Brian Boyd's evolutionary account of art: Fiction or future?

J. Verpooten

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Abstract

There has been a recent surge of evolutionary explanations of art. In this article I evaluate one currently influential example, Brian Boyd’s recent book On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction (2009). The book offers a stimulating collection of findings, ideas, and hypotheses borrowed from a wide range of research disciplines (philosophy of art and art criticism, anthropology, evolutionary and developmental psychology, neurobiology, ethology, etc.), brought together under the umbrella of evolution. However, in so doing Boyd lumps together issues that need to be separated, most importantly, organic and cultural evolution. In addition, he fails to consider alternative explanations to art as adaptation such as exaptation and constraint. Moreover, the neurobiological literature suggests current evidence of biological adaptation for most of the arts is weak at best. Given these considerations, I conclude by proposing to regard the arts instead as culturally evolved practices building on pre-existing biological traits.
Keywords: Thought Experiment Evolutionary Function Pretend Play Evolutionary Account Biological Adaptation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-183
JournalBiological Theory
Volume6
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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Art
Fiction
Evolutionary
Key Words
Exaptation
Developmental Psychology
Evolutionary Psychology
Neurobiology
Art Criticism
Anthropology
Cognition
Thought Experiments
Philosophy of Art
Cultural Evolution
Ethology

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Verpooten, J. / Brian Boyd's evolutionary account of art : Fiction or future?. In: Biological Theory. 2012 ; Vol. 6, No. 2. pp. 176-183.
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Brian Boyd's evolutionary account of art : Fiction or future? / Verpooten, J.

In: Biological Theory, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2012, p. 176-183.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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