Vol. 14 No. 2 (2021): Finalism in judgment, finalism of judging

Contradiction That Never Was: Epigenesis versus Modularity in Evolutionary Aesthetics

Onerva Kiianlinna
University of Helsinki
Published January 24, 2022
  • Aesthetic judgement,
  • Cognitive gadgets,
  • Coevolutionary aesthetics,
  • Modularity of mind,
  • Metarepresentational modules
How to Cite
Kiianlinna, O. (2022). Contradiction That Never Was: Epigenesis versus Modularity in Evolutionary Aesthetics. Aisthesis. Pratiche, Linguaggi E Saperi dell’estetico, 14(2), 79-91. https://doi.org/10.36253/Aisthesis-13054


Coevolutionary aesthetics has been forming since the early 2010s. Its contribution of great value has been the inclusion of cultural evolution into Darwinian theories on the origins of art and aesthetic judgement. Coevolutionary aesthetics – or non-modular evolutionary aesthetics as it is sometimes called – emphasizes that aesthetic behavior develops in a specific social environment. Coevolutionary aesthetics suggests that traditional evolutionary aesthetics, drawing from evolutionary psychology, has ignored this. The critical position stems from the widely accepted notions that humans adapt plastically to changing conditions and that there is no «innate» aesthetic module in the mind. What has not been examined is that modularity itself is often considered a condition for plasticity of mind. My main argument is that aesthetic inference is a metarepresentational module without direct fitness-increasing functions. Coevolutionary and evolutionary psychological aesthetics are thus more complementary than contradictory. Combining modular and coevolutionary thinking is the most consilient way forward in evolutionary aesthetics.


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