Art and Adaptability argues for a co-evolution of theory of mind and material/art culture. The book covers relevant areas from great ape intelligence, hominin evolution, Stone Age tools, Paleolithic culture and art forms, to neurobiology. We use material and art objects, whether painting or sculpture, to modify our own and other people’s thoughts so as to affect behavior. We don’t just make judgments about mental states; we create objects about which we make judgments in which mental states are inherent. Moreover, we make judgments about these objects to facilitate how we explore the minds and feelings of others. The argument is that it’s not so much art because of theory of mind but art as theory of mind.
Gregory F. Tague, Ph.D. (1998), New York University, is Professor of English and founder and senior developer of The Evolutionary Studies Collaborative at St. Francis College, N.Y. Recent, relevant books include
Evolution and Human Culture (Brill|Rodopi, 2016) and
Making Mind: Moral Sense and Consciousness (Rodopi, 2014).
“The text is said to offer a novel hypothesis on the evolutionary roots of art, based on theory of mind. In itself, this proposal is compelling...” – Larissa Mendoza Straffon,
Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society “The general argument of the book is interesting and sound, and is well developed with different layer of explanation.... The manuscript fits within an upcoming and ongoing tendency to study the origins of art from a cognitive perspective that specifically emphasizes theory of mind...doing so from a similarly interdisciplinary point of view. As such, the contents are both innovative and fitting within actual developments in this field.” – Eveline Seghers,
Department of Art, Music and Theatre Studies, Ghent University “Gregory F. Tague approaches two ancient questions, what is art and what does it do, in a new and intriguing way. Drawing on science, specifically evolution through natural selection, he proposes that art, like other forms of social behavior, is in part genetic, creative or imaginative impulse, and part environmental, social interaction. Support for this proposal comes from primate studies and current studies in neurobiology, cognition, intelligence and communication. He proposes, and I agree, that culture is common among great apes with whom we share social and mental abilities. Modern humans, however, unlike other primates, have a more highly degreed theory of mind. This ability to make predictions based on the perceived mental states of others facilitated our ancestors’ ability to competitively cooperate. Culture, which would include art, was, as he explains, “part of a predictive attempt to affect another’s emotional or cognitive outcome, often in subtle ways.” As influence is a critical part of social behavior, art, which has costs that can be quite high, provides social benefits. In sum, the road Tague takes to answering the questions – what is art and what does it do, how might it be connected to health, pleasure, play, sociality, and emotions – is complex; however, art is not a simple thing to explain. While he draws on many variables to build and support his argument, he provides the reader with a provocative and enlightening journey.
Art and Adaptability is an excellent book – a fabulous search through many fields for an explanation of the curious behavior we call art.” – Kathryn Coe, Ph.D., Professor and Lilly Scholar in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Indiana University-Purdue University. Author,
The Ancestress Hypothesis: Visual Art as Adaptation
Table of contents
AcknowledgementsSimplified Radiations of Select Primate SpeciesSimplified Radiations of Select Hominin SpeciesThe Long PleistoceneIntroduction: Setting Boundaries1 Intelligence: Communication and Theory of Mind Great Ape Intelligence and Communication Symbolic Communication and Consciousness Inter-Subjectivity and Evolution Great Ape Theory of Mind Human Theory of Mind Artificial Intelligence The Anthropocentric Attitude Chapter One Dovetail
2 Culture: The Adapted Mind Human Network: Scope and Scale Symbolic Culture Culture and the Adapted Mind Gene/Culture Co-Evolution Culture and Social Selection Culture and Epigenetics Mind Sharing Chapter Two Dovetail
3 Adaptive Functions: Selection and the Human Psyche Adaptation and Natural Selection Defined Phenomenal Consciousness Adaptive Problems and Questions Darwin and Natural Selection Darwin and Sexual Selection Selection and Tools Cognition, Cooperation, and Extended Evolution Making Special Pleistocene Landscape Preferences Can We Define Art? Neanderthals and Art Cave Painting and Superstition Art and Altered States of Consciousness Cave Art and Images Art and the Human Psyche Beauty, the Brain, and the Body Chapter Three Dovetail
4 Objections: Philosophy and Byproducts Philosophy and Art Pinker’s Cheesecake for the Mind An Art Instinct? Corrective to Art as Sexual Selection Humanology Social Selection Over Sexual Selection? The Biology of Art as Speculative? Two Hypotheses Explanatory Dilemma Chapter Four Dovetail
5 Neurobiology and Cognition: Consciousness and Representation Artistic Behavior and the Social Brain The Subject of Aesthetics Orienting Creative Cognition Art, Ambiguity, and Making Meaning Representation and Metarepresentation Bodily and Cultural Consciousness Line or Color? Seeing Reality Abstractly Knowledge, Beauty, and Neutrality From Discontinuity to Essence Brain Sight and Insight Beauty and Cognitive Emotions Ritual Art Chapter Five Dovetail
Conclusion: The Arts and SciencesBibliographyIndex
Students and scholars interested in the adaptive function of the arts, the evolution of culture, human evolution and intelligence, and continuities between humans and great apes will find
Art and Adaptability insightful.