Ars Brevis, Vita Longa

Hitching a ride on Rage Boy’s ragged coat tail and then letting go —
From the end of a very long paper, Ars Brevis, Vita Longa: The Possible Evolutionary Antecedents of Art and Aesthetics by John L. Bradshaw of
Monash University, posted here on the web site of the American Psychological Association’s Division for Psychology and the Arts.
We are left with one final possibility, depressing perhaps to the evolutionary theorist, but maybe somewhat reassuring to the artist who is primarily preoccupied with his or her art; it is that art may indeed be without any evolutionary significance or adaptiveness whatsoever – a mere by product (or “spandrel”, to use the marvelous metaphor of Gould & Lewontin, 1979) of a disengaged brain which enlarged under quite different evolutionary pressures (and see also Aiken, 1998). If so, maybe we should after all just sit back and enjoy it. Indeed, to deliberately misquote Plato:
A life without the arts is just not worth the candle.

Live long and prosper. And voice your art, no matter how fleeting and finite and financially futile.

3 thoughts on “Ars Brevis, Vita Longa

  1. if we start looking for the “evolutionary significance” of our current acts (Act I, Act II, usw) then we are indeed deluded, beyond recognition. in fact, this is just plain bad biology, because no one can say what is adaptive and what’s not. it gets selected for the “More of That” category if it is, otherwise it doesn’t. besides, and more important, only a fool — or a megalomaniac — would do what he or she does today in hopes of affecting the evolutionary direction of the species. except not to end it. if we don’t end it, and I hope we don’t, it will list where it will, no matter what we paint on the cave walls. but oh wait… I hear some flaky argument about “karma” coming. spare me. just this once, OK?

  2. For a bracing counter-opinion, read Ellen Dissanayake – anything she’s written – including “Homo Aestheticus,” and “What Is Art For?” Artmaking is in the genes, and deprivation can make people crazy.

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