Quotes from Geoffrey Miller – on Romanticism versus evolutionary psychology – from a chapter in Evolution, Literature, Film: A Reader (2010).

 So – on `Arts of Seduction’:..

Love and Marriage

Miller writes:

`Ever since the German Romanticism of Schiller and Goethe in the early nineteenth century, many have viewed art as a utopian escape from reality, a zone of selfless self-expression, a higher plane of being where genius sprouts lotus-like above the petty concerns of  the world.

This Romantic view opposes art to nature, but also opposes art to popular culture, art to market commodity, art to social convention, art to decoration, and art to practical design.

It has often presented the artist as a male genius shunning the female temptress that would sap the vital fluids that sustain his creativity (Dijkstra).

Thus, artistic success has also been seen as opposed to sexual reproduction.

Perhaps it is not surprising that many modern artists have adopted the ideology of these German philosophers. Romanticism makes excellent status-boosting rhetoric for artists. It presents them as simultaneously overcoming their instincts, avoiding banality, striving against capitalism, rebelling against society, and transcending the ornamental. The genius’s need to shun sexual temptation also provides a ready excuse for avoiding sleeping with one’s less attractive admirers.

But this Romantic view makes no attempt to offer a scientific analysis of art – indeed, it actively rejects the possibility.

The kernel of truth in the Romantic view is that art is pleasurable to make and look at, and this pleasure can seem a sufficient reason for art’s existence. It’s pleasure-giving power can seem to justify art despite its apparent uselessness.

But from a Darwinian perspective, pleasure is usually an indication of biological significance. Subjectively, everything an animal does may appear to be done simply to experience pleasure or avoid pain.

If we did not understand that animals need energy, we might say that they eat for the pleasure of eating. But we do understand that they need energy, so we say instead that they have evolved a mechanism called hunger that makes it feel pleasurable to eat…

The Romantic view of art fails to take this step, to ask why we evolved a motivational system that makes it pleasurable to make and see good art.

Pleasure explains nothing; it is what needs explaining.’

(Miller in Boyd, Carroll & Gottschall 2010, pp. 158-9)

And for more slamming of `the Romantic view of Creativity and the Arts’ – see these posts, especially #14:

On Creativity:

  1. StoryAlity #6 – What is Creativity and How Does It Work?
  2. StoryAlity #7 – On “the 10-Year Rule” and Creativity
  3. StoryAlity #8 – More on the 10-Year Rule” and Creativity
  4. StoryAlity #9 – How To Be More Creative
  5. StoryAlity #9B – Creativity in Science (and – The Arts and Film)
  6. StoryAlity #10 – About The Creative Personality
  7. StoryAlity #11 – Wallas and the Creative Process
  8. StoryAlity #12 – Combining Practice Theory and the Systems Model of Creativity
  9. StoryAlity #13- Creativity and Solved Domain Problems
  10. StoryAlity #14 – On Romantic Myths of Creativity

Right before your very eyes

Also, watch the Top 20 RoI Films. They are: cinematically pleasurable.

The Top 20 RoI Films - StoryAlity Theory (Velikovsky 2013)

The Top 20 RoI Films – StoryAlity Theory (Velikovsky 2013)

And – for more detail on the evolutionary systems (or, complexity) view of narrative and bioculture in general, see, this book chapter:

StoryAlity #132The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture – and the narreme, or unit of story – book chapter (Velikovsky 2016)

And for a great consilience & creativity & evolution reading list, see:

StoryAlity #71On Consilience in the Arts / Humanities / Communication

Comments, always welcome.


JT Velikovsky

High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher

The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/



Miller, G, reprinted in Boyd, B., Carroll, J., & Gottschall, J. (2010). Evolution, Literature and Film: A Reader. New York: Columbia University Press.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts.‘ In A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.

3 thoughts on “StoryAlity #86 – Arts of Seduction (Miller)

  1. Firstly, Thank you for sharing your important work free of charge with the public.

    I have ordered Miller’s book as I find his take on romanticism v evolutionary psychology, well, seductive.

    One pleasure of romanticism Miller neglects, in the above quoted list at least, is the pleasure of annoying the classicists. Opposing a competing and dominate art movement adds still another dimension of pleasure. Think of the public rivalry between Delacroix and Ingres.
    His quote from Dijkstra (Idols Of Perversity?), who I believe uses romanticism and Gothicism interchangeably at times, brings up the idea of evolution or decay of one movement into another. Using nature as an example, the classicist may have admiration for the sunny day, the romantic the thunderstorm (in opposition) and the Gothic the shipwreck on the beach that resulted from the thunderstorm, a decay or evolution of romanticism.

    This brings to mind two questions. Do you detect change or evolution in the 30 things shared in the top ROI movies over time? Did the 30 shared things in the top ROI films evolve organically from the nature of film storytelling or were they a reaction to the status quo? I often think of Sam Arkoff’s old formula for success at AIP: action, revolution, killing, oratory, fantasy and fornication in the sense of reacting to the status quo. Is there a desire to oppose tradition in the top ROI movies?

  2. Many thanks for the comment, the thoughts, and also for the two questions Chris.
    (And – wonderful point, about annoying the classicists.)

    This (below) is a `quick answer’ to those 2 questions – as they are excellent questions – and you have just given me the idea to check more closely, for change.

    In short-answer though,

    (1) Not really, the 30 or so common elements from 1968 to today (in the top 20 RoI), essentially, haven’t changed/evolved over time. (Though the technology certainly evolved – from film, to digital.)


    (2) I can’t give a confident answer to this question yet – ie with regard to, these films being a `reaction to status quo’… I would have to check (more closely/in more detail) what the status quo would have been, at each time…
    eg – At roughly 3-year intervals over the past 70 years.

    However, here is a piecemeal answer: when Star Wars (1977) was made, nobody (the gatekeepers/green-lighters in the film studios) thought sci-fi would make money, or be popular.
    Also NOTLD (1968) was seen as `radically different’/reactionary for at least 2 reasons (a black lead, and: everyone including the hero, dies). Other than those 2 x films, the rest of the top 20 don’t `leap out’ as being reactionary/radical… (ie opposing tradition)
    But – I am sure if I investigate this further I will come up with a better/ more detailed answer.

    Thanks again Chris,



    PS – Love the ARKOFF acronym. That’s hilarious! 🙂

  3. Sam created the acronym himself. He must have done some B.O. research of his own (at least with his own B. O. numbers) to arrive at these thematic rules and the 16-19-year-old male demo target. His stated reasoning for the target demo was: a younger boy will see anything an older boy will see, but not the reverse; a younger girl will see anything an older girl will see, but not the reverse; a girl will see anything a boy will see, but not the reverse.

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