The Adaptive Function of the Arts: Alternative Evolutionary Hypotheses
Joseph Carroll: The Adaptive Function of the Arts: Alternative Evolutionary Hypotheses. In: Carsten Gansel, Dirk Vanderbeke (eds.): Literature und Evolution. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2012. 50-63.
I. Massive Modularity vs. Cognitive Flexibility
Evolutionists insist that genes constrain and direct human behavior. Cultural constructivists counter that culture, embodied in the arts, shapes human experience. Both these claims are true, but some evolutionists and some cultur- al constructivists have mistakenly regarded them as mutually exclusive (cf. Wilson 2007, pp. 20–37). Some evolutionists have either ignored the arts or tried to explain them away as epiphenomenal to the basic processes of life. Many cultural constructivists, in contrast, have sought to collapse biology into culture, eliminating “human nature” and thus turning culture into a first cause or unmoved mover. In the past few years, evolutionists in both the sciences and the humanities have broken through this impasse, arguing that the imagination is a functional part of the adapted mind. These new ideas revise an earlier model of human cognitive evolution – a model most closely associated with the earliest phase of “evolutionary psychology” (EP) as a specific school within the evolutionary human sciences. Revising that model makes it possible for us now to fully integrate the evolutionary human sciences and the study of the arts.
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