Human Nature

, 6:99 | Cite as

Chimera, spandrel, or adaptation

Conceptualizing art in human evolution
  • Ellen Dissanayake


In every known human society, some kind—usually many kinds—of art is practiced, frequently with much vigor and pleasure, so that one could at least hypothesize that “artifying” or “artification” is a characteristic behavior of our species. Yet human ethologists and sociobiologists have been conspicuously unforthcoming about this observably widespread and valued practice, for a number of stated and unstated reasons. The present essay is a position paper that offers an overview and analysis of conceptual issues and problems inherent in viewing art and/or aesthetics as adaptive, and it presents a speculative account of a human behavior of art.

Key words

Art Aesthetics Human universals Evolution of human behavior 


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Copyright information

© Springer 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ellen Dissanayake
    • 1
  1. 1.University of EdinburghUK

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