Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature

Alva Noë, Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature, Hill and Wang, 2015, 285pp., $28.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780809089178.

Reviewed byMohan Matthen, University of Toronto

We dance, sing, tap our fingers, tell stories, and draw pictures. These are natural activities; all of us participate. This gives us pleasure — aesthetic pleasure. This seems obvious, but it engenders a puzzle. When gifted and trained dancers perform a choreographed work intended for an audience, it’s art. When they or the rest of us dance spontaneously and freely, it isn’t. Maybe Luciano Pavarotti hummed while he was brushing his teeth. His humming wasn’t art.

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