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Bioaesthetics

Making Sense of Life in Science and the Arts

2017
Author:

Carsten Strathausen

Bioaesthetics

A comprehensive critique of the ideas behind bioaesthetics, and a necessary, methodical account of both its insights and its deficiencies

Carsten Strathausen’s exploration of bioaesthetics is the first comprehensive account of its ideas, as well as a timely critique of its limitations. He familiarizes readers with the basics of bioaesthetics, grounding them in its philosophical underpinnings while articulating its key components and highlighting the longstanding problem of the “two cultures” that separate the arts and the sciences.

In recent years, bioaesthetics has used the latest discoveries in evolutionary studies and neuroscience to provide new ways of looking at art and aesthetics. Carsten Strathausen’s remarkable exploration of this emerging field is the first comprehensive account of its ideas, as well as a timely critique of its limitations.

Strathausen familiarizes readers with the basics of bioaesthetics, grounding them in its philosophical underpinnings while articulating its key components. Importantly, he delves into the longstanding problem of the “two cultures” that separate the arts and the sciences. Seeking to make bioaesthetics a more robust way of thinking, Strathausen then critiques it for failing to account for science’s historical and cultural assumptions. At its worst, he says, biologism reduces artworks to mere automatons that rubber-stamp pre-established scientific truths.

Written with a sensitive understanding of science’s strengths, and willing to refute its best arguments, Bioaesthetics helps readers separate the sensible from the specious. At a time when humanities departments are shrinking—and when STEM education is on the rise—Bioaesthetics makes vital points about the limitations of science, while lodging a robust defense of the importance of the humanities.

Bioaesthetics

Carsten Strathausen is professor of German and English and Catherine Paine Middlebush Chair in Humanities at the University of Missouri. He is editor of A Leftist Ontology: Beyond Relativism and Identity Politics (Minnesota, 2009) and author of The Look of Things: Poetry and Vision around 1900, as well as translator of Under Suspicion: A Phenomenology of Media by Boris Groys.

Bioaesthetics

Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction
The Biological Nature of What?
Against Consilience
What Is Bioaesthetics?
Structure and Chapters
1. Human Nature after Kant
Kant and Biology
Preformation and Epigenesis before 1800
Emergent Life (Autopoiesis and Cognition)
Sensus Communis Aestheticus
2. Marxism and Biology
Marx and Darwin
Chance and Necessity, or, Kant Revisited
Science and Politics
A Biologistic Theory of History
On Norm-Circularity and Aleatory Materialism
3. Cultural Evolution
Sociobiology
Evolutionary Psychology (EP)
Social Learning and Sociogenesis
Of Memes and Culturgens
Technogenesis
4. Evolutionary Aesthetics
Art and Nature
A Survey of the Field
Literary Darwinism Revisited
Cognitive Studies
5. Neuroaesthetics
How to “Read” a Brain Scan
The Cerebral Subject
Consciousness
Neuronal Aesthetics: The Historical View
Neuroaesthetics: The Scientific View
“The Pre-existing Idea within Us”: Zeki’s Platonism
Coda
Deleuze and Affect
A Posthuman Aesthetics?
Notes
Index