Everyone agrees that art exists. Yet, we are far from a consensus when it comes to the definition of what art actually is. In this thought-provoking talk, an original, Darwinian definition of art is presented to replace all previous definitions. 

This talk challenges an array of common conceptions and definitions of what art is – as put forth by the likes of George Dickie, Arthur Danto, Thierry de Duve, Monroe C. Beardsley and Marcel Duchamp.

The new definition considers art a naturally occurring phenomenon. One that is tied directly to human evolution and our creative urges and abilities. A phenomenon that “begs to be explained in evolutionary terms”, as biologist David Sloan Wilson has put it.

Throughout the talk, the Darwinian definition goes head to head with previous definitions, thereby highlighting their shortcomings, their strong ties to subjective taste and the logical fallacies they are based on.

Special attention is given to Dickie’s famous Institutional Theory of Art. There is very little difference between the instances classified as art according to Dickie's definition versus the Darwinian definition. But the reasons why something is being classified as art differ greatly between the two definitions. In this talk, you will learn how the Darwinian definition renders the core of Dickie’s theory – the institution of art – entirely unessential to the process of classifying art.

The talk covers a wide array of discussions and entertaining examples of how the struggles of defining art have been dealt with in the past – from readymades and animal art to the problem of someone conferring art status on an entire mountain range.

Above all, it will challenge existing perceptions of art – and address the still-prevalent urge to reject something as art, simply because it falls outside of someone's personal taste.


Duration: 1 hour for the talk itself and a Q&A session.

Participants: No limit.