Accepted paper:

Art and human evolution: connecting the time of art with the art of time


Brecht Govaerts (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how the production of time in art is related to the role of art within long-term processes of human evolution. This question is addressed through the intimate connection between aesthetics, ontology and human evolution present within the philosophy of Hegel and Whitehead.

Paper long abstract:

This paper aims to provide a theorization of the relation between the role of aesthetics in human evolution and the temporal dimension of the aesthetic itself. In order to understand the connection between aesthetics and time, I rely on the tradition in Western philosophical aesthetics that is concerned with the connection between aesthetic experience and human freedom. The experience of a work of art is an experience defined by freedom in the sense that it is disinterested (Kant)or a break with one's habitual way of being (Adorno). I approach the time-dimension of art through this specific form of aesthetic experience in art. What I want to focus on is the fact how this relation between human freedom and the experience of art is intimately connected with long-term historical change and ontology. This connection between long-term historical change, ontology and art is particularly visible within the tradition of German Idealism (Hegel) and the philosophy of Whitehead. Hegel has traditionally been adopted in archaeology to theorize long-term change. However, I argue for a re-evaluation of his thinking by emphasizing the central role of aesthetics and ontology in his concept of human evolution. If the direction of social theory in archaeology and anthropology is going to be ontological, I argue that it is absolutely essential to acknowledge the philopsophical tradition that unites the aesthetic with the ontological and human evolution in order to understand the connection between aesthetics and time.

panel Cre08
Time and tradition: theorising the temporalities in and of cultural production