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Conclusion Evolutional








SOME of my Readers, not satisfied by the answer implicit in the last
chapter and indeed in the whole of this little book, may ask a final
question concerning our subject. Not: What is the use of Art? since,
as we have seen, Art has many and various uses both to the
individual and to the community, each of which uses is independent
of the attainment of Beauty.

The remaining question concerns the usefulness of the very demand
for Beauty, of that Aesthetic Imperative by which the other uses
of art are more or less qualified or dominated. In what way, the
Reader may ask, has sensitiveness to Beauty contributed to the
survival of mankind, that it should not only have been preserved and
established by evolutional selection, but invested with the
tremendous power of the pleasure and pain alternative?

The late William James, as some readers may remember, placed
musical pleasure between sentimental love and sea-sickness as
phenomena unaccountable by any value for human survival, in fact
masteries, if not paradoxes, of evolution.

The riddle, though not necessarily the mystery, does not consist in
the survival of the aesthetic instinct of which the musical one is a
mere sub-category, but in the origin and selectional establishment of
its elementary constituents, say for instance space-perception and
empathy, both of which exist equally outside that instinct which is a
mere compound of them and other primary tendencies. For given
space-perception and empathy and their capacity of being felt as
satisfactory or unsatisfactory, the aesthetic imperative is not only
intelligible but inevitable. Instead therefore of asking: Why is there a
preference for what we call Beauty? we should have to ask: why has
perception, feeling, logic, imagination, come to be just what it is?
Indeed why are our sense-organs, our bodily structure and chemical
composition, what they are; and why do they exist at all in
contradistinction to the ways of being of other living or other
inanimate things? So long as these elementary facts continue
shrouded in darkness or taken for granted, the genesis and
evolutional reason of the particular compound which we call
aesthetic preference must remain only one degree less mysterious
than the genesis and evolutional reason of its psychological
components.

Meanwhile all we can venture to say is that as satisfaction derived
from shapes we call beautiful, undoubtedly involves intense,
complex, and reiterative mental activities, as it has an undeniable
power for happiness and hence for spiritual refreshment, and
as it moreover tends to inhibit most of the instincts whose
superabundance can jeopardise individual and social existence, the
capacity for such aesthetic satisfaction, once arisen, would be
fostered in virtue of a mass of evolutional advantages which are as
complex and difficult to analyse, but also as deep-seated and
undeniable, as itself.






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