The Origins of Aesthetics: A Neurobiological Basis for Affective Feelings and Aesthetics [chapter]

Edmund T. Rolls
2011 The Aesthetic MindPhilosophy and Psychology  
In this chapter a theory of the origins of aesthetics is described. This has its roots in emotion, in which what is pleasant or unpleasant, a reward or punisher, is the result of an evolutionary process in which genes define the (pleasant or unpleasant) goals for action (Rolls 2005b). It is argued that combinations of multiple such factors provide part of the basis for aesthetics. To this is added the operation of the reasoning, syntactic, brain system which evolved to help solve difficult,
more » ... istep, problems, and the use of which is encouraged by pleasant feelings when elegant, simple, and hence aesthetic solutions are found that are advantageous because they are parsimonious, and follow Occam's Razor. The combination of these two systems, and the interactions between them, provides an approach to understanding aesthetics that is rooted in evolution and its effects on brain design and function. I start by considering how affective value is generated in the brain as a solution to the problem of how genes can specify useful goals for actions. This is more efficient and produces more flexible behaviour than by specifying the actions themselves. Then, in Sections 5 and 6, I develop this theory further into a theory of the origins of aesthetics.
doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199691517.003.0009 fatcat:ej7hjyztpjhxjm73b3nzyr3ytq