Philosophy Colloquium
Fabrizio Desideri
Department of Philosophy, Universita` di Firenze (University of Florence)
On the Epigenesis of the Aesthetic Mind: The Sense of Beauty from Survival to Supervenience

What is the origin and meaning of our aesthetic sense? Is it genetically encoded or is it culturally inherited? The aim of this essay is to answer to such issues by defining the emergent and meta-functional character of the aesthetic attitude. First, I propose to include desire, somewhat controversially, in the free play of the cognitive faculties at the heart of Kant's Critique of Judgment. This step is justified, in part, by a brief analysis of Darwin's controversial remarks on the pre-human birth of aesthetics and its relationship with sexual selection (§§ 1-2). The point of discontinuity between a mere animal aesthetic sense and a proto-human one is then found in becoming indeterminate of desire and in the correlative diversification of aesthetic attractors (§§ 3-4). I next deal with the supervenience character of the aesthetic and its anticipatory value. After giving a short genealogy of the notion of supervenience, I then develop its affinity with that of epigenesis (§§ 5-6). What then follows is a critical review of two contemporary evolutionary perspectives on aesthetics: T. Deacon's essay on the "aesthetic faculty" and J. Tooby and L. Cosmides thesis concerning the evolutionary meaning of aesthetic-fictional activities (§§ 7-8). My concluding section attempts to say, in light of the foregoing discussion, what the epigenesis of the aesthetic mind consists in (§§ 9-10).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

SYM 0215