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Art and Human Nature Essay

When discussing art it has continuously been examined how much it is applied to human nature. In The Art Instinct by Denis Dutton he spend an entire chapter discussing the colorations between the two. Art can be seen in human nature through its history, it’s comparison to language, and its creation from humans through genetics and their tendencies. Language has always been considered a part of human nature. All culture through all ages has some manner of language.

Though it changes throughout the world with over six thousand known types, the universal ability to communicate is unquestionable “Despite vocabulary and surface grammar differences … languages are never mutually incommensurable … This is possible because language structure is shared across cultures and because languages are ties to universal prelinguistic interests, desires, needs, and capacities (30). Language is cross-cultural and though the mannerism and speech are different they are all inherent in their ability.

At the same time one cannot argue that each language and gesture changed throughout the different culture. This is how language can be considered so universal in human nature. Art can be said to have the same universality of language. Like language it has transcended through all cultures and history. Different cultures all express them in a different way, and though everyone doesn’t necessarily understand all others cultures art, it is still a human universals.

Also like language, art has the innate ability throughout all societies. Art in many way is very comparable to the human nature of language “The field of natural languages resembles the field of art considered cross-culturally: both exhibit an interplay between, on the one hand, deep, innate structures and mechanisms of intellectual and emotional like and, on the other hand, a vast ocean of historically contingent cultural materials” (31). With these many colorations art appears essentially connected to human nature.

This thought that art has coloration with human nature has been around throughout history. Plato though rejected art as a form of knowledge, he still admitted it connection with nature. He saw art as an imitation of nature, which was already the imitation of the Forms, which make up our true reality. This he felt was disillusion, which brought out the worst customs of human nature. Either it represented a misleading view of our world in the sense of the beauty always found in art, but not in true reality.

Or that it feeds our most basic instincts From a Platonic point of view, much of the violent entertainment offered by dramatic form – from the theater of the Greeks to the violence and animal passions of today’s entertainment media … For Plato, the arts at their worst are bad for the soul because they engage and reward its basest elements (32). Though you sense that Plato fears the dangerous of the arts, this is only because he admits the inherit nature of it. Aristotle however has quiet a different opinion of art.

He realized that with the variety in art it provides awareness into the human condition. In his works on drama and poetry he demonstrates that impact that art has had throughout the culture and history of his own society. Also he argues for the natural tendency that mankind has to represent themselves with art expresses the innate nature of it “Human beings are born image-makers and image-enjoyers” (33). Though the idea behind art and its connect between human nature is not always the same, it has existed during the course of history.

Like art, human nature itself has been questioned on wither it is truly natural or has evolved over time and cultures. With the evolution of man many of human instincts has developed over time. Natural selection over thousands of generations have helped hones many skills needed to survive throughout mankind’s existences. These effects over many generations can be considered part of what makes up human nature “pressure over thousands of generations can deeply engrave a physical and psychological traits into the minds of any species (42).

However it can also be argued that much of natural instincts come from our social nature. There is always the inherent hunter-gather sense that all humans have, but on the other side are the social tendencies we all have in common Human beings, for example, are curious about their neighbors, like to gossip about them, pity their misfortunes and envy their successes. People everywhere tell lies, justify and rationalize their own behavior, exaggerate their altruism. Human beings like to expose and mock the false pretentions of others.

They enjoy playing games, telling jokes, and using poetic language (45-46). This social nature can be seen as innate within all cultures. Both this and genetic predispositions of humans is what human nature is derived from. This is where Dutton true argument comes full circle. Human nature no matter its origins is what makes up humans and all that they create. With our natural instincts we developed many tendencies, and theories. Our history as humanity we have gone through many things such as survival, not only those from the environment, but from the social forces that surrounds us.

All of this is what truly makes up human nature, and from all this is where we create art. This is what makes humans what they are, and with that what they feel inspired to create no matter the culture and its form of art. This is how he reasons that art is human nature “ eventually produced the intensely social, robust, love-making, murderous … knowledge- seeking, arguing, clubby, language-using, conspicuously wasteful, versatile species of primate we became. And along the way in developing all this, the arts were born (46).

Since art is derived from all that is human nature how can itself not be human nature. Through its colorations with language, the history, and the effects that human genetics and social tendencies have had art can be considered to be a part of human nature. Art like human nature has transcended throughout all of mankind’s existence. Wither art will ever be considered a part of human nature, its impact on humans not only through history but culture cannot be denied. Dutton, Denis. The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, & Human Evolution. Array New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009.


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