The Evolution of Beauty

Wednesday, April 4, 2018  6:15pm - 8:00pm The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room


Free and open to the public

No registration necessary

First come, first seated


George Levine

Richard Prum, author of The Evolution of Beauty discusses his book, its implications and its problems, with the philosopher Philip Kitcher, the historian of science Deborah R. Coen, and the literary scholar George Levine.  Prum's book, listed by the New York Times as one of the best of 2017, attempts to restore Darwin's theory of sexual selection, not only explaining through Prum's own original work in ornithology how it works, but also making a powerful case for the explanatory inadequacy of the popular "Darwinian" adaptationist paradigm in evolutionary biology.  Sexual selection, particularly mate choice, Prum argues, accounts not only for the gorgeous plumage of male birds, but also for the splitting of humans from their simian cousins.  Working independently of and often in conflict with natural selection, sexual selection leads us to a new definition and understanding of aesthetics.  Perhaps even more strikingly, it leads Prum to a very strong feminist theory, with intellectually revolutionary implications.


  • Participant

    Richard Prum

    William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

    Yale University

  • Participant

    Deborah Coen

    Professor of History and Chair of History of Science and Medicine

    Yale University

  • Participant

    Philip Kitcher

    John Dewey Professor of Philosophy

    Columbia University

  • Participant

    George Levine

    Professor Emeritus of English

    Rutgers University


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