Home aestheticus : species being and the struggle for existence
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] In this paper, I argue for the homo aestheticus thesis - the claim that our species nature is that of artistic producer and consumer; that this nature is a selected-for, biobehavioral trait; and that to be alienated is to be living apart from this basic nature. Marx regularly uses aesthetic language to distinguish human from animal labor; perversion of creative labor - the reduction of human to animal - is the root of alienation. I take Marx and Engels at their word when, they praise Origin of Species for containing - the basis in natural history for our views.This claim turns on Darwin's use of the term - struggle for existence. In the West, Darwin's theory of natural selection has been understood through a Malthusian lens; it need not be. This - Darwin without Malthus - position was developed primarily by naturalists working in the Russian East and explicated most famously in Kropotkin's Mutual Aid; such an understanding of natural selection I suggest is what Marx and Engels have in mind. The claim then is that evolution has produced in us a species nature to modify the natural world through creative labor. It is this which separates us from the other biological creatures: our humanization of the environment requires the development of characteristics and tools necessary to meet these newly created needs. As social and historical creatures both producing and produced by this dialectic of need and creativity, human nature is simply not the sort of thing that is either wholly fixed or wholly plastic.
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