I just finished this book, and... for the record, there are over 40 pages of footnotes and references in the back of the book. I'm not a expert in the field, but Homo Aestheticus feels like a graduate level text, and is certainly more "scholarly" than most books you'll find in a bookstore.
That said, I found Homo Aestheticus to be one of the most unique and insightful books I've read. A few spots were quite detailed and dry, but overall I found myself underlining interesting points like a madman. The concluding chapter was mindblowing. The author somehow cohesively pulled together such topics as human experience, modernism and postmoderism, literacy and writing, oral tradition, language, symbols, and thought, meaning and reality, human and culture evolution, and, of course, aesthetics and art. Certainly, it will have a lasting impact on my thinking about "art." Very much recommended for interdisciplinary thinkers.
Homo Aestheticus is a great attempt by Ellen Dissanayke to find the biological/physiological connection between humans and art or art making. She begins by discussing Darwin and invites us to accept that she has considered some scientific connection between the evolution of humans and why we included art/art making in our evolution. The devise to use science is intriguing and maybe somewhat convincing, but for those of us who require scholarship in research, Ms. Dissanayake misses all the marks.
To write an essay of your own observations relieves the writer from the obligation of proving anything. Just write and hope someone cares. But to write about scientific fact, psychological studies, and human behavior, the writer is obligated to avoid such phrases as "Everyone knows," "It follows that," etc. Another problematic phrase when trying to prove a point of fact is "Research findings indicate" (154). If the goal is to convince me, then site the study. Her phrase "Making Special" just isn't scientific enough for me.
This is the most unscholarly philosophy book I have ever encountered. I wouldn't be complaining about the book if it was billed as an easy-reading-personal-point-of-view thing, but when I must trudge through thick, factual material to get to the point of a thesis, I want my money's worth. I want to come away from the text feeling that I have just earned all those aches and pains from a great cerebral workout. If you want that kind of experience, it's not here in Home Aestheticus. You would more likely come closer to that kind of workout by chatting with someone at the gym than by reading this book.