Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Posts Tagged ‘Geoffrey Miller

The fitness indicator

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To be reliable, fitness indicators must be difficult for low-fitness individuals to produce. Applied to human art, this suggests that beauty equals difficulty and high cost. We find attractive those things that could have been produced only by people with attractive, high-fitness qualities such as health, energy, endurance, hand-eye coordination, fine motor control, intelligence, creativity, access to rare materials, the ability to learn difficult skills, and lots of free time…The beauty of a work of art reveals the artist’s virtuosity. This is a very old-fashioned view of aesthetics, but that does not make it wrong. Throughout most of human history, the perceived beauty of an object has depended very much on its cost. That cost could be measured in time, energy, skill, or money…

Our sense of beauty was shaped by evolution to embody an awareness of what is difficult as opposed to easy, rare as opposed to common, costly as opposed to cheap, skillful as opposed to talentless, and fit as opposed to unfit…From an evolutionary point of view, the fundamental challenge facing artists is to demonstrate their fitness by making something that lower-fitness competitors could not make, thus proving themselves more socially and sexually attractive. This challenge arises not only in the visual arts, but also in music, storytelling, humor, and many other behaviors…Beauty conveys truth, but not the way we thought. Aesthetic significance does not deliver truth about the human condition in general: it delivers truth about the condition of a particular human, the artist.

Geoffrey Miller, The Mating Mind

Written by nevalalee

March 31, 2018 at 7:30 am

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