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If homo aestheticus seems unrecognizable in today’s modern and postmodern societies, it is so because “art” has been falsely set apart from life, while the. Homo aestheticus: where art comes from and why. User Review – Not Available – Book Verdict. This book is an expanded discussion of the views Dissanayake. Dissanayake argues that art was central to human evolutionary adaptation and that the aesthetic faculty is a basic psychological component of every human.

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Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes from and Why

Top Reviews Most recent Top Reviews. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Dissanayake is comees the best researchers and commentators thinking about the origin of the human wh to art. Jargon-free, wgere only axes she has to grind are against the rigid theorists who banish the emotional, richly intuitive nature of the aesthetic experience.

In the four years since I first read this book, I have come back to it again and again, to verify points, to re-examine ideas, and to seek inspiration. It is impossible to review this book adequately in words. Homo Aestheticus calls for a full-fledged course, to examine its ideas and implications, and to compare similar trends in cultures throughout the world.

Over and over as I read this book, I was amazed and amused to see hpmo closely Dissanayake — quite unknowingly — mirrored Confucian concepts and reasoning. If I were a librarian, I aestheticis file this book under Confucianism. Anybody interested in art, art history, culture, anthropology, psychology, or sociology will benefit deeply by devoting time and attention to this masterpiece. I just finished this fomes, and I’m not a expert in the field, but Homo Aestheticus feels like a graduate level text, and is certainly more “scholarly” than most books you’ll find in a bookstore.


That said, I found Homo Aestheticus to be one of the most unique and insightful books I’ve read. A few spots were quite detailed and dry, but overall I found myself underlining interesting points like a madman.

The concluding chapter was mindblowing. The author somehow cohesively pulled together such topics as human experience, modernism and postmoderism, literacy and writing, oral tradition, language, symbols, and thought, meaning and reality, human and culture evolution, and, of course, aesthetics and art. Certainly, it will have a lasting impact on my thinking about “art.

If you’re reading this, you’re interested in art, either in making it or in experiencing it or both. How about animal wny Better still, biological anthropology? This the book for you, as it was for me. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration rfom say it was life-changing, in that so many things are now clear that didn’t quite make sense or made no sense at all before I aestheticcus it. This is definitely a book for those committed to Darwin. If you think the world, complete with cave paintings, was created years ago more or less as it stands now, this won’t help you.

But, if you would like to know about the profound survival value in “making special”, this is fascinating. If you have been uncomfortable with some of the current rather rarified explanations for what “art” is, you will be relieved. Dissanayake marshals an eclectic hodgepodge of research, ideas, data, theories, and counter-theories to advance himo simple claim that the aesthetic experience is fundamentally and innately a biological act born out of human adaptationism along the Darwinian struggle for survival.

She grants that the adaptationist mechanisms may have subsided in more recent times, but the imprinting over eons of evolution still motivate us, and aedtheticus still at the core of our aesthetic esperience.

While entirely sympathetic to her objectives, I believe her excesses defeat her purposes. Her core problem is wishing to remain with the 19th C. Tradition of “aesthetics” as the legacy of European Idealism while also appealing to fdom primitive understandings of “art.

And yet, two primary resources she either does not know, or she choose to ignore, could have simplified her project immensely.

University of Washington Press – Books – Homo Aestheticus

But before adopting Aristotle and empirical empathy to her project, she would have to exclude the entire “aesthetic” tradition, which stands in opposition to it. She’s unprepared to make that final leap, and that lack of daring in the end sabotages her project. German Idealism that has made artistic behavior elitist, metaphysical, and quasi-supernatural, which as long as she accepts that model, she’ll never reconcile her thesis to a more primitive biological model that has firmer and much older roots in classical Greek thought.


When she thus appropriates “empathy” as a lateth C. German Idealist heuristic device, again she ignores a richer, older, and empirical tradition prevalent in the 18th C.

She would not have needed to appeal to any and every alternative hypothesis, evidence, study, research, etc.

In the end, the irreconcilable tension between opposing traditions remains unresolved, and instead of resolution, she simply adds nuance after nuance of qualification and refinement to tweak the Aesthetic Tradition towards a more Darwinian inclination. Then, in a odd move, she tries to deal with postmodernism, but on its terms, which already puts her behind the proverbial 8-ball. Yet, in her defense, she was a pioneer in her own field of aesthetics, and was stabbing at everything to get a foothold on a better conception of why humans make things.

But as long as “aesthetics” figures into her overall conception, she straddles two opposing worlds that cannot be reconciled. She even appeals to the “ontological” in another context, but then fails to see her own problem as itself a deeply ontological one, as the biological and metaphysical ontologies are simply unbridgeable.

And demonstrating this difficulty, even if unintentional, is its own rewarding reason to peruse this book.

This is an intense book that is not meant for the faint-hearted in terms of aesthetics. I enjoyed it immensely. See all 11 reviews. What other items do customers buy after viewing this item? There’s a problem loading this menu right now.

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