Why do humans take pleasure in making art? In his 2009 book The Art Instinct, philosopher Denis Dutton suggested that art is a need built into our systems, a complex and subtle evolutionary adaptation comparable to our facility for language. We humans evolved to love art because it helps us survive; for example, a well-expressed appreciation of art can -- even in modern times -- help us to find a mate. It’s a bold argument to make, bolstered by examples from the breadth of art history that Dutton kept at his fingertips.
Dutton taught philosophy at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and was the editor of Arts & Letters Daily, a three-column compendium of culture news from all over the web. (His own homepage is another storehouse of tidbits from his wide-ranging explorations in philosophy and culture.) He was on the advisory board of Cybereditions, a publisher specializing in ebooks and print-on-demand editions of nonfiction works. And he was an editor of Climate Debate Daily, a lively blog that takes a skeptical view of some climate-change arguments.
Dutton died from cancer in December 2010.