction against extremist cultural relativists", but he seems also to have a positive thesis to make. I read him as trying to describe Darwinian origins of some of the features of our artistic experience. If you think about it, that's a much, much more modest claim than the ones you are imputing to him.
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Old 02-03-2009, 12:46 AM
thornybranch thornybranch is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

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He only said that there was a German literature out there. That was what he used as proof, not the fake survey, at least as I heard him. I assume it's in the book. Like I said last post, if it's not in there, then you have a valid critique
Unless you have a citation, then you have no rebuttle to my critique. I would actually really like to know what this mysterious "Early German Literature" is.

Dutton, is other public appearances, like this Radio Interview and even in the first chapter of his book! makes no other citation besides Komar and Melamid (<-- I urge you to check out the actual Survey, it's hilarious!)

Using this reference as a foundation, in addition to personal experiences in another country in which he was amazed at his ability to actually communicate with people. Imagine! He developed his idea that culture and aesthetic values were universal, and any kind of relativity or culture-oriented theories to be bullshit. "Cultural Relativity is a 'colonization.'" Huh? Wasn't the motivation behind cultural relativity the belief that core human relationships were universal (in their value), so one should take care not to forcefully impose dogmatic evolutionary philosophies that exhibit standardization? Everyone in this CV debate is really just trying to paint the other one as a racist, but I mean, come on. The point is, relativity. Even people living next door to each other and play poker together, Liberals and Conservatives, get up in the morning and understand a different universe, essentially.

Say that we forget these shaky foundations and adopt his view... then what? Art is just a bi-product of evolution... so, We develop a "better" evolutionary philosophy. Now there is Darwinian critique of artworks, since we all have common knowledge that includes the adaptive emergence of beauty? Then what? Standardize art for the sake of maximizing pleasure and evolutionary advantages? Then what happens?

Now, I will agree with Dutton that most aspects of the classical notion of aesthetics could be considered universal, The Golden Ratio, etc. I also am on side with Dutton in saying that Art is necessary, and Art contributes to a greater standard of living. However, Art has moved beyond classicism. A looooooong time ago. It has long ago moved beyond the Ab-Ex movement that Dutton expresses offense to, and refers to as "High-Art." or "the so-called High-Art"

What Dutton doesn't seem to understand is that, at this point, Art is as important as it's defiance, against popularity, against injustice, against institutions, against paradigms. We need Art precisely to expose the absurdity of ideas like Duttons.

Don't get me wrong. I am a Darwinist, in that I believe that it is the fundamental force of nature. But subjectivity and Free Will is where nature stops and human begins. Subjectivity defies linearity, in that it defines linearity, by existing outside of it. This agency (Uncertainty of the future)the perception of time, crushes any notion of determisim. We don't use our Free Will 99.9% of the time. But when we use it, that is Art... Driving a taxi cab, or growing tomatoes can absolutely be Art... as long as there is a decisive defiance against instincts, or use of Free Will. (driving a cab in a new way. growing tomatoes for a different reason)

Yes, it's true, classical paintings and symphonies have been made with golden ratios and primordial sexual attractive qualities (aesthetic beauty) and desired around the globe. These works of art happened because we used our Free Will to decided to create a 'non-functional' expression of our subjectivity. Since then, we have used our Free Will to move beyond the picture plane, or the physical representation, to other realms: Performances, Games, Films, Virtual Reality, Computer Programs, Social Movements, Situations Life or defiant interpretations of science. as the Komar and Melamid project was. Dutton, in not recognizing the irony of this defiance, exposes that the joke is on him.

What you see in the gallery, the museum, or any other white cube, (Art about Art) is there because of markets and politics.

Art = Free Will = Defiance of Nature. This includes the fundamental process of nature. In other words, Art is deeper than Darwinism.
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Old 02-04-2009, 12:05 PM
bbenzon bbenzon is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

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Unless you have a citation, then you have no rebuttle to my critique. I would actually really like to know what this mysterious "Early German Literature" is.
I don't know about that German literature, but there are two papers in Barkow, Cosmides, and Tooby, The Adapted Mind (Oxford UP 1992), pp. 551-598.
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Old 02-01-2009, 11:09 AM
Ray Ray is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

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Originally Posted by thornybranch View Post

The populist art survey that he is referencing was a SATIRICAL interpretation of market research techniques, made by conceptual artists, Komar and Melamid. The link is here

Yup. Brutal. This part was painful to listen to. Dutton put on his best passionate voice for his soliloquy on roads, and his grave tones at this moment simply inched his pants down farther, exposing more and more of his ass.

I'd feel bad for the guy, if he weren't so given to indulging the most professorial sententiousness.
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Old 02-01-2009, 11:16 AM
Tyrrell McAllister Tyrrell McAllister is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

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Originally Posted by Ray View Post
Yup. Brutal. This part was painful to listen to. Dutton put on his best passionate voice for his soliloquy on roads, and his grave tones at this moment simply inched his pants down farther, exposing more and more of his ass.

I'd feel bad for the guy, if he weren't so given to indulging the most professorial sententiousness.
You too seemed to have missed how he dismissed the Komar--Melamid survey as a "hornswaggle".
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  #36  
Old 02-01-2009, 11:40 AM
SkepticDoc SkepticDoc is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Maybe the correct perspective is to appreciate Dutton's work as a piece of "Art" that some will like and others won't.

This thread has brought that infamous concept "Reality", to the forefront.

If more than one person witnessed the "tuning" incident, then we should question all the statements.

We could also interpret the work as "philosophical fiction", I remember another pseudological story: Humans can dream of falling from great heights but don't dream of hitting the ground because our primitive ancestors were the ones that were able to grab a limb and thus prevent a fatal injury. If some statements follow a logical, coherent order does not make them real. Freud yarned some coherent tales that are entertaining and culturally stimulating but have been largely discredited in Psychiatry, but there are still groups of "Freudian Psychoanalysts" that still meet and congratulate each other, as long as there will be clients that will pay, the performers will go on with the show.
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Old 02-01-2009, 12:10 PM
Francoamerican
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Fascinating discussion, amply justifying the existence the BHTV. Dutton throws off so many interesting ideas that I hesitate to make any critical remarks, but then why comment at all if you agree with everything a speaker says?

First of all, I agree entirely that "social constructivism" and "cultural determinism-relativism" have come to their inevitable dead-ends. Even if the leading cultural "theorists" could write decent English, the meager results of their endeavors would make one wonder whether they were ever justified in appropriating the noble word "theory" for their slapdash explanations of everything human in terms of "culture." But the fault lies more with the concept of culture than with the cultural theorists themselves. The concept was irremediably damaged in the late 19th century when sociologists and anthropologists began using it to designate everything distinctly human. Originally, though, the concept had two antonyms, as it were: nature on the one hand, and barbarism and stupidity on the other (I will leave "barbarism" and "stupidity" undefined, but I think we all have an inkling at least of what they mean...). If cultural theorists had paid more attention to the second opposition, they might actually have done something to halt the spread of stupidity and barbarism, instead of augmenting it.

Nevertheless, Darwinian explanations of art, like Darwinian explanations of everything else, have their own weaknesses. They suffer from the "just so story" syndrome that Dutton refers to at one point. How often we hear in the news that some typical human trait, institution etc. is really "nothing but" an evolutionary adaptation to the struggle for existence in which our hominid or pre-hominid ancestors passed their no doubt nasty, brutish and short lives on earth. Art is a human creation, human beings have evolved from a quasi-animal condition in which there was no art, therefore art must have its origin in the special characteristics that homo sapiens inherited from this barely conceivable pre-human past. So far, so true. But also, so what? Many of the examples of art that Dutton cites come from the high art and culture of the past two hundred years. Even the so-called primitive art he describes must be the result of thousands of years of historical elaboration.

My question then is this: In thinking about art, as in thinking about any distinctly human creation that involves thought and reasoning and freedom (science, philosophy, law, politics etc.) don't we have to free ourselves from the straitjacket of Darwinism?
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Old 02-01-2009, 04:08 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

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Originally Posted by Francoamerican View Post
[...] My question then is this: In thinking about art, as in thinking about any distinctly human creation that involves thought and reasoning and freedom (science, philosophy, law, politics etc.) don't we have to free ourselves from the straitjacket of Darwinism?
Sure. But as you observed earlier, there's a lot to be thankful for in this new perspective offered by Denis, if for no other reason than as a foil to cultural theorists and relativists run amok (or run dry).

It does seem to me (and here's where I follow your lead of commenting when I agree with what was just said) that some art appeals to us purely or at least mostly on the very highest of intellectual planes, which would seem to have little to do with our ancestral origins. One example might be the music of guys like Bach, which is frequently pitched to me as worthy of making an effort to appreciate because of its mathematical structure. Another might be any form of "modern" art where there is a clear intent to jolt the viewer, or to criticize or satirize some aspect of conventional thinking. There has to be some reason other than million-year-old instincts why, say, Picasso's Guernica is thought so highly of.
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Old 02-02-2009, 07:06 AM
Francoamerican
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
It does seem to me (and here's where I follow your lead of commenting when I agree with what was just said) that some art appeals to us purely or at least mostly on the very highest of intellectual planes, which would seem to have little to do with our ancestral origins.
I think all art involves the emotions in some way, so in that sense there must be an evolutionary basis for it. But the basis is only the beginning of analysis. Just as our taste buds like and dislike certain basic flavors, but great chefs can refine and combine those flavors in such a way that our taste buds are refined and educated in the process, so our emotions are educated by great works of art.

In other words, I doubt that evolutionary explanations of emotions can go very far in explaining the specific emotional tonality of specific works of art.
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Old 02-02-2009, 05:31 AM
RanJak RanJak is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Artistic Animal

Denis Dutton prefers dramatic art to the subtle and realistic art to the abstract or impressionist. Yet he seeks a broader platform for his likes and dislikes: evolution. I don't buy it.
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