The Origin of Aesthetic Feeling and Art


The Makapansgat pebble was taken by an australopithecus to its cave

The Makapansgat pebble was taken by an australopithecus to its cave, between 2.5 and 3 million years ago

People have (a gift for) aesthetic feeling, the capacity to recognize beauty. It is through the senses that feelings and ideas that evoke a sense beauty are recognized by the brain of man. This gift is probably the result of three aspects that have a strong connection with the reproduction of man. That this gift may already exist in a forerunner of man is possible. In Makapansgat (South Africa) a pebble was discovered that has a likeness with a face. The australopithecus that found this pebble, between 2.5 and 3 million years ago, must have found the similarity with a face beautiful and took it to his cave. Australopithecus had aesthetic feeling.

 First aspect. Sight is as far as aesthetic feeling is concerned probably the most important of the senses. People like other people. Hunters and gatherers could not live without their clan. The African San, better known under their old name Bushmen, e.g. paid frequent and long visits to neighboring groups. There was the attraction for the other (or same) sex. People are passionate about other people, their eyes, their voice, their ways of moving, their play, their touches and so on.

Second aspect. People usually have much interest in animals. Chimpanzees and bonobos also have a large, spontaneous interest in animals. People love animals, they observe, learn to know their behaviors and share their interest and love for animals. For many hunters and gatherers this interest was closely related with the fact that animals were their most prized food. They had a great anatomical knowledge of animals and knew about the biological similarity between man and animal. The behaviour of humans and animals showed a lot of similarities: care for the young, aggression, flight, hunting tactics and so on.

The sight of animals that could serve as food for humans had to provoke a ‘good feeling ‘ and that is essentially nothing else than the emotion of beauty which is aesthetic feeling.

A third aspect was plant food. To find edible food, leaves, fruit, nuts and so on man had to recognize odors, colors, textures, patterns, shapes, sounds and so on. He also liked colors and shapes in landscapes, looked at the sky and liked or disliked the weather that was coming. All these feelings provoked a good feeling, which is a feeling of beauty. This capacity was an advantage in gathering plants, in evaluating where the clan had to move to find food.  

The enthusiasm of man for humans, animals and plants and their derived shapes, colors, gestures, drawings, in theatre, singing etc. is in its origin is closely linked to the reproduction of man. Thinking of something as beautiful is connected with life, with reproduction, with other people and with food: a tree with ripe fruit, edible leaves, a weakened animal, to recognize a potential partner and the enthusiasm that this awakens. On this basis man could like an infinite number of combinations and derivatives.

This aesthetic sense is part of the creative intelligence of man has. It is obvious  that smell, feeling, hearing, and taste are heavily involved in finding food and partners. Hearing allows us to appreciate sounds like singing and music. What we like with our senses, what we think is beautiful or pleasant is strongly influenced by the culture that we inherited. Summarized: properties that were developed in humans and essential for the (re)production of people and food were the basis for a highly developed aesthetic sense.

What is Art?

What is not is made by man may appeal to the aesthetic sense but is not considered art. Art is everything that is created by man and awakens his aesthetic sense. One may think that a natural landscape is beautiful but that is not art in this definition, because it is part of nature, not man made. Any realization by a human or humans may be art for someone: this may be a tool, a building, music, perfume, a car, a poem, a song, a sound, a theatre piece, an ashtray, an abstract drawing or a painting with a gypsy woman.

marc.i.vermeersch@gmail.com

If you are interested in art you might like these blogs:
Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead 
Rather unknown, undeserved, the oldest known art in the world

The Origin of Aesthetic Feeling and Art Fundamental: How our aesthetic feeling originated in reproduction of man, a darwinian explanation.

7000 BP: The Thinker an the Sitting Woman

Chauvet Cave, the oldest known cave art in Europe The recently discovered cave shows that the European late palaeolithic culture lasted at least 20,000 years.

The oldest statuettes adapted by man are between 233,000 and 800,000 years old.

The oldest European Venus figurine was found in the Hohle Fels cave (Germany) It is between 35,000 and 40,000 years old.

“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal ‘Der Löwenmensch” was found in Germany.

The oldest Love Statuette in the World They keep on loving for ever in the British Museum.

A virtual visit to the Lascaux Cave is mind blowing!

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