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AESTHETICS AFTER THE MULTIPLE ORIGINS AND FUNCTIONS OF THE ARTS DARWIN Evolution, Cognition, and the Arts Series Editor Brian Boyd (University of Auckland) Editorial Board Steven Brown (McMaster University) Jill Cook (The British Museum) Richard Gerrig (Stony Brook University) Sarah Blaffer-Hrdy (University of California, Davis) Marcus Nordlund (University of Gothenburg) Alex C. Parrish (James Madison University) David Sloan Wilson (Binghamton University) AESTHETICS AFTER THE MULTIPLE ORIGINS AND FUNCTIONS OF THE ARTS WINFRIED MENNINGHAUS Translated by Alexandra Berlina DARWIN B oston 2019 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Menninghaus, Winfried, author. Title: Aesthetics after Darwin: the Multiple Origins and Functions of the Arts / Winfried Menninghaus. Other titles: Wozu Kunst? English Description: Brighton, MA : Academic Studies Press, 2019. | “The original German version of this book was published in 2011. For the purposes of the present English translation, it was substantially revised.” | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2019001643 (print) | LCCN 2019012368 (ebook) | ISBN 9781644690017 (ebook) | ISBN 9781644690000 (hardcover) Subjects: LCSH: Arts—Philosophy. | Aesthetics. | Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882. Descent of man. Classification: LCC BH39 (ebook) | LCC BH39 .M452713 2019 (print) | DDC 700.1—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019001643 © Academic Studies Press, 2019 All rights reserved. ISBN (ebook) 978-1-64469-018-5 ISBN (hardcover) 978-1-64469-017-8 Book and cover design by Lapiz Digital Services. Published by Academic Studies Press. 21577 Beacon street, Brookline, MA 02446, USA press@academicstudiespress.com www.academicstudiespress.com Contents Introduction#8;vii 1. #7; Competitive Courtship and Aesthetic Judgment/Choice: Darwin’s Model of the Arts#8; 1 1. The “Sense of Beauty”: Darwin’s General Assumptions regarding Aesthetic Virtues and Aesthetic Judgment#8; 2 2. Darwin’s Visual Aesthetics: From the Theory of Bodily “Ornaments” to the Human Visual Arts#8; 16 2.1 Naked Skin as the Prime Ornament of Human Appearance#8;16 2.2 The Human Arts of Self-Painting, Self-Decoration, and Self-(De)formation#8;23 2.3 Seeing the Invisible: From Naked Skin to Aesthetic Imagination#8;28 3. Darwin’s Theory of Music and Rhetoric#8; 30 Birds, Mammals, and Humans as Sexual “Singers”#8;30 3.1 Darwin’s Theory of Music-Elicited Emotions#8;42 3.2 The Heritage of Sexual Proto-Music in Language, Rhetoric, 3.3 and Literature#8;50 4. Peacocks/Songbirds and Human Artists: Merits and Limits of the Parallel#8; 57 2. #7; The Arts as Promoters of Social Cooperation and Cohesion#8; 65 1. The Arts as Costly, Competitive Signals, and the “Motherese” Hypothesis#8; 66 2. Artful Multimedia Performances as Costly Practices of “Courting” Preferred Allies?#8; 68 3. Joint Music Making and Multimedia Performances as Promoters of Intragroup Cooperation/Cohesion#8; 71 4. The Multiple Blends of Competitive and Cooperative Effects of the Arts#8; 77 3. Engagement in the Arts as Ontogenetic Self-(Trans-)Formation#8; 80 4. #7; A Cooptation Model of the Evolution of the Human Arts: When “Sense of Beauty,” Play Behavior, Technology, and Symbolic Cognition Join Forces#8; 84 1. The “Sense of Beauty”#8; 85 2. Sexual Courtship, Play, and the Arts #8; 86 3. Technology and the Arts#8; 92 4. Symbolic Cognition/Language and the Arts#8; 104 4.1 Transcending the Here and Now: Imagination and Narrativity#8; 105 4.2 Tolerance for and Competence in Ambiguities and Indeterminacies#8; 112 4.3 The Risks and Potentials of Deception and Self-Delusion#8; 115 5. The Four Coopted Adaptations in Interaction#8; 117 Bibliography#8;121 Index#8;158 Introduction Humans have applied ornamental natural objects and artifacts to their bodies and most likely also practiced body painting for some hundred thousand years, if not longer. Extant figurative paintings as well as musical instruments are about forty thousand years old. Given the evolution of 1 the human vocal tract, the presumably oldest human arts, those of singing (and perhaps also of concomitant dancing), may well have been practiced already for several hundred thousand years. However, by their very nature, these pure performance arts left no material traces, and hence no conclusive empirical proof, in the archeological record. In any event, countless animal practices of artful singing, dancing, and multimedia displays are likely to be far older than their human analogues. Importantly, these animal practices, like those of humans, typically involve extensive learning and practicing, and accordingly show substantial “cultural” variation. In 2 fact, Darwin exclusively spoke of animal “arts” in cases where the respective not practices are fully genetically coded but require ontogenetic learning. 3 Findings and hypotheses of this sort constitute the rationale for the questions asked by evolutionary aesthetics: Can the animal and the human arts both be conceived as evolved adaptations? And has their respective evolution potentially been driven by similar functional benefits? Moreover, looking at features distinctive of the human arts only (such as the use of 1 For details, see below, p. 92–101. 2 Kroodsma, “Learning and the Ontogeny of Sound Signals in Birds”; Payne et al., “Biological and Cultural Success of Song Memes in Indigo Buntings.” For more details, see below, p. 4–5, 32–34. Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, I 55–56. Quotations 3 from this book follow the Princeton 1981 edition, which reproduces the text of the first edition of 1871. The Roman numeral I or II denotes the relevant part of the book, the Arabic number the page. Quotations from the second edition (1874) of Darwin’s book, which contains some amendments and additions, are pointed out by footnotes. viii Introduction technology for art production purposes, fictional content, etc.) raises the question of how previously evolved human adaptations facilitated their emergence? And do the current human arts still show traces of their potential ancient origin and functions? The present book discusses theoretical hypotheses regarding these fundamental questions, while reviewing the available empirical evidence. Evolutionary explanations of the animal and human arts in the end all involve a response to the question “Wherefore art?” After all, according to the standard theory, evolutionary processes favor some bodily and behavioral traits over others, if and to the extent they provide some advantage in a given—or coevolving—evolutionary environment. Functional hypotheses regarding the evolution of the human arts are tricky battlegrounds. As already indicated, archaic functions of bodily and behav4 adaptations—and hence the very drivers of their evolution according to the standard model—have often left no archeological traces. If they did, these traces are typically fairly difficult to read. In any event, it is far from clear to what extent, if at all, the function of a behavioral trait observed today is identical to the archaic function that originally drove its evolution. 5 Regarding archaic practices of the human arts, the worst case applies: visual artworks and musical instruments (but not music itself) are handed down to posterity, but without any cues as to their meaning, uses, and functions in cultures from which nothing is left but material traces limited to particularly durable objects. Comparisons with historically documented and current human cultures offer some guidance for arriving at hypotheses regarding the role of the arts as practiced tens if not hundreds of thousands of years before our time; yet again, it can by no means be taken for granted that the functions of the human arts have not significantly changed over such a long stretch of time. For all these fully acknowledged risks and difficulties, the first three chapters of the present book, while always including empirical research into physiological mechanisms, discuss primarily three hypotheses of function. The first two are frequently discussed as potential evolutionary functions: 4 Cf. Tinbergen, “On Aims and Methods of Ethology,” and Fitch, “The Biology and Evolution of Music,” 174 sqq. 5 Cf. ibid., 175. Introduction ix 1.  #7; T he human arts of singing and self-adornment evolved as competitive practices of aesthetically appealing self-presentation sexual courtship. (self-advertisement) in the context of This is how Charles Darwin’s treatment of the animal and the human arts is typically understood. Chapter 1 discusses this hypothesis with an emphasis on the limitations of the human–animal parallel that Darwin explicitly highlighted. Many scholars have neglected to social discuss the limitations of this parallel. The role of the arts for self-distinction can be considered as an extension of this hypothesis beyond the narrower sexual context. 2.  #7; Th e arts of singing, dancing, and ritual multimedia displays evolved as communal practices of reinforcing social cooperation and cohesion within or between human groups. This hypothesis has some advocates in evolutionary theory and enjoys much support in ethnology and social anthropology. It is discussed in Chapter 2. ontogenetic self-(trans)formation of individuals. 3.  #7; Th e arts serve the This hypothesis by and large underlies the humanist concept of “liberal education.” Because this hypothesis is not a hypothesis about the evolutionary origins of art, but about the role of art education in modern school systems and societies, Chapter 3 does not treat it at length, but exclusively focuses on the question: How incompatible or compatible is this hypothesis with the hypotheses of sexual competition/social distinction and social cooperation/ cohesion? The first and longest chapter of the present book follows in the footsteps of the giant of evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin. Surprisingly, many important theoretical distinctions Darwin proposed for an evolutionary understanding of the visual, vocal, and verbal human arts have gone completely untreated not only in textbook renditions of his theory but also in the narrower context of evolutionary theory. Put briefly, the reason for this lacuna lies in the strongly asymmetrical reception of Darwin’s theory of natural selection—as presented in his book The Origin of Species (1859)— and his theory of special processes of sexual selection (The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, 1871). Whereas the theory of natural selection covers all interactions between an organism and its ecological niche at large (including climate, food resources, competition with other species, se re by comparing them with the performances of peacocks and songbirds. 2 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin 1. The “Sense of Beauty”: Darwin’s General Assumptions regarding Aesthetic Virtues and Aesthetic Judgment Darwin spent decades ruminating about the “beauty” of bodily looks, as it represented a major challenge to his theory of natural selection. Decorative feathers, horns, and antlers have reached astonishing forms and sizes in many animals, so much so that they are a massive handicap “in the general conditions of life” and mostly of little use as weapons. A cardinal text of 1 philosophical aesthetics, one that Darwin cites more than once, seems to have directly guided his theorizing regarding a “sense of beauty” or “taste”: 2 Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1756). Burke already conceptualized the extreme beauty of the peacock’s ornaments in terms of a conflict with practical “fitness,” and specifically the “aptitude” for flying. How could the peacock’s tail 3 and analogous “ornaments” evolve despite the fact that they impair movement and flight capacities, renders the respective animals highly visible to predators, and hence seem irreconcilable with Darwin’s model of adaptive natural selection? Responding to this challenge, Darwin ended up proposing a rich set of general assumptions regarding aesthetic virtues, aesthetic judgment, and their role in sexual courtship and choice. The key concepts he relies on have a long tradition before him and keep informing research in aesthetics to date: beauty, taste, novelty, familiarity, prototypicality, exaggeration, variety for the sake of variety, caprice. To start with, Darwin holds that the first step toward the evolution of a preferred body ornament is generally arbitrary. Some existing feature grows slightly more expressed through (genetic) variation. The very novelty, relative rarity, and differential quality of this “exaggeration” can attract attention. This assumption is in line both with classical aesthetics and with the current understanding of the brain functions of “predictive coding,” of consistently comparing all incoming information with antic4 based on prior knowledge. If anticipations are met, no special response is required; if minor detours from expectations occur, the brain automatically devotes more attention and more effort to dealing with the not fully expected stimulus. 1 Darwin, Descent of Man, I 279. Descent of Man, 2 Darwin, I 63–65. A Philosophical Enquiry, 3 Burke, 106. 4 Cf. Friston, “The Free-Energy Principle: A Rough Guide to the Brain?” Competitive Courtship and Aesthetic Judgment/Choice 3 Which particular characteristics of bodily appearance end up becoming preferred as ornamental traits and pushed to ever higher degrees cannot be predicted by Darwin’s theory; random variation plays a great role in this context. At the same time, some mechanisms act as constraints on potential aesthetic preferences for random variations. Thus, preferred not ornaments should be similar to those of closely related species, and 5 they should, of course, be in line with the general sensory dispositions of a species. In any event, since sexual ornaments mostly lack a pragmatic function outside the context of sexual courtship, all they need to do is to impress and please as such—and this can, in principle, be achieved in many ways. This is why Darwin’s model postulates a great variance and arbitrariness of features preferred for their “beauty.” The “caprices of fashion” are a cultural 6 analogue Darwin refers to on more than one occasion. The over-expression of ornamental traits need not be large in order to attract attention and, potentially, desire. Small, even minimal differences suffice. Thus, there is no conflict between the preferences for “mere novelty,” “change for the sake of change” and “mere variety” and for the 7 equally well-established preference for the average prototype of a species and hence for familiarity. Pointing to male preferences regarding women’s 8 looks, Darwin exemplifies this combination by stating on the one hand: “The men of each race prefer what they are accustomed to behold,” and on the other: “As the great anatomist Bichat long ago said, if everyone were cast in the same mould, there would be no such thing as beauty. If all our women were to become as beautiful as the Venus de Medici, we should for a time be charmed; but we should soon wish for variety; and as soon as we had obtained variety, we should wish to see certain characters in our women a little exaggerated beyond the then existing common standard.” 9 This dual preference for norm conformity and some degree of 10 deviation (novelty, variety, exaggeration) corresponds exactly to a basic Aristotelian rule for the verbal arts. According to this rule, the poet should include something foreign (xenón) and exaggerated (aúxesis) in his diction, 5 Eberhard, Sexual Selection and Animal Genitalia; Lande, “Genetic Correlations between the Sexes in the Evolution of Sexual Dimorphism and Mating Preferences.” 6 Darwin, Descent of Man, II 230, 339. 7 Darwin, Descent of Man, II 230. 8 Cf. Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, § 17; Fechner, Vorschule der Ästhetik, 262; Martindale and Moore, “Priming, Prototypicality, and Preference”; Winkielman et al., “Prototypes Are Attractive.” 9 Darwin, Descent of Man, II 354. 10 Cf. Langlois et al., “What Is Average and What Is Not Average about Attractive Faces,” and P Sing, Good Ornaments Bad Armaments?,” 161–67, and Rothenberg, 69–91. 16 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin either in features or looks or in artistic displays, but not in both domains simultaneously. This idea was based on the many birds that show excellent 74 musical abilities but are of an unspectacular appearance. Today, we know that many birds compete in looks, song, and dance displays at the same time. The human being, too, belongs to the species for which aesthetic competition involves multiple dimensions. Considering that it is inherently tied to a “rich” variety of sensual characteristics, aesthetic perception requires a high tolerance of and pronounced competence in regard to complexity. Experimental aesthetics supports this view. According to classical theory, ubertas and variety become aestheti75 appealing only when they also offer an order and unity of their own, one that is categorically different from conceptual order. It is this combination of potentially conflicting characteristics that creates the unlikely character and the particular appeal of forms experienced as aesthetically pleasing, 76 beautiful, or well-executed. In Darwin’s reflections on aesthetics, the aspect of gestalt-like “unity” is far less pronounced than that of exuberant “variety” and ever-changing dynamics. Still, several of his observations are based on calls both concepts. One example is the distinction he makes between the and songs of birds. Songs tend to be more complex than calls and to contain 77 far more variety. Unlike calls, the individual parts of song sequences have no decodable meaning. And yet, for all their complexity and variety, they still create the impression of an aesthetically convincing unity, for which Darwin uses the expression “to sing their song round. ” 78 2. Darwin’s Visual Aesthetics: From the Theory of Bodily “Ornaments” to the Human Visual Arts 2.1 Naked Skin as the Prime Ornament of Human Appearance Darwin’s reflections on the aesthetic evolution of the human body do not tend to concur with the paradigms of contemporary research on attractiveness. Darwin made no reference to waist-to-hip-ratios, baby face features, body mass indices, or any of the other body features highly prized in 74 Darwin, Descent of Man, II 56, 226, 352. 75 Cf. Berlyne, Aesthetics and Psychobiology, and Berlyne, Studies in the New Experimental Aesthetics. 76 Cf. Gehlen, “Über instinktives Ansprechen auf Wahrnehmungen,” 109. 77 Darwin, Descent of Man, II 51. For a more extensive treatment of this distinction see below, p. 31–33. 78 Darwin, Descent of Man, I 55. Competitive Courtship and Aesthetic Judgment/Choice 17 today’s cult of beauty. Only one “ornament” interested him with respect to the human body, yet he considered it crucial: naked skin. This “ornament” is usually not even considered to be one. At the same time, the absence of body hair clearly is the most striking difference in appearance between 79 Homo sapiens and other primates: The absence of hair on the body is to a certain extent a secondary sexual character; for in all parts of the world women are less hairy than men. Therefore we may reasonably suspect that this is a character that has been gained through sexual selection. We know that the faces of several species of monkeys, and large surfaces at the posterior end of the body in other species, have been denuded of hair; and this we may safely attribute to sexual selection, for these surfaces are not only vividly coloured, but sometimes, as with the male mandrill and female rhesus, much more vividly in the one sex than in the other. . . . So again with many birds the head and neck have been divested of feathers through sexual selection, for the sake of exhibiting the brightly-coloured skin. 80 For Darwin, naked human skin does not mean absence of clothing and thus the display of genitalia. Rather, the very hairlessness of skin is in itself the first and foremost ornament of the human body. Unlike almost every other ornament considered by Darwin, naked skin is a full-body ornament, rather than an addendum at some particular point of the body. Darwin identifies the hairless body parts in the genital area of many monkeys and in the face of the mandrill, which work as sexual signals, as the evolution81 point of departure for the development of naked human skin. Guided 82 over a very long period of time by a preference for regions of hairless skin, sexual selection increasingly amplified this feature of ape attractiveness. Despite practical disadvantages—such as the loss of thermal and mechanical body protection—Darwin credits this process with being powerful enough to bring about near-total denudation, particularly of the female 83 79 Darwin, Descent of Man, II 375–82. 80 Darwin, Descent of Man, II 376–78. 81 Darwin, Descent of Man, II 291–93, 376–78. 82 On the complex relationship between male and female sexual ornaments in primates and on their different functions, see Wickler, “Socio-Sexual Signals and Their IntraSpecific Imitation among Primates,” 69–147. 83 In absolute numbers, humans have as much hair on their bodies as many other primates. But this hair does not have the consistency of fur; compared to the hair on fetuses, monkeys, and apes, it is so insignificant as to create the optical impression of hairlessness. Cf. Montagna, fear of and sadness about rejection, and are Descent of Man, 173 Darwin, II 335. Competitive Courtship and Aesthetic Judgment/Choice 43 in any event high in arousal (“ardent passions”). On the other hand, the situation of sexual courtship also involves fierce intra-sexual competition and fights: “The season of love is that of battle.” After listing numerous 174 examples from the animal kingdom, Darwin’s remarks regarding humans are discreetly limited to “ancient times” and “barbaric tribes”: Women are the constant cause of war both between the individuals of the same tribe and between distinct tribes. So no doubt it was in ancient times: “nam fuit ante Helenam mulier taeterrima belli causa” [Already before Helen, women were the commonest cause for war]. 175 If this holds true, then sexual courtship can also awaken feelings that are the very opposite of “tender emotions.” The term “battle” is by no means overstated in this context. The captivation and abduction of females is wellknown as a key cause for violent, warlike actions, be it among chimpanzees or humans. In species with territorial behavior, the male capacity to 176 secure and protect a territory—if necessary, with violent fights—is a decisive factor of female sexual choice. The sexually courting song behavior of many birds simultaneously serves, to different degrees, three functions: attracting sexual partners, discouraging or confronting competitors, and claiming territorial ownership along with signaling readiness for defense— the two latter functions being often, but not always, the same. Darwin’s 177 laconic formula regarding love and war encompasses this whole range. A closer look at this range shows how easily individual emotions of opposite valence can become closely associated. Tender feelings can lead up to loving self-abandonment, to self-sacrificing adoration of the object of desire. Such devotion approaches the worship of a higher being, and thus borders on feelings of the (religious) sublime, or awe. Feelings of readiness for combat and of triumph can likewise be of a grand or sublime nature, albeit differently colored. The range of music-elicited emotions identified in a more recent empirical survey shows at least some overlap with Darwin’s daring outline. 178 174 Darwin, Descent of Man, II 48. 175 Darwin, Descent of Man, II 323. The quotation from Horace, Sermones I.3, 107 sqq., reads correctly: “nam fuit ante Helenam cunnus taeterrima belli causa.” 176 Cf. Wrangham and Peterson, Demonic Males; and Gat, “Why War? Motivations for Fighting in the Human State of Nature.” Descent of Man, 177 Darwin, I 56. 178 Zentner et al., “Emotions Evoked by the Sound of Music.” 44 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin Darwin’s remark concerning the war about Helen distinguishes two types of sexual competition: “between the individuals of a tribe and between different tribes.” The first type only loosely correlates with territorial behavior, the second—which only exists in species that live in social groups— shows a clear correlation. Humans are among the species in which both types of sexual competition are found—all the more so as the rule of exogamy often transcends the confines of one’s own group. Music specifically practiced during wartime belongs to the best-documented transcultural variants of human music. Chimpanzees also increase their preparedness 179 for aggression against neighboring populations by means of coordinated vocal “displays,” sometimes supported by beating great tree roots as drums. This context regularly involves the sexual access to or the captivation of female animals. If wars were often fought over access to and control over women, and if they, moreover, were (and remain) connected to an affective synchronization of the warriors by means of music, then Darwin’s juxtaposition of “love” and “battle” in relation to music is more than a scholarly reference to a topical allegory brought to literary perfection by Shakespeare. Perhaps “ardor for war” knows no stronger evolutionary source than sexual competition. The same holds true for the feeling of triumph when the competition is won. Darwin thus maps his antithetical range of music-associated emotions onto an evolutionary scenario of sexual courtship. At the same time, he stipulates a constitutional vagueness, or indeterminacy, of this reference to a sexual scenario. The feelings that are associatively activated by music often lack cognitive clarity and distinctness: As Herbert Spencer remarks, “music arouses dormant sentiments of which we had not conceived the possibility, and do not know the meaning”; or, as Richter says, “tells us of things we have not seen and shall not see.” . . . The sensations and ideas thus excited in us by music, or expressed by the cadences of oratory, appear from their vagueness, yet depth, like mental reversions to the emotions and thoughts of a long-past age. 180 This passage proves Darwin’s capacity to take up not only much-discussed desiderata but also particularly memorable phrases in a way that opens up surprising new perspectives. Spencer’s The Origin and Function of Music 179 Cf. Hagen, “Music and Dance as a Coalition Signaling System,” 21–51. Descent of Man, The Expression of the Emotions in Man 180 Darwin, II 336. Darwin’s book and Animals entails a converging passage (217) highlighting the great importance Da lation without the use of figures or algebra. 196 Descent of Man, 196 Darwin, I 54, 57. Competitive Courtship and Aesthetic Judgment/Choice 51 Thus, a suitable vocal tract, high neural control of articulatory organs and the capacity for vocal learning do not in themselves presuppose the development of articulate language. Like music, language requires not only all these characteristics, but also additional cognitive capacities. This diagnosis has a clear negative consequence: the cognitive achievements of language cannot be fully ascribed to the hypothetical musical-emotional prehistory of language as presented in Darwin’s model of sexual selection. As 197 a result, human language cannot be regarded as a mere further development of prelinguistic vocal abilities. Moreover, such a hypothesis would 198 have a hard time explaining why only one of the singing species went on to develop syntactic language. At the same time, Darwin’s multifactor model of the evolution of language—which includes body language elements such as “signs and gestures” —opens up a positive possibility: the capacities and mechanisms 199 that language shares with music could find an expression in language in a music-related form (particularly if musical capacities predate language). This is, in fact, the only claim that can be derived from a close reading of Darwin’s hypothesis: the hypothetical proto-music left behind a footprint, a legacy in the evolution of language, but language did not evolve from music. Specifically, Darwin refers to the prosodic means of eliciting affective responses by means of recurrent sound patterns and other material properties of language: The progenitors of man, either the males or the females, or both sexes, before they had acquired the power of expressing their mutual love in articulate language, endeavoured to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm. 200 Conversely, when vivid emotions are felt and expressed by the orator or even in common speech, musical cadences and rhythm are instinctively used. 201 197 Darwin, Descent of Man, I 55 f. 198 Darwin, Descent of Man, I 56. Stephen Mithen argues that Darwin’s hypothesis on language cannot be correct as not all characteristics of language can be explained as derivatives of music (Mithen, The Singing Neanderthals, 26). This argument fits in neither with the general character of evolutionary processes (which are typically not just “derivations”) nor with Darwin’s actual claims, which are far more modest. The Evolution of Language, 199 Cf. Fitch, 470–74. Descent of Man, 200 Darwin, II 337. Descent of Man, 201 Darwin, II 336. 52 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin Prosodic characteristics of language, specifically of poetic language, have been regarded as analogous to though by no means identical with those 202 of music for a long time before Darwin. The enormous richness of prosodic variations supported by the use of voice, rhythm, and melody is central to any definition of music. In descriptions of language, though, these features have been historically less prominent. Theories of poetic and rhetorical language use—and hence of the elaboration of diction (elocutio) for aesthetic and affective purposes—are an important exception to this rule. Referring to this tradition, Darwin suggests that the poetic and rhetorical elaboration of verbal language draws on both the phonological features and the affective powers of a more musical prosody. This hypothesis shows marked affinities to theories of poetry as a musical language of affect as developed by Herder and several Romantics. Herder, too, sees the shared ground of human and nonhuman language in the expression of emotions. Regarding their differences, he stipulates that, on the one hand, human language increasingly distanced itself from an animal-like vocal expression and has its own, primarily cognitive roots. On the other hand, he proposes that strong traces of the prelinguistic communication of emotions remain inscribed within the highly developed cognitive language. For Herder, it is this oblique continuation of affective registers that renders sentences lively. Thus, the “natural tones” (Naturtöne) of affect are supposed to be “not the roots as such, but the juices that animate the roots of [human] language.” Darwin uses the poetic and rhetori203 topos of liveliness, or vividness, in a similar fashion when describing the subcutaneous presence of affective proto-music in human language: “when vivid emotions are felt and expressed by the orator or even in common speech, musical cadences and rhythm are instinctively used.” 204 In line with Herder’s and Darwin’s assumptions, studies in developmental psychology have shown music-analogous characteristics both of preverbal utterances of infants and of infant-directed speech. Neuroscientific research has identified parallels in the neural processing of music and language. Comparative studies on prosody, rhythm, and meter 205 202 Cf. Brown, “The ‘Musilanguage’ Model of Music Evolution.” 203 Herder, Abhandlung über den Ursprung der Sprache, 701. Descent of Man, 204 Darwin, II 336. 205 Cf. Patel, “Language, Music, Syntax and the Brain”; Patel et al., “Processing Syntactic Relations in Language and Music”; Maess et al., “Musical Syntax Is Processed in Broca’s Area”; Koelsch et al., “Bach Speaks: A Cortical ‘Language-Network’ Serves the Processing of Music”; Levitin et al., “Musical Structure Is Processed in ‘Language’ Areas of the Brain”; and Koelsch, “Towards a Neural Basis of Music Perception,” 578–84. Competitive Courtship and Aesthetic Judgment/Choice 53 in language and music promise further interesting findings. Drawing 206 on forty poems, an experimental study on features of parallelistic prosody showed that the poetic treatment of prosody does, in fact, enhance aesthetic appreciation and drive both feelings of being emotionally moved and perceived overall intensity to higher levels. 207 To the extent that Darwin conceptualizes language as an affective rhetoric that works with musical means, he considers it an integral part of his archeology of cultural music: The impassioned orator, bard, or musician, when with his varied tones and cadences he excites the strongest emotions in his hearers, little suspects that he uses the same means by which his half-human ancestors long ago aroused each other’s ardent passions, during their courtship and rivalry. 208 This sentence, the concluding summary of the whole chapter on human “voice and musical powers,” gives a new crypto-sexual meaning to the ars oratoria, or rhetoric. Sexually seductive speech represented a classical pattern of rhetorical persuasion as early as the very beginnings of ancient Greek rhetoric. Gorgias defends Helen against the criticism of insufficient resistance with the daring argument that it is impossible to resist a good seductive speech. If so, it is not Helen who is responsible, but the 209 drug-like power of rhetorical language that uses all rhythms and sounds at its command to produce a “magical” effect. For Gorgias, this erotic and psychopharmacologic primal scene of sexually seductive rhetoric demonmégas). why and by what means language is a “great ruler” (dynástes Darwin replaces the primal scene of Helen’s seduction by the power of speech through an imaginary, objectless memory of sexual courtship as inscribed in the poetic and rhetorical use of language. Thus, he displaces the sexual power of rhetoric from a patent scene of its use into a now-latent quality of its formal means. In his view, poetic language use, too, continues to draw affective energy from an unconscious associative reference to a long-past practice of proto-musical sexual courtship. No matter what the occasion is, when the orator uses the musical heritage of language as a material channel of his authentic or pretended pathos, he is not using objective arguments to persuade listeners but employs deeply rooted 206 Cf. Patel, Music, Language, and the Brain. 207 Menninghaus et al., “The Emotional and Aesthetic Powers of Parallelistic Diction.” Descent of Man, 208 Darwin, II 337. 209 Gorgias, “Encomium of Helen,” 76–84. 54 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin affective resources. Experimental studies on poetic and rhetorical sentence patterning show that: 210 1.  #7; r hythm- and sound-based musical virtues of words are inherently pleasurable and tend to intensify emotional effects; 2.  #7;such virtues also prime the attribution of complex perceptual gestalt properties (such as beauty and melodiousness); 3.  #7; rhetorically elaborate sentences are often more difficult to understand than analogues devoid of such elaboration, and are nevertheless preferred for purposes of persuasion; 4.  #7; r hetorically artful sentences are more often falsely considered familiar in memory tests than their non-rhetorical analogues, thus profiting from the psychological effects of familiarity (simpler, positively colored processing, higher acceptance). Taken together, all this demonstrates that the non-semantic, proto-musical elaboration of the material and perceptive qualities of language is, indeed, a highly effective “engine of persuasion,” as Kant critically put it. 211 Darwin’s hypothesis also allows for another interpretation: listening to the affective music of an orator, one feels not only courted but also placed into the powerful role of the aesthetically judging and selecting party. Barack Obama’s election speeches, which were largely considered rhetorically convincing and appealing, can serve as an example here. On the one hand, these speeches drew much of their power from the speaker’s performance: voice, prosody, gestures, body language. On the other hand, they also employed classical rhetorical textbook figures designed to enhance emotional effects. Such political courting of voters is a direct analogy to sexual courtship by means of the proto-music of poetic language. In both cases, the audience is an object of libidinous cathexis, and the goal of appealing to them motivates the speaker to great achievements in the art of rhetoric. The emotionalizing power of the speech is a prime index of these rhetorical achievements. The resulting excitement of the listeners can then be understood as a transfer of affect from the speaker to the audience; for additionally, it can be, and even is designed to be, processed as a desire 210 Menninghaus et al., “Rhetorical Features Facilitate Prosodic Processing”; Menninghaus et al., “Sounds Funny?”; Menninghaus et al., “The Emotional and Aesthetic Powers of Parallelistic Diction”; Obermeier et al., “Aesthetic Appreciation of Poetry Correlates with Ease of Processing in Event-Related Potentials.” Critique of the Power of Judgment, 211 Kant, § 53. Competitive Courtship and Aesthetic Judgment/Choice 55 the speaker and would in this capacity motivate the (desired) act of choice. Both vectors of affect—the transfer from speaker to listener, and the motivational step from listening to a speaker to desiring him or her—are not diametrically opposed in as far as both sexual and political “courtships” have the goal of instilling desire for the courting party in the courted one. Commercial advertising, too, heavily draws on such mechanisms of both transferring affect and instilling desire. In German, Werbung means both “courtship” and “advertisement.” Commercial “courtship”—and especially multimodal advertising that blends the affective powers of images with those of speech and music in its efforts of persuasion—systematically infuses the inherent “music” of rhetoric with sexual associations. Thus, it recruits the associative pathways of (latent) desire stipulated by Darwin. For Plato, such distant surfing on the waves of sexual courtship might well be the ultimate argument for his criticism of the rhetorical “guiding of souls through words” (psychagogia dia logon). Darwin refrains from morally 212 judging the phenomenon in one way or another. His great merit is to provide a speculative but nonmetaphorical and rationally coherent genealogy for our strong emotional affectability by language, and, specifically, to attribute this emotional power not only to words per se, but also and even primarily to ways of elaborating the emotional prosody which partly resonates with preverbal layers of emotive vocalizations (and their hypothetical elaborations in proto-music). Beyond observing formal similarities between music and language, Darwin assigns these similarities a functional role in supporting emotional transfers from music to language. The musical qualities of languages can be described in rhetorical categories: as rhythms, meters, sound figures of all kinds, devices of repetition and antithesis in syntax and semantics, prosody, and stylistics. Moreover, they share the rhetorical goals of eliciting esteem/ admiration for the speaker and acceptance for his agenda (conciliare), pleasing aesthetically (delectare), moving emotionally (movere), and occasionally also of persuading (persuadere)—according to both traditional rhetorical theory and recent empirical studies. Distinctive competence in rhetorical 213 language use might well be (and have been) socially advantageous, be it Phaidros 212 Plato, 261a. 213 Cf. Mothersbaugh, “Combinatory and Separative Effects of Rhetorical Figures”; Giora, “Weapons of Mass Distraction: Optimal Innovation and Pleasure Ratings”; Peer, “The Measurement of Metre”; Menninghaus et al., “Rhetorical Features Facilitate Prosodic olution”; Power, “Old Wives’ Tale: The Gossip Hypothesis and the Reliability of Cheap Signals.” Competitive Courtship and Aesthetic Judgment/Choice 57 manipulated. Truthful words can easily be substituted by untruthful ones; however, speech prosody, gestures, and body language are more difficult to manipulate in a consciously deceptive fashion. Attempting to spontaneously integrate all individual channels of an utterance into a consistently deceptive message is far from simple and can easily lead to discrepancies which, even if minimal, reveal a dishonest intention. Zahavi’s hypothesis that human verbal language is “cheap” rather than costly only makes sense if the multimodal nature of language is disregarded. However, this disregard is not even appropriate where language lacks an emotional prosody based on articulate sounds as well as an articulating body (i.e., in written literature). Literature, including prose, does not only create imaginary equivalents of an author’s “voice,” but also it draws much of its power from its rhythm and thus from a compositional quality that has a sensual “gestalt” property even in the absence of spoken sound. This non-semantic signature of a prose style is far from easy to imitate, let alone fake. Readers spontaneously perceive the imaginary “voice” of an author and the rhythm of his or her sentences even if they cannot analytically describe them in any adequate fashion. Poetic language is moreover often subject to complex metrical and/or other genre requirements that take great artistic powers to live up to. In this and many other respects, poetic language—and the language of a good orator—is expected to be rhetorically elaborate and to engage our attention, emotional responses, and memory in distinct ways, and not least to activate our reward system. A language that meets all these demands can hardly be a “cheap signal” freely usable for deceptive purposes at no cost. 4. Peacocks/Songbirds and Human Artists: Merits and Limits of the Parallel Darwin’s bird model of artful singing replicates all factors of the physical ornament (“beauty”) model. It predicts that sustained sexual selection from the part of the courted sex can drive artistic performances to ever higher degrees by virtue of making sexual success dependent on the quality of these performances. The human arts involve an analogous feedback between art production and reception, be it through the role of patrons, customers, and market mechanisms, and through the processes of canon formation. However, Darwin nowhere predicts an effect of human art production on reproductive success. Rather, he exclusively diagnoses distant and vague traces of sexual associations in the emotional effects of singing, 58 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin rhetoric, and poetry, and interprets these as an indication that earlier in the evolution of humans also the functional implications of the animal model may well have been in place. As a result of this limitation of the parallel, it did not occur to Darwin to seek statistical evidence that artistic success translates into reproductive success. Many mythologies of artists conform to the predictions of Darwin’s model by combining two seemingly antithetical features: they portray artists as sexual attractors or directly parallel artistic and sexual acts, but they do not include any reference to high numbers of children. Orpheus is perhaps the most renowned example. His musical performance clearly 218 makes him a supernormal sexual attractor. The sound of his cithara has the effect of a tender caress (mulcens) upon Eurydice. And when Orpheus 219 finally loses Eurydice, his sad music inspires intense sexual desire in many women, so much so that one can legitimately read this part of the myth 220 as the first portrayal of the groupie phenomenon. Women get a crush on the singer collectively and simultaneously; aesthetic and sexual attraction converges. In hyperbolic intensification of its power to win over and emo221 affect its listeners, Orpheus’s music can move even gods, birds, and fish. The myth stresses the sexually persuasive powers of music all the more as Orpheus’s own intentions after losing Eurydice are anything but sexual. He merely wishes to commemorate his loved one by singing. But even this deeply sad song provokes ardent sexual desire in his female listeners. Their passion is so tempestuous that they cannot bear to be rejected by the singer, who is subjectively uninterested, but appears to “objectively” court them qua music. Raging in ersatz intimacy, they tear him to pieces. Thanks to his early death, Orpheus is transfigured into a mythological ideal of both a perfect singer and a consummate lover. However, sexual desirability and reproductive success—features that should correlate positively according to the evolutionary model—are radically dissociated in the case of this proto-singer: Orpheus dies without offspring. Despite this important limitation, the Orpheus myth—like the modern cult of pop stars—shows a good fit with Darwin’s model of male aesthetically exuberant courtship and female choice. In current fan culture, too, female fans are more inclined to respond with fairly direct sexually colored excitement, indeed arousal, to the performances of male stars than are male audiences 218 Cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses XI, 1–66. 219 Hyginus, Fabulae 164. 220 Cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses X, 81 sqq. 221 The sirens’ song exerts analogous s a Coalition Signaling System,” 23, and Birdsong: Biological Themes and Variations. Catchpole, Competitive Courtship and Aesthetic Judgment/Choice 63 were equally called téchnai or artes, with no special term available for the presumably “higher” arts. Typically, all these artists offered their special expertise to male patrons rather than displaying it for the opposite sex. To be sure, a very small number of the sculptors and painters among these “artists” in a very broad sense achieved special social recognition, and this may also have translated into greater sexual success. Still, being an artist in this sense was barely a predictor of outstanding social and sexual success when compared to being born into the higher classes for which the “artists” almost invariably worked for very low wages. The German expression brotlose Künste, breadless arts, reflects this image. By and large, the picture appears to be not categorically different for artists in the more prestigious modern sense. The few celebrities and sex symbols among the many artists in precarious living conditions barely suffice to literally subsume the human arts under Darwin’s animal model. At the same time, they do suffice to give the topical association of artistic and sexual success a modern continuation. In this perspective, Darwin’s hypothesis that such associations may reflect an evolutionary vestige, a distant memory of a long-past age, may be less far-fetched than the claim that the human arts literally conform to Darwin’s animal model of singing for sex. On a final note, Richard Prum has proposed that Darwin’s model of the ongoing coevolutionary feedback between minor variations in animal art production and the selective evaluation of these animal arts by the opposite sex is essentially no different from the analogous feedback loop between human art production and its evaluation by audiences, sponsors, or the marketplace. Stated in this abstract fashion, the analogy clearly applies. 237 However, beyond the fact that the evaluating part regarding the human arts is not at all categorically limited to the opposite sex, some other important systemic differences apply that Prum left unaddressed. In a stricter sense, an ongoing synchronization of artistic production and aesthetic preferences of audiences applies to the animal arts only, but not to the human arts. Aesthetic preferences of animals are always and invariably “up to date,” exclusively favoring the most recent fashion of songs and other artful displays. Humans, by contrast, can cultivate multiple preferences, including 238 preferences for artworks that date back hundreds of years, and, by implication, admiration and enthusiasm for artists who are no longer alive. In fact, a great percentage of contemporary humans do not like the most recent art 237 Cf. Prum, “Coevolutionary Aesthetics in Human and Biotic Artworlds.” 238 For a striking empirical proof of this assumption, see Derryberry, “Evolution of Bird Song Affects Signal Efficacy: An Experimental Test Using Historical and Current Signals.” 64 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin production in painting, sculpture, poetry and other fields at all. To be sure, sexual maturation in humans is also a time where the most recent trends strongly prevail, particularly regarding songs and the fashionable practices of dressing and enhancing one’s outer appearance. Still, the potential for being out of sync with the most recent coevolved state of art production and preferences—or for enjoying multiple past art-worlds—is enormous in quantity and incredibly rich in qualitative variety. The animal model of the tight ongoing feedback between artistic displays and aesthetic preferences does not entail any provisions for this partial decoupling of aesthetic preferences from an exclusive focus on the most recent state of affairs. Such decoupling would be flagrantly dysfunctional in terms of sexual attraction, and it would require capacities that are thus far 239 unavailable to birds and other animals: namely, to create physically enduring artworks or artworks that are handed down to posterity through either collective memory or technical storage media. These and other differences between the animal and the human arts—including the biologically evolved human ada ans Sing?” Cf. also Geissmann, “Gibbon Songs and Human Music from an Evolutionary Perspective.” 66 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin relations within groups. For both cases of costly signals of cooperation, it will be argued that they are, in fact, not logically incompatible with Darwin’s and Krebs’s/Dawkins’s dichotomy, but add a tertium datur that may only be found in human behavior. 1. The Arts as Costly, Competitive Signals, and the “Motherese” Hypothesis Drawing on the costly signal theory, Krebs and Dawkins have proposed a 3 typology of competitive and socially cooperative signaling. In this view, 4 only competitive and manipulative signals are costly for the sender. For instance, a sender has an interest in frightening off, deceiving, manipulating, or winning over other individuals. In principle, the receivers of the message do not necessarily share the interests of the sender. Therefore, in an evolutionary arms race, receivers tend to increase the costs of manipulative signals for the respective senders, such that these end up entailing some information about the sender’s qualities and the “honesty” of his signals. These costs act as constraints on cheap ways of cheating. From such selection pressures exerted by the recipients of signals, there result the numerous costly signals that can be observed in animal communication. In the case of vocal signals, many potentially demanding signal characteristics (length, intensity, complexity, rhythm, melody, etc.) have been evolutionarily selected that enable the receiver to draw conclusions about the sender’s capabilities. Cooperative signals, on the other hand, tend to be inconspicuous and “cheap” because and to the extent that the cooperating partners have the same interests in the respective situations. Under this premise, the elaboration of the signal provides no competitive advantages. This is why songbirds do not respond to the appearance of a predator with a complex aria, but rely on simple, short calls with relatively low production costs. In such cases, no interest is at stake that could be promoted by high signal-production costs. Moreover, “once an alarm call is recognized as an alarm, its acoustic form and content is not subject to sensory evaluation and judgment.” The latter, 5 however, applies to songs and other costly signals. Here, the form itself is 3 Cf. Zahavi, “Mate Selection: A Selection for a Handicap”; Zahavi, “Decorative Patterns and the Evolution of Art”; Zahavi and Zahavi, The Handicap Principle: A Missing Piece of Darwin’s Puzzle. 4 Krebs and Dawkins, “Animal Signals,” 390–92. 5 Prum, “Coevolutionary Aesthetics in Human and Biotic Artworlds,” 816. The Arts as Promoters of Social Cooperation and Cohesion 67 evaluated for artistic qualities, and consistent aesthetic preferences on the part of the receiver, just like individual differences on the part of the performer, drive the further evolution of the signal in a self-reinforcing loop of feedback between traits and preferences. Such coevolutionary processes likewise apply to the colors of flowers which function as advertisements to pollinators who, in turn, drive the evolution of this “biotic art.” In this case, the selection for aesthetic appeal is 6 exerted by other species and not of a sexual nature. In contrast, animal body ornaments, songs, and dance displays are subject to a within-species selection, and, specifically, to a selection by the opposite sex. Human artworks share with animal art their dependence on within-species evaluation; however, even though many human artworks are also of a gendered nature, they are typically not specifically evaluated and selected by the opposite sex only. In fact, much of human “high” art was produced by male artists for male patrons, indicating that their advertisement function was more about power and prestige than about a direct sexual selection of the artists. (Still, the patrons might also have sexually profited from adorning themselves with beautiful buildings and ornaments.) Getting back to Krebs’s and Dawkins’s typology of cheap and costly signals, it includes a clear rule for assigning the two types of vocal signals distinguished by Darwin to two groups: calls have the robust, simple, and easily decodable acoustic characteristics of cheap cooperative signals; courtship songs, on the other hand, feature the complex acoustic characteristics of costly competitive signals. To be sure, Darwin’s domain-specific typology of calls and songs does not entail the assumption that sexually selected costly signals, such as elaborate artistic performances, are indicators of heritable fitness in the sense of natural selection. At the same time, it does by no means explicitly rule out a possible substantial overlap of sexually selected traits with naturally selected fitness. In any event, Krebs’s and 7 Dawkins’s typology is used in the following primarily as one that descriptively converges with Darwin’s distinction of calls and songs, while overcoming the limitation of Darwin’s typology to a specific sensory domain. A natural selection–based association of costly signals with “good genes” is not automatically implied in this use of the distinction between two types of signals. The typology of cheap versus costly signals can be used as an argument against the hypothesis that the apparently pan-cultural praxis of early prelinguistic mother ?; Benzon, Beethoven’s Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture; and McNeill, Keeping Together in Time. 70 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin Choosing allies based on the quality of music and dance performances (as well as the quality of other forms of cultural production prominently displayed at feasts, such as food, clothing, artifacts, etc.) would spark an evolutionary arms race between coalition members with an interest in producing ever more convincing signals of coalition quality, and potential allies with an interest in better discriminating between performances of coalitions of different quality, leading, eventually, to the rich coalition signaling system we call music. 12 According to this hypothesis, the capacities for social coordination displayed in complex musical performances are themselves the message of these displays: they demonstrate exactly the capacity for joint actions that make a group eligible as a superb ally. At the same time, the hypothesis that music actively promotes social cohesion within the performing group is explicitly rejected. 13 However, the model can easily be read against the grain. If performances in the presence of alliance partners often require months or even years of practice (as the authors stipulate), then the group-internal practicing takes up much more time and energy than the (hypothetical) performances in the framework of alliance rites. In this view, the intragroup advantages of such practices—in terms of intragroup cooperation—might even be larger than the benefits that might accrue from their one-time performance for individuals from other groups. It is also questionable whether or not the majority of elaborate musical and dance performances in traditional cultures were actually performed before outgroup members. The sources cited by Hagen and Bryant are not nearly sufficient for a reliable quantitative statement. Moreover, building 14 alliances and exogamous mating strategies regularly and closely correlate; in archaic cultures—and also partly in less archaic cultures—the hypothetical rites of alliance building could simultaneously serve the function of a marriage market. Collective singing, dancing, and music making at such 15 events would then not replace the evaluation of an individual’s quality as a sexual partner with the evaluation of a group’s quality as an alliance partner, but serve both purposes at the same time. 12 Hagen and Hammerstein, “Did Neanderthals and Other Early Humans Sing?,” 10. 13 Hagen and Bryant, “Music and Dance as a Coalition Signaling System,” 30. 14 Cf. also Kirschner and Tomasello, “Joint Music Making,” 355. 15 Cf. Hagen and Bryant, “Music and Dance as a Coalition Signaling System,” 40. The Arts as Promoters of Social Cooperation and Cohesion 71 3. Joint Music Making and Multimedia Performances as Promoters of Intragroup Cooperation/Cohesion Ethnological theories of the human arts tend to focus on their role for ethnic and cultural identity, and, by implication, for social cohesion. This focus entails the at least implicit assumption that elaborate artistic performances of humans may be costly signals that first and foremost promote within-group cooperation and cohesion. How can this assumption be reconciled with the standard model of costly signaling? Which special conditions must be fulfilled in order for costly “arts” to be instrumental for supporting social cooperation even within groups? The answer suggested here is the following: social events and practices that are costly not only in terms of time and material resources required, but also of artful performances involved can promote social cooperation and cohesion if the membership in a certain social group, or in a particular strachallenges of this group, is not a simple unproblematic fact but involves and conflicts. In such cases, group membership repeatedly calls for active investments, expenditures, and perhaps even sacrifices in the service of displaying adherence to the group’s values. A cooperation-based social structure might be in need of such costly self-assurance particularly in cases where membership in a special (sub-)group is not only defined by shared interests, but also involves structural conflicts, such as non-convergent interests and changing alliances within groups, rises and falls in pecking orders and hierarchies, etc. This seems to be the case in human societies. Thus, as in the case of the hypothesis of courting alliance partners—and contrary to alarm calls and IDS—there is a conflictual and competitive background involved in elaborate artful practices that hypothetically promote within social cooperation and cohesion groups. Real deeds are not the only currency that tests and proves pro-social expectations in the case of human cultures. There are also symbolic practices (in particular, social and religious rites of all kinds) that serve to build, affirm, and also test the readiness for group-conforming behavior. Such practices can, indeed should, be aesthetically costly; the participation would not have any signal function whatsoever if it did not “cost” the participating parties anything. Under these premises, elaborate self-ornamentation and performances involving dancing and music, as well as unusual/paranormal language use, could evolve as distinctive characteristics of social rites in which groups symbolically consolidate their own fundaments, values, and behavioral rules. 16 16 Cf. Irons, “Religion as Hard-to-Fake Sign of Commitment”; and Sosis, “Why Aren’t We All Hutterites? Costly Signaling Theory and Religious Behavior.” 72 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin Singing, dancing, and joint music making imply continued processes of mutual coordination. Nonhuman primates cannot be brought to move, 17 much less to vocalize, in sync to a given beat. Humans are able do this rather easily, even as children. Apparently, they are the only primates able to flexibly adjust their movements and vocalizations to a great variety of meters and rhythms prescribed by songs and instrumental music. It is unlikely that this capacity only evolved to provide a new stage for competitive individual performances. Rather, joint singing and dancing gives the abstract 18 factual “We” of group membership a concrete event value; it is inherently self-rewarding and may well motivate transfers of cooperative behavior from symbolic actions to everyday social life. In the case of rites, sharing and participation tends to involve both production and reception; in other cases, it involves reception only. In any event, if considering the great cultural variance and the enormous costs of acquiring the high skills often required for elaborate musical performances, it can hardly suffice to regard such performances as a cheap and useful practice of social coordination. Religious practices, which appear to be a transcultural human characteristic, correspond to the theory of aesthetically demanding symbolic acts as presented here. Religions that promise all kinds of good things but do not ask for anything in return do not seem to be taken seriously. Apparently, no such religion ever succeeded in the long run. Religions that are cognitively, emotionally, and economically demanding/costly, on the other hand, tend to reduce the conflict level within social groups by instilling shared values and behavioral codes and promising rewards for membership and participation. Moreover, the religious adoration of higher beings includes a scenario that is closely reminiscent of sexual courtship and thus suggests costly aesthetic elaboration. Like sexual partners, gods are courted for their favor (benevolence, mercy, help) by means of different signals that are costly in terms of time, discipline and, occasionally, finances: repeated professions of veneration and adherence, vows of fidelity, and material sacrifices. The relationship between religious, political, or moral “messages” and their intensification through the arts can be interpreted in three ways: (1) the messages are primary, and the arts evolved only later in the service of 17 Koelsch, “From Social Contact to Social Cohesion—The 7 Cs.” 18 Cf. Brown et al., “An Introduction to Evolutionary Musicology,” 17; Geissmann, “Gibbon Songs and Human Music From an Evolutionary Perspective,” 118; Molino, “Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Music and Language”; Richman, “How Music Fixed ‘Nonsense’ into Significant Formulas: On Rhythm, Repetition, and Meaning”; Merker, “Synchronous Chorussing and Human Origins”; Freedman, “A Neurobiological Role of Music in Social Bonding.” The Arts as Promoters of Social Cooperation and Cohesion 73 supporting the spread and acceptance of these messages; (2) aesthetic elaborations are co-emergent with the religious, political, or moral messages; (3) practices of aesthetic elaboration are older than religious messages and constitute necessary preconditions for their success. A comparison with other species tentatively supports the third assumption. Coordinating calls and other motor-affective coordination mechanisms in birds, “warring” chimpanzees, and other species appear to have evolved in complete separation from transmitting a symbolic meaning. For human cultures, extant archeological findings suggest that aesthetic practices might have predated religious ones, since available evidence of practices of self-ornamentation is older than the first clear indications of religious practices. However, as narratives could not possibly have survived for thousands of years in the absence of writing, this archaeological evidence is far from conclusive. Under these auspices, it may, for the time being, be more meaningful to consider aesthetic and religious practices as different but frequently interacting forms of human culture that both create, or involve, symbolically significant objects, figures, spaces, acts, values, songs, and narratives, and that both allow for joint ways of engaging all these objects, songs, narratives, etc. 19 The phenomenon of religion also exemplifies the downside of promoting social cohesion and cooperation that is supported by aesthetic appeal. Precisely because a social group establishes and reinforces shared love for its own gods at great costs, thus supporting intragroup cohesion, this very same group can turn—with all the greater motivational power and efficiency—against other social groups worshipping other gods and employing other aesthetic practices. Throughout human history, strong cooperation and cohesion within a group appears to correlate closely with the potential for and the tendency to aggression against other groups. 20 Ellen Dissanayake’s understanding of arts and religious rites does not sufficiently take into account the conflict-laden background and the violent potential of community-building religious and aesthetic practices. Rather, she largely separates ritual and artistic elaboration from all competitive mechanisms and interprets the costs of “making special” only 19 See also Dissanayake, “The Arts after Darwin,” 257. 20 Cf. Miller’s sarcastic observation: “Group competition replaces the logic of murder with the logic of genocide. Not a great moral improvement. Group selection models of music evolution are not just stories of warm, cuddly bonding within a group; they must also be stories of those warm, cuddly groups out-competing and exterminating other groups that don’t spend so much time dancing around their campfires” (“Evolution of Human Music through Sexual Selection,” 351). See also Pinker’s cr y displayed in social 30 Hagen and Hammerstein, “Did Neanderthals and Other Early Humans Sing?” 78 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin rites. Hence the stage of confirming a social bond can always be simultaneously used as a stage of individual (sexual) self-presentation. Similarly, practices of self-ornamentation can signal group membership and promote social cohesion among individuals of the same rank, while also highlighting social distance and distinction vis-à-vis individuals from other social strata. In a similar vein, poetic and rhetorical language use is primarily a competitive art aimed at capturing in a distinct fashion the attention and imagination of an audience and rendering a poem, a narrative, or a speech more moving, more admirable, more memorable, and occasionally also more persuasive than others. At the same time, language has by no means exclusively evolved as a manipulative power instrument but also as a facilitator of social cooperation and coordination. As a result, a narrative that 31 competes with other narratives for the audience’s attention and appreciation can end up contributing to the construction of shared cultural horizons and have an all the more cohesive effect, the greater its competitive success and dissemination. For all these reasons, pointing to the fact that music is mostly practiced in social coordination by no means suffices to invalidate Darwin’s theory of competitive sexual proto-music. Rather, the aspects of music that pro32 sexual courtship and social coordination are by no means mutually exclusive. Exclusively siding with the individual competition or the social 33 cohesion hypothesis often has strong ideological implications. In the end, all cultures seem to encompass severe, often violent, conflicts based on divergent individual interests and also to provide means of social integration, with different balances of these antagonistic factors in more individualistic and more communal societies. Apparently, special appreciation for individually and competitively “better” arts of painting, singing, dancing, and self-decoration already existed in archaic cultures. Conversely, the highly individualized art production of Western modernity keeps playing an important role for the cultural invention and proliferation of shared horizons of allusions, aesthetic standards, and expectations as well as symbolic evaluations. The functional poles of individual competition versus group cohesion are all the easier to reconcile as they tend to be respectively associated with art production and reception. On the one hand, musicians, writers, 31 Cf. Tomasello, Origins of Human Cognition. 32 Mithen (The Singing Neanderthals, 180) draws this premature conclusion. 33 Unlike Dutton (The Art Instinct, 226), Kirschner and Tomasello (“Joint Music Making,” 361) agree with this view. The Arts as Promoters of Social Cooperation and Cohesion 79 and painters compete among each other for the attention and favor of the audience, including potential clients and sponsors. On the other hand, their products can provide a shared horizon of aesthetically mediated perceptions, values, and interpretations to the audience. Sharing aesthetic preferences can, in turn, also have a group-dividing implication. Musical preferences that I share with a subgroup of a larger social entity separate me from other subgroups with different tastes; analogously, the interpretation of a myth or artwork that I share with one group separates me from groups who prefer other readings. As Simmel has shown, similar considerations apply to fashions, 34 styles, and brands of clothing. Among themselves, different styles and brands compete. To their clients, however, they provide shared aesthetic signatures of self-presentation. Despite all emphasis put on individuality and distinction, fashions are also readable as signals of belonging to certain groups sharing certain preferences. The more differentiated our societies, the more selectivity can we expect from the subgroups that constitute such communities of shared aesthetic preferences. These subgroups compete with one another for followers, acceptance/prestige, and social advantages. Summing up, the competition narrative and the social cohesion narrative of the human arts are likely to apply to different degrees and in varied combinations and hybridizations, depending on historical and cultural circumstances. A general formula granting one factor more weight than the other—or a generalized “both are equally true” account—can hardly capture once and forever the ongoing dynamics of this interaction. In any event, no such combinations of apparently antithetical functions can be found in the animal arts which always and unambiguously lean belson, “Psychological Status of the Script Concept”; and Brewer and Nakamura, “The Nature and Functions of Schemas.” 90 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin to overemphasize, a close connection between art, de-automatization, estrangement, innovation, and transgression. 19 Cognitively switching from a reality into a play mode provides opportunities for training and (self-)regulating not only motor patterns but also affective responses. Aggressive and defensive affects are equally drawn on in almost all forms of play. Pleasure and disappointment about successful and unsuccessful moves frequently take turns in quick succession. If contingency, or “fortune,” would not limit the predictability of the results, games would hardly be games. Playing thus presents a double challenge: first, for one’s intellectual and motor capacities, and secondly, for the affective handling of scenarios in which opposite developments—good and bad luck, successes and failures—are always possible. This is why Kant considers the anticipation of the next turn in games of chance an alternation between “fear and hope,” “perplexity” and “joy.” Without the chance of being disap20 or even annoyed at every new turn, the joy about one’s good luck or the others’ bad luck would not have any greater amplitude and resonance. Thus, in play, negative and positive feelings function as communicating vessels. Kant’s reflections about the “animating” or “enlivening” (belebend) 21 effects of games and art reception draw on a theoretical concept that plays a crucial role in eighteenth-century aesthetics, also belongs to Fechner’s basic “principles” of aesthetics and was recently rediscovered as an explanation 22 of the “pleasures of the mind”: the concept of a dynamically changing 23 interplay, or interaction, of a variety of emotions. This concept involves the assumption that single positive or negative feelings—be it love, admiration, or sadness—are an insufficient basis for a sustained and self-reinforcing interest in works of art. As all acutely felt emotional episodes are limited in duration, a continuous orgy of admiration would become boring just as quickly as a painting that only presents beautiful things in a beautiful way. Moreover, the demand for alternation and emotional change corresponds to the elementary experience that social communication nearly invariably tends to lead to conflicts at some point, and hence can barely be represented without recourse to negative emotions. Thus, the affect-poetic program that calls for artful interplays of opposite emotions reflects both the inherent instability of single emotional states, the conflict potential of social 19 Shklovsky, “Art as Device.” 20 Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, 127. 21 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 208. See also Menninghaus, “Ein Gefühl der Beförderung des Lebens.” Vorschule der Aesthetik, 22 Fechner, 246–53. 23 Cf. Kubovy, “On the Pleasures of the Mind,” 134–54. A Cooptation Model of the Evolution of the Human Arts 91 communication, and the unique powers of emotional change to capture and bind an audience’s attention. The hypothesis of emotional changes, 24 or blends, also corresponds to the psychological hypothesis of cognitive contrast, according to which we value things all the more if their positive aspects are highlighted by a negative contrast. 25 Given the many psychological mechanisms shared by play and art production/reception, theories of play and art typically converge in the key assumption that, basically, both play and the arts are about inherent processing pleasure detached from direct pragmatic concerns. This holds true regardless of the fact that some artworks can well be challenging, shocking, disturbing, and may not be pleasant in a narrower meaning, just as some plays can be—physically or intellectually—very demanding. Moreover, it is widely assumed that playing and art reception provide functional benefits beyond the immediate processing pleasure. On the one hand, they may already do so, because experiencing inherent and “enlivening” processing pleasure can enhance mood states past the end of actually playing or seeing a movie. On the other hand, playing and art reception/production provide our nerves and muscles, as well as our cognitive and affective dispositions, with opportunities and materials for pleasurable activation. As all our highly flexible capacities depend on usage (“use it or lose it”), play and art reception are in this regard also inherently advantageous from a functional point of view. 26 One of the basic prerequisites of human engagement in representational artworks is that we can be emotionally affected by the depiction of the happiness and suffering not only of absent or dead but also of purely fictitious or “performed” persons, and even of clearly fantastic beings. Pretend play, in which children engage from about eighteen months of age onward, shows that this “mad” capacity for genuine emotional involvement in fictional beings and worlds has a basis in early forms of symbolic play—such as takes place when, for instance, a child defines a piece of wood as a person in order to then use it for staging social dramas of great affective salience. 27 Interestingly, pretend play, verbal language, and a general capacity for hypothetical representation develop nearly simultaneously at the same time 24 For more details on this theory, see Menninghaus et al., “The Distancing–Embracing Model of the Enjoyment of Negative Emotions in Art-Reception.” 25 Cf. Parker et al., “Positive and Negative Hedonic Contrast.” 26 Martinelli, “Liars, Players, and Artists,” 96. Cf. Nottebohm, “From Bird Song to Neurogenesis,” 74–79. 27 For more details on engagement in fictional agency and narratives, see pp. 104–112. 92 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin in human ontogenesis. Moreover, whereas play and artistic displays are 28 clearly separated in the ontogenesis of animals—with play behavior largely ending before sexual maturation and artistic displays being confined to the sexually most active period of adult life—humans engage in both play and art reception/production well into old age. Taken together, the similarities between human play behavior and the arts identified so far—the analogous cognitive frameworks; the licenses, experiences and chances to learn in the “offline” mode of suspended reality; the animating, “enlivening” effect of the sheer activation of our senses and affects; the unusual and substantially overlapping extension of play behavior and engagement in the arts throughout human ontogenesis—strongly suggest that the human arts profited from the presumably much older practice of play. At the same time, there is a marked difference between the two. Play typically does not produce a lasting material product. Rather, the energy, pleasure, and benefits of playing primarily refer to the very practicing of the play capacities themselves. Artistic behavior, in contrast, often does produce lasting material objects. The performative arts, however, are as ephemerous as play; they, too, leave no material traces beyond their sheer performance, at least if not somehow recorded. 3. Technology and the Arts Darwin’s theory of sexual selection based on looks and/or excellence in singing, dancing, and even “architecture” (such as the building of nests and bowers) suggests four pretechnological paths to the human arts: (1) a visual one, via the sensitivity for major and minor differences in physical attractiveness (natural body “ornaments”); (2) a further visual one, via the sensitivity for excellence in self-displays by means of body movements (dancing) or in building decorative structures; (3) an auditory one, via the sensitivity for different song quality; and (4) an audiovisual one, via the sensitivity for the aesthetic appeal of visual displays of plumage and/or movements that are combined with sound displays. None of these forms of aesthetic display in animals imply tool use. To the extent that the respective species generally do not engage in tool use, this 28 Meltzoff, “Towards a Developmental Cognitive Science,” 23 sqq. On the evolutionary dissemination of imaginative pretend play, cf. Mitchell, “Pretending and Imagination in Animals and Children”; Lyn, “The ging Neanderthals,” 189–91; and Miller, “The Mating Mind,” 288–91. 49 For a different explanation, see Prum, 199–205. 98 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin preconditions; it would require substantial extra efforts of explaining why this model should work similarly in a highly social species. Nevertheless, there is strong evidence for the social importance of well-made, and also beautiful, tools in domains other than direct courtship displays. The high affinity between (male) ornaments and weapons— observable in any ethnological museum, extolled by Homer and deplored by Sappho —is the cardinal example here. Shields, swords, daggers, 50 rifles, revolvers: all classic weapons worn at the body have been adorned to highly extravagant and costly degrees and constitute an entire domain of an aesthetics of weaponry, including weapons of defense no less than those of attack. The aesthetic codes of these weapons correlate—or at least used to correlate in earlier times—with signals of social status and prestige. However, the technical and artistic capacities of the wearer himself are hardly ever involved, let alone at stake here. Possessing such weapons is sufficiently reliable proof of material resources and social rank, irrespective of who produced them. Unlike the feathers, bowers, songs, and dances on which Darwin based his model of sexual choice, weapons and tools always have a technical and practical value apart from the aesthetic one. Therefore, they can and should be set apart from objects of purely ornamental importance. Spencer, Darwin’s contemporary, had a very precise sense of the type of object that could be seen as a direct equivalent of the impractical peacock feathers in the domain of human ornamentation practices. According to his hypoth51 the oldest ornamental objects were Indeed, archeologists and ethnologists report countless ornaments made from teeth, feathers, bones, and sometimes also skins of slain animals. Interestingly, Stone Age hunters preferred to make ornaments not from the teeth of animals that were probably killed most often (such as reindeer) but from mammoth, cave bear, wolf, and fox teeth. Analogously, other ornamental materials were also 52 subject to the requirement of rarity and costliness: they were only rarely found in the habitat and/or had to be brought from afar. Ornaments 53 were thus literally a “costly signal,” one that required an above-average amount of time, hunting skills, and resources. Insofar as ornaments partly 50 Sappho 27a D. 51 Spencer, Ceremonial Institutions, 174–92. 52 Cf. Kölbl, “Ich, wir und die anderen,” 167. However, it should be noted that, apart from their conformity to the aesthetic principle of costly signals as well as their supposed social and magic symbolic power, the teeth of predators also have a practical advantage for the production of ornaments: they are more durable than ruminants’ teeth. 53 Ibid., 169. A Cooptation Model of the Evolution of the Human Arts 99 derive their value from their trophy character, self-decorative practices fit in well with the fitness indicator theory, and hence with mechanisms of natural selection. Spencer convincingly argues that military decorations seamlessly continue archaic practices of ornamenting oneself with trophies. After all, badges and medals are pinned on uniforms for special achievements in combat. Often, such decorations are conspicuously colorful. Thus, the concept of a “highly decorated” officer combines the marked decorative appeal with a discreet reference to a pragmatic meaning of this decoration, which essentially lies in the number of enemies killed. Even today, soldiers in dress uniforms appear rather flamboyant and peacock-like compared to non-martial an average civilian. Moreover, the domain of ornaments could be understood to be a derivative from the use of headdresses, amulets, pins, and rings as trophies in military contexts. The metaphor “war paint” as used for an intensely made-up female appearance could be speculatively interpreted as a memory trace indicative of this hypothetical martial origin of ornamentation. Unlike decorative weapons, necklaces and bracelets made from shells or bear teeth—as well as colorful military decorations—have no direct practical value. Their archaic forms (holes in marine gastropods suggest that these were used as ornaments as early as 165,000 years ago) imply 54 perforation, concatenation, and attachment techniques subtle and reliable enough to allow for the transformation of natural bodies (shells) or body parts (teeth) into ornaments enhancing the appearance of another body. The materials that were strung together for this purpose were not yet themselves technically produced, but natural in origin. Still, their configuration and concatenation clearly amounts to self-made and intentionally designed ornaments. Archeological data for ornamental objects that are manmade to an even higher degree only exists for the period beginning with the “creative explosion” about 40,000 years ago. These combine the characteristics of weapons (intense technological investment, three-dimensional objects of a form that is fully defined by human design) with those of ornaments made from found or captured bodies/body parts (purely ornamental use as a ring, bracelet, necklace, brooch, etc.; no practical utility beyond the ornamental, religious, or socio-symbolic contexts). These more recent types of objects technologically processed are pieces of Evolution,” 6. 56 Cf. Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 107; Hanich et al., “Why We Like to Watch Sad Films.” A Cooptation Model of the Evolution of the Human Arts 101 could have existed for over 250,000 years. The extraction of pigment and 57 the application of paint imply technologies of their own. Middle-Paleolithic ornaments found in Africa and the Near East, which are mostly about 80,000 to 120,000 years old, consist of rare natural objects that were con58 costly and/or difficult to acquire; these were perforated, often colored, and rendered applicable. 59 As far as we know today, it was Europe in particular where the rapid artistic and technological development during the “upper Paleolithic revolution” about 40,000–50,000 years before our age took place. Only since 60 this period, there is evidence that all classic visual arts—figurative pating, sculpture, engraving—are practised in parallel and at a high technical level. All classic visual arts simultaneously, instantaneously, and at a high technical level: figurative painting, sculpture, engraving. Moreover, since this 61 time, the archeological record also shows, in great number and variety, costly ornaments whose form they completely imposed on the respective raw material (rather than taking advantage of the given shape of natural objects). This fast advancement of the arts—both of the older decorative variety and the new figurative (not immediately decorative) one—coincides with an analogous advancement in the diversity, specialization, and effectiveness of human tool cultures as documented for the period beginning ca. 50,000 years before our age. 62 Summing up, the emergence and dissemination of these first archeologically documented arts, which (unlike the hypothetical proto-arts of singing and dancing) produced durable material objects, closely correlates with an advancement of technological capabilities that is sometimes described as a 57 Cf. d’Errico, “The Invisible Frontier,” 197 sqq.; Barham, “Possible Early Pigment Use in South-Central Africa”; d’Errico and Soressi, “Systematic Use of Pigment by Pechde-l’Azé Neandertals: Implications for the Origin of Behavioural Modernity”; Watts, “Ochre in the Middle Stone Age of Southern Africa”; Bar-Yosef et al., “Shells and Ochre in Middle Paleolithic Qafzeh Cave, Israel.” 58 Cf. Vanhaeren et al., “Middle Paleolithic Shell Beads”; Haidle, “Wege zur Kunst,” 242. 59 Cf. Bouzouggar, “82,000-Year-Old Shell Beads from North Africa”; Zilhão et al., “Symbolic Use of Marine Shells and Mineral Pigments by Iberian Neandertals”; d’Errico et al., “Nassarius Kraussianus Shell Beads from Blombos Cave”; d’Errico et al., “Additional Evidence on the Use of Personal Ornaments in the Middle Paleolithic of North Africa”; Conard, “A Critical View.” 60 Cf. Mellars, The Neandertal Legacy; and Bar-Yosef, “On the Nature of Transitions: The Middle to Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic Revolution.” 61 Cf. Floss, “Die frühesten Bildwerke der Menschheit.” The Human Story, 62 Cf. Dunbar, 30 sqq., as well as the articles and bibliographies in the collection Les chemin de l’art aurignacien en Europe. Das Aurignacien and die Anfänge der Kunst in Europa. 102 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin “revolution” and sometimes as the refinement, differentiation, and systematization of possibilities that were already in principle available and occasionally used before. This connection between technology and the arts 63 does not necessarily mean that the development of new refined tools was the actual cause of the arts’ emergence, or, conversely, that the need for new arts drove tool culture to new heights. Instead, Dunbar and others suggest a more complex explanatory model. According to it, modern humans had already 64 developed the current brain volume as well as the capability for syntactic and symbolic language—and thus the principle capacities for imagination, fiction, and narration—at least 150,000 years before our time, with some estimates even speaking of 500,000 years. This view implies the (speculative) 65 notion that a lengthy incubation period was necessary for these relatively new adaptations to unfold their full cumulative potential for our cognitive flexibility, our behavior as a whole, and our technical achievements. The social brain hypothesis suggests that the new capacities were initially primarily involved in social cognition and specifically supported higher degrees of social complexity (larger groups, labor division, cooperative behavior, more precise differentiation of social orders). According to this model, the material “revolution” of tools and arts must have been preceded by a symbolic and social cognitive “revolution.” Once a critical mass of social complexity, symbolic communication, and social cognitive flexibility was in place, it could promote the parallel breakthrough of new refined technologies and artistic practices that require high levels of social labor division, symbolic ways of acting, and, last but not least, technical skills. Analogous preferences for technically/aesthetically well-made objects and for good-looking bodies could then have joined forces in the production of technologically advanced (self-)decorative objects that serve both social and sexual distinctions. These considerations suggest that the technological production of artificial decorations of the human body should be conceptualized not only in terms of direct sexual signal effects but also, and perhaps even primarily, as the implementation of systems of social symbols. These systems are 66 63 The latter is Conard’s reading in “Cultural Evolution in Africa and Eurasia During the Middle and Late Pleistocene.” 64 Cf. Dunbar, The Human Story, 30 sqq.; Tattersall, “Human Origins: Out of Africa”; Zilhão et al., “Symbolic Use of Marine Shells and Mineral Pigments by Iberian Neandertals,” 1027. 65 Dediu and Levinson, “On the Antiquity of Language.” 66 Cf. Hovers, “An Early Case of Color Symbolism. Ochre Use by Modern Humans in Qafzeh Cave”; Zilhão et al., “Symbolic Use of Marine Shells and Mineral Pigments by Iberian Neandertals”; Tattersall, “Human Origins: Out of Africa”; Watts, “Ochre in the Middle Stone Age of Southern Africa.” A Cooptation Model of the Evolution of the Human Arts 103 sensitive both to the technological mastery of certain production techniques and materials and to the symbolic and cultural prestige of the objects thus produced. By promoting such symbol systems, the decorative arts could have provided a complex integration of technical, sexual, and social codes under the special conditions of human symbolic cognition. (The role of environmental challenges in this process is difficult to determine, all the more so as the new behavior arose not only under the stressful climate conditions of the Ice Age and in direct competition with the Neanderthals in Europe, but also in numerous other habitats.) 67 The production of wholly artificial ornaments, as evident from the archeological record, fundamentally changed the practices of ornamentation. Whatever is painted on one’s skin is inseparable from the body and the space-time of the ornamented human. Three-dimensional ornamental objects, on the other hand, can be handed down for generations or change owners and travel in time and space. They can serve as objects and/or media of diverse social transactions and accompany their owners into death as burial objects. Thus, these ornamental arts also differ markedly from the immobile paintings of the Paleolithic Era that were applied to caves and outdoor rock formations and hence are stationary. Works of music and the narrative arts are not subject to a similarly narrow confinement in space; however, they pay for their greater freedom to travel by failing to leave any archeological traces prior to the invention of writing. It is widely assumed that Paleolithic “artists” produced their painting tools, paints, materials, and musical instruments themselves, and that they acquired and perfected their mastery in systematic exercise, probably under the guidance of more experienced painters, musicians, etc. This process enhanced cognitive, technical, and motor capacities that were decisive predictors of the quality of tool use in both craftsmen and artists. Notably, even though an advanced division of labor was practiced in both Latin and Greek antiquity, the concepts of techné and ars equally referred to the “higher” arts and of painting or sculpting to craftmanship in its more pragmatic meaning. This linguistic evidence also supports the notion that practical crafts and the arts that were later called the “liberal arts” exhibit substantial overlaps—or at least did so in the past. 68 67 Cf. Conard and Bolus, “Radiocarbon Dating the Appearance of Modern Humans and Timing of Cultural Innovations in Europe,” particularly 363–65; and Conard, “The Last Neanderthals and First Modern Humans in the Swabian Jura.” 68 Analogously, Edward O. Wilson interprets the much-discussed painting practices in which chimpanzees engage in captivity when guided as merely a special manifestation of their general capacity for tool use. Cf. Wilson, “On Art,” 72. 104 The Evolution of the Human Arts: Aesthetics after Darwin 4. Symbolic Cognition/Language and the Arts Evolutionary hypotheses regarding aesthetically preferred body ornaments and sexual courtship displays (singing, dancing, multimodal displays) are wholly restricted to nonsymbolic signal communication. Apparently, the capacity for symbolic cognition evolved only in humans. This capacity, in turn, includes a substantial potential for transforming older signaling practices aimed at winning over through “beauty.” On top of their sexual or purely aesthetic signal value, phenomenally very similar forms of singing and dancing can acquire a wealth of additional symbolic meanings and symbol-based functions. Self-painting and ornaments can highlight (or simulate) elementary sexual signals and/or provide detailed socio-symbolic information. Moreover, the verbal arts and the exploration of imaginary and fictional spaces and times only become possible once pure signal systems are effectively transcended. Yet again, some dimensions of pre-symbolic signaling are retained here, too; for instance, acoustic/vocal signaling by largely 69 pre-symbolic prosodic means (rhythm, melody, vocal signals of affect) is particularly strongly elaborated precisely in artistic uses of language. Thus, the artistic elaboration of language both pushes its symbolic capacities, and hence its differences from mere signals, to new heights and manages to preserve or reinvent the archaic affect potential of prelinguistic signaling. The crucial question of when humans possessed linguistic capacities similar to those of current humans appears to be far from consensually solved. It is widely assumed that this state dates back at least 100,000 years. 70 However, as already indicated earlier, some experts suggest that symbolic and syntactic language could be 300,000 to 500,000 years old, thus shift71 its evolution well into the times of the archaic Homo sapiens. All in all, newer models suggest that the human language is evolutionarily based on (1) several very general communicative capacities (above all, theory of mind and the capacity to focus attention and intention on shared scenarios), (2) special capacities for producing sounds and gestures and (3) high capacities for vocal learning. Phenomena such as proto-linguistic utterances and holistic one-word sentences may point to evolutionary antecedents of full-blown syntactic language. 72 69 Tomasello (Origins of Human Cognition) lays particular emphasis on this aspect. The Evolution of Language. 70 For a review of the issue, cf. Fitch, 71 Cf. Dediu a