Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Charles Darwin, Denis Dutton, Kurt Andersen, and Stephen Colbert

150 years ago today, Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was published. Appropriately enough, Kurt Andersen, on public radio's Studio 360, is airing this week an interview with Denis Dutton, author of The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution. Dutton's stimulating and erudite book looks specifically at human tastes in the arts, and argues that we need to think much more carefully about the way artistic values have been shaped by human evolution. The Art Instinct is a gleeful, two-fisted assault on much of the academic orthodoxy surrounding all the arts, but it's also full of deep and sincere appreciation of works ranging from Jane Austen's novels to Marcel Duchamp's notorious Fountain (the urinal Duchamp treated as a piece of art). It was one of the most widely reviewed books of the past year. I recommend it as a Christmas present for anyone you know who's interested in art, or at the same time, for readers who enjoy accessible explorations of evolutionary psychology--books by authors like Steven Pinker, Jared Diamond, or Richard Dawkins.

Click below to listen to Kurt Andersen interviewing Denis Dutton.

Or for something a bit lighter, but equally informative, you can see what happened when the philosophy professor met that highly evolved work of art, Stephen Colbert.

The Colbert Report
Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Denis Dutton

Colbert Report Full Episodes
Political Humor
U.S. Speedskating

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