Debates over the applicability of the category of art to the ancient world parallel those concerning the relevance of literature and religion. From the perspective of contemporary scientific research, all three types of cultural production constitute expressions of the evolutionary drive to ritualize experience. As a result, it is not surprising that something resembling literature, religion, and art is found in all cultures, including those of antiquity. More problematical is the recurrent appeal to aesthetics, which presupposes a separable faculty of perception that does not accord with contemporary (or ancient) ecological accounts of human psychology. Ancient art history, like literary and religious history, thus has a legitimate object of inquiry, but should be wary of the unexamined assumptions about human nature that are implicit in aesthetic discourse.


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pp. 215-230
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