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ART AND HUMAN NATURE

David Schwartz, dschwartz@randolphcollege.edu

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION 
This seminar examines the nature and function of art from two distinct perspectives: philosophy and biology.  The course begins with students exploring several influential theories of art offered by philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Nietzsche, Tolstoy, and Wittgenstein.  After exploring these traditional humanistic accounts of art, students will explore the work of contemporary natural scientists (especially evolutionary biologists) concerning the origins of art and its relation to human nature.  For example, do humans make and enjoy art because doing so is an evolutionary adaptation that had survival value in our past?   The course concludes with some reflections on the virtues and limitations of humanistic v. scientific inquiry into art and its significance. 

 

READINGS AND TEXTS 

  1. Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology.  Cahn and Meskin, eds.. Blackwell Publishing, 2011.
    1. The Art Instinct. Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution.  Dennis Dutton.  Bloomsbury Press, 2009.
    2. Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature.  Alva Noe.  Hill and Wang, 2015.

 

STUDENT REQUIREMENTS
Weekly short writing assignments; two formal essays.

 

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR
David Schwartz is the Garrey Carruthers Chair for fall 2017.  In real life, he is the Mary Frances Williams Chair of Humanities and Philosophy at Randolph College, in Virginia.  His scholarly interests include ethics, environmental philosophy, and the philosophy of art.  Most recently, he published the second edition of a book on consumer ethics, Consuming Choices: Ethics in a Global Consumer Age.  He has also written a book on public support for the arts.  When not philosophizing, he enjoys working on -- and driving -- his mobile work of art, "The Ant Car"