Among the many characteristics which have been identified as peculiar to the human species – language, laughter, politics, love, cruelty – the one which is often overlooked is the capacity to be delighted and diverted by the exercise of the senses. Although these systems were evolved to furnish reliable knowledge of the external world, man is unique in exploiting them for sheer enjoyment.
In fact a large proportion of his energy and ingenuity is spent on re-arranging the external world for the express purpose of providing more delightful perceptions. Even in communities which live on the margins of subsistence, scarce resources of time and energy are dedicated to the pleasures dervied from decoration and ornament, and in more developed societies the amount of labour devoted to such provision is taken to be one the most significant measures of civilization.
Jonathan Miller, from the Foreword to The Paradox Box