In our species something happened 60, 70, 80 thousand years ago or so that allowed us to represent ourselves and our self as an object. Decorative and representational art wasn't in the fossil record left by our pre-homo sapiens ancestors. Instead in that prior record were millions of years of tools dropped or discarded to yet be only replaced by a tool like it, never replaced in those millions of years by a tool that was decorated by our pre Homo sapiens ancestors. Then along came Homo sapiens and a well noted change in the artifacts coming from archeological digs. What we see emerge then is what we can still observe today. Paul Sellers writes of Spoons of Purpose and Character Done, in part https://paulsellers.com/2013/12/spoons-purpose-character-done/ : Where I live is a country regionally known for a long history of making love spoons. My tour of St Fagan’s museum last year revealed the oldest known love spoon, one made in the late 1600’s. A love spoon was and perhaps in some cases still made and given to a beloved as a token of a man’s love for his betrothed and was hand carved with knives and chisels into the most ornate of shapes and sizes. Of course it need not be gender specific any more. It wasn’t only Wales that held to the tradition, Germany and Scandinavian countries shared the same tradition. The spoons originated as practical and useable spoons, but they became more ornate and more decorative through the centuries. Today, they are produced mostly by commercial CNC routers and look just like that. No feeling in the racks of gift shops I mean. They are tourist items and mostly all stained the same and seem somehow now to be so characterless. Practical, usable tool is a spoon, ornate and decoratively produced by a species that can portray itself as a self that loves. We portray ourselves within the broader context of being aware of being a self that loves, that broader context being a story or play in which the individual self is aware of being an actor in a play, the lovers decorating themselves as actors in a play of betrothal and marriage. Even the useful domestic object, the spoon, commerates with decoration the feelings attendant in the play. It probably goes without saying that mountain gorillas don't dress up when they decide to marry. Dress up is a story and a story is an artifact of a self that is aware that it is self-aware, aware that it dresses up. If we find an instance of another animal that dresses up for marriage then we may have found another instance in the natural world of a being that is aware that it is self-aware, is aware of its sentience, not merely sentient as is a dog sentient. Awareness of self as a ‘self-reflecting self’ came into being just a blink ago and can be seen as a marker in our species of a quantum leap in language. Today even cognitive science doesn't know what language is just as we can't define art because art too is a language of a self-reflecting self. As a self-reflecting self we are almost hopelessly unaware of the mental processes within us that are involved in the self-expressions of a self-reflecting self. What is known is that we are aware of being self-aware. My dog is self-aware, but he isn't aware that he is self-aware and so I can claim to be one-up on him because at least I know I am just a man whilst he does not know that he is just a dog and no attempt to push into his language that concept will take hold in him or his species. Likewise, no abundance of time and resources encouraged our non-homo sapiens ancestors to do more with spare time than to sleep and play. They just didn't have a self-aware self within them to make more of play, someting any visit to a zoo holding our more distant cousins should confirm. What we don't know is why the change, we only know that there was a change where representational art and tool decoration appeared. Other animals may be intelligent, but they don't know they are an object called 'intelligent animal', not that their language couldn't accommodate as an object a self-referencing object called self-aware object. A dog can play with an object as if it was something else, play with a ball as if it was a prey animal. A crow can play. What we don't see accommodated in crow play are objects that represent the crow as a crow player. Crow play doesn't include a representation of crow watching a crow play. Instead the crow is always in the play playing. Not represented in its play is 'crow the observer' observing himself as 'crow the player'. If a crow knew it was just another self-aware object I don't see why crow language with its ready-made placeholders couldn't accommodate yet another object. Another way to say it is that crows will educate their young by showing them what to do to succeed as a crow. In that sense, a crow is acting in a sort of play, and animals will play with their children to teach lessons. So far we haven't observed a crow make crow puppets and perform a play with the crow puppets before an assembly of juvenile crows, that is, we haven't observed evidence that a crow is aware that it is self-aware and able to objectify itself in a complete representation of itself as Crow. As far as we can tell, crow play doesn't open with the equivalent of Melville's Moby Dick "Call me Ishmael." As far as we know. [Skip this on Theory of Mind:] One test for self-awareness could infer self-awareness from the existence in a species of Theory of Mind (ToM). You can't parsimoniously explain how one self can attribute mental states [beliefs, intents, etc.] to another and not be aware that one also has a mental state one's self. However self-awareness is one property, being aware of being self-aware is another property altogether. You can be aware of having a mental state, of having or being in the process of forming intent; but it is another thing to then self-represent as a collection of self-representations. You can be aware of acting from a picture of things that include you. It is another thing to be aware that you are a collection of pictures of things that represent you and contribute to forming intent. In one case you are aware of the picture only insofar as your intent is part of the picture. It is another thing altogether to form a picture of one's self as a self that watches itself form intent and watches as that intent creates change in a picture. For example, a dog can form intent but isn't aware of itself as just another intent forming object. If you observed instances in which a dog was playing with toy dogs as representations of itself then you would have arguably found an instance of self-aware self-awareness in a dog, a dog that can contemplate itself in its whole and its parts in a representation of its relation to externalities. I haven't seen a dog playing with little dog toys as puppets, arranging those dog toys in a self-referencing drama to act out the pieces of its mind with dog toy actors as surrogates for objects within its own mental space. I haven't seen that, but I have seen it in a documentary. That documentary could have demonstrated a capacity for and use of self-reflection by a dog; but it would be hard to know if the dog in that documentary actually knew it was acting 'itself' out as opposed to just acting out without being aware that it was acting out. Even if it was so aware of being aware it doesn't mean such is habitual or well rooted. What we can be sure of is that dog's possess self-awareness because they do use ToM. For example, my dog can trick me. He can attribute to me the mental state of "He's going to say No." He can then create in me a "Yes" mental state by misleading me about his intentions. For example, he misleads me into unleashing him by signaling to me that he wants off the leash to get water. I comply and at once his true intent is realized when he runs to find the known prey animal I leashed him up to drag him 200 yards to get away from. So he gets me to think one thing so that he can do 'not what I thought he was going to do', but instead do what I specifically didn't want him to do. If by his behavior he can cast toward me one impression of his intentions while concealing another, then he is aware that I have a mental state to fool. He can feign one thing in order to conceal his true intent. He can know his intent and he can then feign a different intent in order to create a misimpression in me. By so doing, he can get what he really wants. Note that my dog thought of the trick himself, probably by intuition instead of reason. Intuition presents consciousness with a completed picture without much, if any, conscious work. Once that picture is delivered, the work is in its testing and my dog can assess the merit of a picture by using his feet, by painting by number to see if the idea works. By the use of his feet my dog shows that he is aware of my mental state as an operant. Necessarily my dog is then aware of his own mental state as an operant, his feet the effect of known mental states as causes, feet being one of the body languages of my dog that point to his intent. What my dog isn't able to do is to create in himself a mental representation of himself as aware of himself as an aware operant. There is no evidence that a dog asks himself why he would go to such lengths to obtain a prey animal. He is self-aware, but he isn't aware that he is self-aware as far as I can demonstrate. What I can demonstrate is that what he can do is to play a trick on me, can author and act out a play quite literally, in order to create for himself the future he intends, create a ‘play’ in which there demonstrably is a 'he' there. [End Skip This] What other animals seem to lack is the ability to see themselves as seeing themselves. Consequently they can note their mental state, act on it, but they cannot reflect about their mental state as anything other than a given that kicks them in the flank of awareness, prompting them to take over and play out with intention what ultimately is an action prompted by the strings of a puppeteer, the puppeteer resolving to either food or reproduction in some degree or in some combination of both in whatever degree. For a coyote, food is territory, territory is food, food and territory are family and it is difficult to resolve one thing into another, to separate love from food, all mixed in coyote life. Their language is body language and that is the language that signals their intentions, signals the operation of their minds. I don't see anything special about human language other than that human language includes as an object a word that functions like noun and means: a thing aware that is aware. A noun is just a structural placeholder for an object and once a new object is recognized, the object becomes like any other thing that acts. Rodent nouns and verbs, if actually demonstrated to exist in studies that claim to have demonstrated them, can readily accommodate and be modified for a new object, particularly if one subscribes to Chomsky's view that language relies on pre-existing structure. Art then would arise from an accommodation made in language for a self-referential self. We don't know what language is. We don't know what art is. It is fair to say that in language and in art, what was our generation's freshness becomes the next generation's stodgy and old. But because of language we, unlike animals, can re-generate ourselves if we care to. Art as language changes as does slang in the hands of a 13 year old. We don't know what language is, we also don't know what art is because it is a derivative of language. We use language to communicate; but communication with others is not the only use of, maybe not even the principal reason for, language. It is with language that we talk to our self, and most of what we say never gets repeated. Francesca Woodman took pictures of herself about things that mostly she probably just talked to herself about. She chose to communicate some of those things in pictures. It would be kind of nice if she was still around to talk about those things more fully.