Where does our sense of beauty come from? Traditional interest in evolutionary aesthetics has proceeded by an almost exclusive focus on Darwin's Descent of Man, which theorizes the origin of the human aesthetic sense as an instrumental feature of sexual desire. But what if the Descent only gives us half of the story? I argue that we have overlooked a key element in Darwin's aesthetics that is more readily available in On the Origin of Species, a form of aesthetic experience he associates with "cultivated men." Instead of an explicit scientific theory of aesthetic pleasure, the Origin provides evidence of this "cultivated" beauty as a narrative practice of aesthetic judgment with specific reference to an evolutionary phenomenon Darwin calls "coadaptation." I conclude by addressing the demands this new evidence makes on any valid understanding of evolutionary aesthetics and suggest a preliminary model of aesthetic education that could facilitate collaborative dialogue in an increasingly recalcitrant two-cultures debate.


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pp. 71-105
Launched on MUSE
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