Centrality of Art

February 18, 2010 | 1 Comment

Category: Art, Estrogen, Neoteny, Play

“On the other hand, his sense of aesthetic appreciation, based on the pleasure which man can receive from the construction and matching of musical patterns involving the interaction of rhythm, melody, and harmony and visual patterns resulting from the interaction of form and color, has also resulted from the freeing of his association areas from the more rigid relationship with the lower centers and with the more stereotyped, amorphous symbol patterns which constitute the inner reality of all other animals (Koestler 1964).  Aesthetic appreciation, therefore, is a foetalised form of the continuous search for congruity or matching between models of the environment, models which the animal constantly constructs in its brain by processing its perceptions and the stereotypes retained in its memory store.”  (Crombie, Donald L., “The Group System of Man and Paedomorphosis,” Current Anthropology 12(2) (1971):163.)

Going through my store of excerpts from several hundred papers and close to 300 books, I came across the passage above, having no memory of having recorded it.  This is what I’ve been playing with the last few weeks as regards a theory of music and aesthetics that emerge as a result of embryonic features appearing in the behavior and experience of adults.

This is not looking at art as a contingent or accidental property associated with intelligence that was naturally selected because intelligence exhibits facility with tools.  Art is instead approached as central to what humans sexually selected in each other as they sought mates exhibiting sensitivity to aesthetics.

In addition, the passage above suggests that art itself reflects an embryonic dynamic, a period in ontogeny when growth is characterized by an environment integrally involved with how an individual develops.

A question emerges.  I posit that neoteny is central to human evolution driven by sexual selection/social structure and environmental issues, with the creativity of infants appearing in the behavior of adults.  In addition, I consider, as the passage above suggests, that actual embryonic processes themselves are reflected in the aesthetic dynamics of our species.  Is there a relationship between neotenic physical features appearing in species over time and the creative exhibition of either males and/or females when displaying to achieve a mate?  In other words, do other species show alliances between neoteny and creativity?  How are neoteny and sexual selection closely allied outside humans?

In an earlier piece, I surmised that increases in estrogen in the female would also increase her tendency to focus with more discrimination on features in a potential mate while perhaps paying closer attention to her young.  If patterns in nature operate similarly to the way I describe how humans may have evolved, then might the exhibition of creativity in other species besides humans be also an exhibition of a tendency to prolong infant or embryo features into the adult of the species, where they would then provide males more behavioral flexibility when it comes to accommodating female predilection for the unique?

Does female choice result in not only sexual selection but a tendency toward male neoteny, resulting in the emergence of creativity when seeking mates?

It is rare when I think of human evolution dynamics in the context of other animals.  Doing so now, I find myself wondering if larger patterns are in play.


This entry was posted on Thursday, February 18th, 2010 at 8:39 am and is filed under Art, Estrogen, Neoteny, Play. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
1 Comment so far

  1. Troy Camplin on February 19, 2010 2:35 am

    We know that the younger the monkey or chimpanzee, the more creative and experimental they are — and the more likely they are to engage in cultural change. It happens with people as well, of course, though far less severely.

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