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Delighted to be here and to talk to you about a subject dear to my heart, which is beauty. I do the philosophy of art, aesthetics, actually, for a living. I try to figure out intellectually,philosophically, psychologically, what the experience of beauty is, what sensibly can be said about it and how people go off the rails in trying to understand it. Now this is an extremely complicated subject, in part because the things that we call beautiful are so different. I mean just think of the sheer variety -- a baby's face, Berlioz's "Harold in Italy,"movies like "The Wizard of Oz" or the plays of Chekhov, a central California landscape, a Hokusai view of Mt. Fuji, "Der Rosenkavalier," a stunning match-winning goal in a World Cup soccer match, Van Gogh's "Starry Night," a Jane Austen novel, Fred Astaire dancing across the screen. This brief list includes human beings, natural landforms, works of art and skilled human actions. An account that explains the presence of beauty in everything on this list is not going to be easy. I can, however, give you at least a taste of what I regard as the most powerful theory of beauty we yet have. And we get it not from a philosopher of art, not from a postmodern art theorist or a bigwig art critic. No, this theory comes from an expert on barnacles and worms and pigeon breeding, and you know who I mean: Charles Darwin. Of course, a lot of people think they already know the proper answer to the question, "What is beauty?" It's in the eye of the beholder. It's whatever moves you personally. Or, as some people, especially academics prefer, beauty is in the culturally conditioned eye of the beholder. People agree that paintings or movies or music are beautiful because their cultures determine a uniformity of aesthetic taste. Taste for both natural beauty and for the arts travel across cultures with great ease. Beethoven is adored in Japan. Peruvians love Japanese woodblock prints. Inca sculptures are regarded as treasures in British museums, while Shakespeare is translatedinto every major language of the Earth. Or just think about American jazz or American movies -they go everywhere. There are many differences among the arts, but there are also universal, cross-cultural aesthetic pleasures and values. How can we explain this universality? The best answer lies in trying to reconstruct a Darwinian evolutionary history of our artistic and aesthetic tastes. We need to reverseengineer our present artistic tastes and preferences and explain how they came to be engraved in our minds by the actions of both our prehistoric, largely pleistocene environments, where we became fully human, but also by the social situations in which we evolved. This reverse engineering can also enlist help from the human record preserved in prehistory. I mean fossils, cave paintings and so forth. And it should take into account what we know of the aesthetic interests of isolated hunter-gatherer bands that survived into the 19th and the 20th centuries. Now, I personally have no doubt whatsoever that the experience of beauty, with its emotional intensity and pleasure, belongs to our evolved human psychology. The experience of beauty is one component in a whole series of Darwinian adaptations. Beauty is an adaptive effect, which we extend and intensify in the creation and enjoyment of works of art and entertainment. As many of you will know, evolution operates by two main primary mechanisms. The first of these is natural selection -- that's random mutation and selective retention -- along with our basic anatomy and physiology -- the evolution of the pancreas or the eye or the fingernails. Natural selection also explains many basic revulsions, such as the horrid smell of rotting meat, or fears, such as the fear of snakes or standing close to the edge of a cliff. Natural selection also explains pleasures -- sexual pleasure, our liking for sweet, fat and proteins, which in turn explains a lot of popular foods, from ripe fruits through chocolate malts and barbecued ribs. The other great principle of evolution is sexual selection, and it operates very differently. The peacock's magnificent tail is the most famous example of this. It did not evolve for natural survival. In fact, it goes against natural survival. No, the peacock's tail results from the mating choices made by peahens. It's quite a familiar story. It's women who actually push history forward. Darwin himself, by the way, had no doubts that the peacock's tail was beautiful in the eyes of the peahen. He actually used that word. Now, keeping these ideas firmly in mind, we can say that the experience of beauty is one of the ways that evolution has of arousing and

unlike other pleistocene tools. such skills increased the status of those who displayed them and gained a reproductive advantage over the less capable. displays that are performances like the peacock's tail. It is widely assumed that the earliest human artworksare the stupendously skillful cave paintings that we all know from Lascaux and Chauvet. But. indications of animal or bird life as well as diverse greenery and finally -. But artistic and decorative skills are actually much older than that. almost everywhere Homo erectus and Homo ergaster roamed. even today. What were these artifacts for? The best available answer is that they were literally the earliest known works of art. are too big to use for butchery.that is to say. so I can show you my hand axes?" (Laughter) Except.tools fashioned to function as what Darwinians call "fitness signals" -. Acheul in France. the hand axes are consciously cleverly crafted.sustaining interest or fascination. sometimes rounded ovals. symmetrical pointed leaf or teardrop form. I'd like to look back to prehistory to say something about it. by the way.000 years before language. if they're trees you could scramble up if you were in a tight fix. unlike hair and feathers. Europe and Africa.intelligence. So evolution's trick is to make them beautiful. a landscape that just happens to be similar to the pleistocene savannas where we evolved. These Acheulian hand axes -they're named after St. almost inviting you to follow it. their attractive materials and. contemplated both for their elegant shape and their virtuoso craftsmanship. the magnetic pull of beautiful landscapes.000 years ago. until around 1. the sheer numbers of these hand axes shows that they can't have been made for butchering animals."Why don't you come up to my cave. or evidence of water in a bluish distance. they're ancient. How about artistic beauty? Isn't that exhaustively cultural? No. they're foreign. scattered across Asia. the hand axes often exhibitno evidence of wear on their delicate blade edges. Beautiful shell necklaces that look like something you'd see at an arts and crafts fair. They go back about two-and-a-half-million years. I have in mind the socalled Acheulian hand axes. you can't expect to eat an adaptively beneficial landscape. are often preferred if they fork near the ground.000 and 100. I don't think it is. I mean. And the plot really thickens when you realize that. in the design of golf courses and public parks and in gold-framed pictures that hang in living roomsfrom New York to New Zealand. but they're at the same time somehow familiar. Hand axes mark an evolutionary advance in human history -.Stretching .Chauvet caves are about 32. as well as ochre body paint. The trees. Beauty is nature's way of acting at a distance.000 years old. in order to encourage us toward making the most adaptive decisions for survival and reproduction. but it's an incredible fact. it's an old line. It's a kind of Hudson River school landscape featuring open spaces of low grasses interspersed with copses of trees.get this -. Consider briefly an important source of aesthetic pleasure. thin stone blades. The oldest stone tools are choppers from the Olduvai Gorge in East Africa. conscientiousness and sometimes access to rare materials. But the most intriguing prehistoric artifacts are older even than this. Their symmetry. This object was made by a hominid ancestor. that extends into the distance. that's natural beauty. their meticulous workmanship are simply quite beautiful to our eyes. even by people in countries that don't have it. because the Homo erectus that made these objects did not have language. This landscape shows up today on calendars. It would hardly do to eat your baby or your lover. have been found from around 100. realistic sculptures of women and animals from the same period. planning ability. And once again. where finds were made in 19th century --have been unearthed in their thousands.Homo erectus or Homo ergaster. These crude tools were around for thousands of centuries.I mean.a path or a road. The ideal savanna landscape is one of the clearest examples where human beings everywhere find beauty in similar visual experience. fine motor control. This landscape type is regarded as beautiful. even obsession. on postcards. The landscape shows the presence of water directly in view. Now.4 million years ago when Homo erectusstarted shaping single. but often in what are to our eyes an arresting. So what were these ancient -. except that. that is to say. Over tens of thousands of generations. of course. Competently made hand axes indicated desirable personal qualities -. People in very different cultures all over the world tend to like a particular kind of landscape. perhaps a riverbank or a shoreline. along with a few small. above all. so to speak. what's interesting about this is that we can't be sure how that idea was conveyed. to have them exert a kind of magnetism to give you the pleasure of simply looking at them. It's hard to grasp. You know. someone might argue. And some. practical tools transformed into captivating aesthetic objects. but it has been shown to work -. in any event. between 50.

So the next time you pass a jewelry shop window displaying a beautifully cut teardrop-shaped stone. finally -. the hand axe tradition is the longest artistic tradition in human and protohuman history. Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? No.as they were then called. Thank you. human beingshave a permanent innate taste for virtuoso displays in the arts. But still.over a million years. Your distant ancestors loved that shape and found beauty in the skill needed to make it. to the night sky. to express intense emotions with music. don't be so sure it's just your culture telling you that that sparkling jewel is beautiful. to the beauty of music. one fundamental trait of the ancestral personality persists in our aesthetic cravings: the beauty we find in skilled performances. By the end of the hand axe epic. painting and dance. Homo sapiens -. Our powerful reaction to images. dancing. it's deep in our minds. Yes. even before they could put their love into words. (Applause) . telling jokes. It's a gift handed down from the intelligent skills and rich emotional lives of our most ancient ancestors. From Lascaux to the Louvre to Carnegie Hall. virtuoso technique is used to create imaginary worlds in fiction and in movies.I insist on that. to the expression of emotion in art. who knows. We find beauty in something done well. will be with us and our descendants for as long as the human race exists.were doubtless finding new ways to amuse and amaze each otherby. or hairstyling. storytelling. For us moderns. hairstyling -.