Sexual Selection, Aesthetic Choice, and Agency

In Elisabeth Gayon, Philippe Huneman, Victor Petit & Michel Veuille (eds.), 150 Years of the Descent of Man. New York: Routledge (forthcoming)
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Darwin hypothesized that some animals, when selecting sexual partners, possess a genuine “sense of beauty” that cannot be accounted for by the logic of natural selection. This hypothesis has been notoriously controversial. In this chapter I propose that the concept of agency can be useful to operationalize the “sense of beauty”, and can help identify the conditions under which one can infer that animals are acting as (aesthetic) agents. Focusing on a case study of the behavior of the Pavo cristatus, I identify the types of evidence that would allow for the inference of agency through aesthetic choice.

Author's Profile

Hugh Desmond
Leibniz Universität Hannover


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