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What Is Art For? Paperback – June 1, 1990


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press; Reprinted edition edition (June 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0295970170
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295970172
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #302,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The author's attempt to substantiate her thesis "that although the arts are a cultural phenomenon, Art might profitably be viewed as a prior, biological one" is thwarted by her muddled approach to biology, anthropology, psychology, cultural histories, and aesthetics. At best, her text is argumentative; more often, it sinks into overblown phraseologies, self-contradictory assertions, and blatant oversights of seminal thought. That artistic behaviors might have a biological basis is an interesting idea, but we shall have to await another work on the subject before evaluating it.Francisca Goldsmith, Golden Gate Univ. Lib., San Francisco
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"One of the most intellectually enriching interdisciplinary studies of art that has ever been written. It combines breadth of learning with lucidity of thought and expression, in a way that should engage the interest of anyone with a systematic interest in the arts―be it scientific, or from the viewpoint of the humanities."―Nature

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Art Lover on July 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
Although there may be flaws in Dissanayake's first presentation on this topic, her ideas are revolutionary and (in their more developed form) will influence ideas about the genesis of art and its evolutionary role in human experience and culture for years to come. Her ideas are pioneering and will be quoted, argued, further developed, expanded, and expounded upon.

Best of all...this is a very readable book. In fact, its an exciting read; you may be challenged but you won't be bored.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By jaspersu on September 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
Ellen Dissanayake has influenced my art teaching philosophy. She tries to connect art making to the biological evolution of human kind, and it gets a little wacky, but I got very interested in the idea that making and responding to art are part of human nature. I think teaching kids about art is part of teaching them to be human.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Walter W. Matera on February 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is not light reading. One should carefully read each section, think about what it says and then read it again. Ms. Dissanayake's thesis is valid. I did a statistical study of her position on the value of surface beauty and verified it across cultural groups and age cohorts. Whatever other scholars develop in the way of theories of art, hers is the foundation. Read it first, then go on to the others.
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This is an extremely unique look at the biomechanical mechanisms thought to give rise to human kind's "need" to make art. Dissanayake is a scientist and writes like one. She is densely wordy and as precise as necessary, but even gleaners like me can gain a lot from this book. Awesome read!
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