Coevolutionary aesthetics in human and biotic artworlds

TitleCoevolutionary aesthetics in human and biotic artworlds
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsPrum R.O
JournalBiology and Philosophy
Start Page811
Pagination811- 832
Date Published08/2013
Other Numbers doi 10.1007/s10539-013-9389-8

This work proposes a coevolutionary theory of aesthetics that encompasses both biotic and human arts. Anthropocentric perspectives in aesthetics prevent the recognition of the ontological complexity of the aesthetics of nature, and the aesthetic agency of many non-human organisms. The process of evaluative coevolution is shared by all biotic advertisements. I propose that art consists of a form of communication that coevolves with its own evaluation. Art and art history are population phenomena. I expand Arthur Danto’s Artworld  concept to any aesthetic population of producers and evaluators. Current concepts of art cannot exclusively circumscribe the human arts from many forms of non-human biotic art. Without assuming an arbitrarily anthropocentric perspective, any concept of art will need to engage with biodiversity, and either recognize many instances of biotic advertisements as art, or exclude some instances of human art. Coevolutionary aesthetic theory provides a heuristic account of aesthetic change in both human and biotic artworlds, including the coevolutionary origin of aesthetic properties and aesthetic value within artworlds. Restructuring aesthetics, art criticism, and art history without human beings at the organizing centers of these disciplines stimulate new progress in our understanding of art, and the unique human contributions to aesthetics and aesthetic diversity.

Keywords:  Aesthetic evolution, Mate choice, Art, Aesthetics of nature, Ornament, Aposematism