The Indispensable Excess of the Aesthetic

The Indispensable Excess of the Aesthetic: Evolution of Sensibility in Nature (2015 Rowman & Littlefield, Lexington Books)


This book is a unique contribution to the recent body of work on the significance of the aesthetic in human evolution. It offers a compelling argument for grounding the aesthetic in the naturalistic frame of evolutionary theory. Mandoki’s account is richly informative, guiding the reader through a wide body of scholarship in biology, cognitive science, semiotics, psychology, cultural studies, history, philosophy, and aesthetics. Her sharp eye cuts through the mass of vague universal concepts such as genes and memes, “dubious dichotomies,” and competing and conflicting theories, always guided by the recognition of connections and contexts. At the same time the writing is unfailingly fresh and engaging and even sparkles with wit. A rare achievement. (Arnold Berleant, C.W. Post, Long Island University)

Philosophical aesthetics is now in a new age. One of the main subjects of the New Aesthetic is the theory of aesthesis (perception/feeling). Katya Mandoki offers a daring new version of this theory. In a sense, the author tries to answer the questions: why is the beautiful beautiful? What is the very origin of art? The field of her argument is, of course, the theory of evolution, with the main reference being Darwin, philosophy’s confrontation with the sciences, and many different forms of knowledge so as to dazzle us: ‘exuberance’ as the subject of the book is performed. (Ken-ichi Sasaki, University of Tokyo)


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