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The Art Instinctcombines two of the most fascinating and contentious disciplines, art and evolutionary science, in a provocative new work that will revolutionize the way art itself is perceived. Aesthetic taste, argues Denis Dutton, is an evolutionary trait, and is shaped by natural selection. It'snot, as almost all contemporary art criticism and academic theory would have it, "socially constructed." The human appreciation for art is innate, and certain artistic values are universal across cultures, such as a preference for landscapes that, like the ancient savannah, feature water and distant trees. If people from Africa to Alaska prefer images that would have appealed to our hominid ancestors, what does that mean for the entire discipline of art history? Dutton argues, with forceful logic and hard evidence, that art criticism needs to be premised on an understanding of evolution, not on abstract "theory." Sure to provoke discussion in scientific circles and an uproar in the art world,The Art Instinctoffers radical new insights into both the nature of art and the workings of the human mind.
Denis Dutton is the founder and editor of the hugely popular Web site Arts & Letters Daily, named by the Guardian as the best Web site in the world. He is also professor of the philosophy of art at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.