Does the new Classicism need Evolutionary Theory?

In Elizabeth Millán (ed.), After the Avant-Gardes: Reflections on the Future of the Fine Arts. Chicago: Open Court Publishers. pp. 109-126 (2016)
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Abstract
In what way might the new classicism gain support from evolutionary theory? My rough answer is that evolutionary theory can help defend a return to more classical artistic standards and also explain why classical standards are not simply imposed by social conditioning or by powerful elites, but arise naturally from something more fundamental in the human constitution. Classical standards and themes are an expression of our evolutionary history. The mind can be seen as a biological organ or function, produced by evolutionary selection pressure. The most arguable and interesting expression of this point of view is that which says that the human mind is more like a Swiss army knife than a general-purpose computer or sponge for information. Our minds are modular. First propounded by Jerry Fodor, the idea was taken up by evolutionary psychologists and fleshed out with a history. Evolution has given us cognitive modules, partly self-contained mental “machines” that are attuned to solving problems with a narrowly defined domain. Darwinian evolution has shaped our minds in particular ways that fundamentally affect our evaluation of everything we perceive and therefore our appreciation of art. I draw out a surprising implication of combining the modular view with evolution: that our aesthetic standards may, to some extent, be fragmented and not quite as universal as held by the orthodox defence of classical art.
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First archival date: 2015-11-21
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