The evolution of aesthetic experience

How evolution endowed the human brain with aesthetic experience

Aesthetic experience is not like other things. From Kant to Schopenhauer philosophers have long since recognised that art, beauty and the sublime does not aid, in any obvious way, the evolutionary will to life. Aesthetic experience instead, is a happy-accident, which piggybacks on four other key survival-focused evolutionary events, writes William Hirstein.


Nature entices us to engage in activities that further our survival and genetic proliferation by making these activities rewarding. Reward is the way that evolution gets us to do what it ”wants.” Why do we like sex? We must reproduce. Why do we like to eat? We must nourish ourselves. Why do we like art? [Crickets chirping]. The fact that there is no obvious and sufficient answer to this question, and indeed, no suitable answer has been found since Darwin laid out the theory of evolution, indicates, I would argue, that our love for art is not a direct result of any particular need or function. Rather,

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