Considering the The Art Instinct

Art instinct Chris Shoen's review of Denis Dutton's book:

At the end of the introduction to The Art Instinct, Dutton sets himself a curious task. Having established that art is a phenomenon arising from a “universal aesthetic” that has been endowed in us by our genes, he then announces that the purpose of his book is to argue that art is actually the force that liberates us from biological imperatives: “The arts set us above the very instincts that make them possible.” He illustrates his stance with the scene from The African Queen where Charlie attempts to justify his drunken fatalism with an invocation to “human nature.” Replies Rose: “Human Nature is what we were put on this earth to rise above, Mr. Allnut.” Comments Dutton: “This book is on the side of Rose's famous retort.”

This may be the most essential statement Dutton makes in the book, as it acknowledges an intrinsic tension between nature and culture that has occupied moral theorists throughout human history. It is also a signal to the skeptical reader that Dutton does not intend to sidestep some of the thornier problems, both ethical and logical, that might arise from a thesis that Art–the apotheosis of culture–is in fact thoroughly biological.