Title: Aesthetic sense and social cognition: a story from the Early Stone Age
Author: Joint author with Xuanqi Zhu
Publication: Synthese (2019)
Date: 29 November 2019
Abstract: Human aesthetic practices show a sensitivity to the ways that the appearance of an artefact manifests skills and other qualities of the maker. We investigate a possible origin for this kind of sensibility, locating it in the need for co-ordination of skill-transmission in the Acheulean stone tool culture. We argue that our narrative supports the idea that Acheulean agents were aesthetic agents. In line with this we offer what may seem an absurd comparison: between the Acheulean and the Quattrocento. In making it we display some hidden complexity in human aesthetic responses to an artefact. We conclude with a brief review of rival explanations—biological and/or cultural—of how this skills-based sensibility became a regular feature of human aesthetic practices.