Play, Skill, and the Origins of Perceptual Art

British Journal of Aesthetics 55 (2):173-197 (2015)
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Abstract
Art is universal across cultures. Yet, it is biologically expensive because of the energy expended and reduced vigilance. Why do humans make and contemplate it? This paper advances a thesis about the psychological origins of perceptual art. First, it delineates the aspects of art that need explaining: not just why it is attractive, but why fine execution and form—which have to do with how the attraction is achieved—matter over and above attractiveness. Second, it states certain constraints: we need to explain pleasure in contemplation, not value extracted from the object by activities other than contemplation. The theory is that aesthetic pleasure is a motivation for learning skills. Two forms of pleasure are postulated. The first accompanies the spontaneous activity necessary for learning a more or less universal basic level of skill. The second accompanies highly skilled activity. This second kind of pleasure is specific to art as such.
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First archival date: 2013-11-22
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