[SydPhil] The Artful Species (2012, OUP): book discussion with Professor Stephen Davies (Auckland) at Macquarie University

Nicolas Bullot nicolas.bullot at gmail.com
Thu Sep 5 11:34:57 AEST 2013

Dear All,

During the second week of October, Distinguished Professor Stephen
Davies (Department of Philosophy, University of Auckland) will visit
the Department of Cognitive Science and the ARC Centre of Excellence
in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD), Macquarie University.

Stephen Davies (http://artsfaculty.auckland.ac.nz/staff/?UPI=sdav056 )
is an eminent philosopher of art, with particular expertise in music
and the relationships between aesthetics, art, and evolution.

On Thursday 10 October (around 1-3 pm), I will organise with Robert
Ross a meeting to discuss The Artful Species (2012), his recent book
published by Oxford University Press:
http://artfulspecies.wordpress.com/ (publisher description pasted

If you are interested in attending the book discussion, please send me
email (nicolas.bulot at mq.edu.au). We will distribute some preliminary
readings and provide you with updated information regarding the
structure, time, and location of the meeting by email.

On the next day, Stephen Davies will present a paper at the
CCD/Department of Cognitive Science. This seminar is public and you do
not have to register if you wish to attend. The details are available
below and at this URL:

Title: The Aesthetics of Human Adornment

Speaker: Stephen Davies

Abstract: In this paper I review the origins of human adornment and
ornamentation, such as jewelry. I suggest that personal adornments are
neither trivial nor meaningless and consider their social functions.
And I discuss connections between the aesthetic character of such
adornments and their functionality.

Date and time: Friday, 11 October 2013, 12:15PM until 1:30PM;

Location: Australian Hearing Hub (AHH), room 3.610, Macquarie University

Best regards,

Nicolas Bullot

and Robert Ross

PS: Description of The Artful Species by the publisher:

“The Artful Species explores the idea that our aesthetic responses and
art behaviors are connected to our evolved human nature. Our humanoid
forerunners displayed aesthetic sensibilities hundreds of thousands of
years ago and the art standing of prehistoric cave paintings is
virtually uncontested. In Part One, Stephen Davies analyses the key
concepts of the aesthetic, art, and evolution, and explores how they
might be related. He considers a range of issues, including whether
animals have aesthetic tastes and whether art is not only universal
but cross-culturally comprehensible. Part Two examines the many
aesthetic interests humans take in animals and how these reflect our
biological interests, and the idea that our environmental and
landscape preferences are rooted in the experiences of our distant
ancestors. In considering the controversial subject of human beauty,
evolutionary psychologists have traditionally focused on female
physical attractiveness in the context of mate selection, but Davies
presents a broader view which decouples human beauty from mate choice
and explains why it goes more with social performance and
self-presentation. Part Three asks if the arts, together or singly,
are biological adaptations, incidental byproducts of nonart
adaptations, or so removed from biology that they rate as purely
cultural technologies. Davies does not conclusively support any one of
the many positions considered here, but argues that there are grounds,
nevertheless, for seeing art as part of human nature. Art serves as a
powerful and complex signal of human fitness, and so cannot be
incidental to biology. Indeed, aesthetic responses and art behaviors
are the touchstones of our humanity.”

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