Conclusion Evolutional

SOME of my Readers, not satisfied by the answer implicit in the last

chapter and indeed in the whole of this little book, may ask a final

question concerning our subject. Not: What is the use of Art? since,

as we have seen, Art has many and various uses both to the

individual and to the community, each of which uses is independent

of the attainment of Beauty.

The remaining question concerns the usefulness
of the very demand

for Beauty, of that Aesthetic Imperative by which the other uses

of art are more or less qualified or dominated. In what way, the

Reader may ask, has sensitiveness to Beauty contributed to the

survival of mankind, that it should not only have been preserved and

established by evolutional selection, but invested with the

tremendous power of the pleasure and pain alternative?

The late William James, as some readers may remember, placed

musical pleasure between sentimental love and sea-sickness as

phenomena unaccountable by any value for human survival, in fact

masteries, if not paradoxes, of evolution.

The riddle, though not necessarily the mystery, does not consist in

the survival of the aesthetic instinct of which the musical one is a

mere sub-category, but in the origin and selectional establishment of

its elementary constituents, say for instance space-perception and

empathy, both of which exist equally outside that instinct which is a

mere compound of them and other primary tendencies. For given

space-perception and empathy and their capacity of being felt as

satisfactory or unsatisfactory, the aesthetic imperative is not only

intelligible but inevitable. Instead therefore of asking: Why is there a

preference for what we call Beauty? we should have to ask: why has

perception, feeling, logic, imagination, come to be just what it is?

Indeed why are our sense-organs, our bodily structure and chemical

composition, what they are; and why do they exist at all in

contradistinction to the ways of being of other living or other

inanimate things? So long as these elementary facts continue

shrouded in darkness or taken for granted, the genesis and

evolutional reason of the particular compound which we call

aesthetic preference must remain only one degree less mysterious

than the genesis and evolutional reason of its psychological


Meanwhile all we can venture to say is that as satisfaction derived

from shapes we call beautiful, undoubtedly involves intense,

complex, and reiterative mental activities, as it has an undeniable

power for happiness and hence for spiritual refreshment, and

as it moreover tends to inhibit most of the instincts whose

superabundance can jeopardise individual and social existence, the

capacity for such aesthetic satisfaction, once arisen, would be

fostered in virtue of a mass of evolutional advantages which are as

complex and difficult to analyse, but also as deep-seated and

undeniable, as itself.