The Evolutionary Value of an Aesthetic Sense

Stephen Davies


The aesthetic sense we inherited from our successful ancestors drew them toward conditions that made for survival and reproductive success and repelled them away from conditions that impacted negatively on longevity and fertility. But for them, as for us, those desirable outcomes were incidental and uncalculated. Their search was for the beautiful and sublime. Aesthetic behaviours are apparent in our forerunner species about 400,000 years ago. They sometimes made symmetrical hand axes that were then not used. We can take an aesthetic interest in more or less anything, but the aesthetic responses that are rooted in our biology include those to landscapes and environments, to non-human animals, and to the appearance and behaviour of our fellow humans.


evolutionary aesthetics; aesthetic sense; sexual selection; environmental aesthetics; human evolution

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