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The nature of beauty

An appreciation of nature or art is regarded as a mark of refinement—but are there simpler biological reasons why we love beautiful things?

Art imitates life: René Magritte’s La condition humaine (1933): it’s only human to see nature as art

Psychologists are taking a new interest in the evolutionary history of beauty. But there are still large unknowns. Evolutionary theory has had no problem explaining many—even most—of the things that give human beings pleasure: honey, orgasm, sunshine, lullabies, flower gardens. But, the closer we get to high art and beauty proper, the less easy it is to see how people’s attraction to it can be contributing to biological survival. If beauty were of relatively minor significance in human lives, we could push it…

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