It is improbable that more nonsense has been written about aesthetics than about anything else: the literature of the subject is not large enough for that (Clive Bell)


The Index is found here

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Eric Kandel: The Age of Insight - Preface

This is the Preface to Eric Kandel's "The Age of Insight : The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain".
Quoted text is in YELLOW.
Text quoted from other authors is in GREEN

Now that we've heard from a philosopher (Simmel) and several art historians (Schapiro, Kemp, White, Smith), let's try a neurobiologist, Eric Kandel, the Nobel Prize scientist and  author of "Principles of Neural Science", currently in its fifth edition as a standard text book in the field.

The Age of lnsight is a product of my subsequent fascination with the intellectual history of Vienna from 1890 to 1918, as well as my interest in Austrian modernist art, psychoanalysis, art history, and the brain science that is my life’s work. In this book I examine the ongoing dialogue between art and science that had its origins in fln-de-si├Ęcle Vienna and document its three major phases.

The first phase began as an exchange of insights about unconscious mental processes between the modernist artists and members of the Vienna School of Medicine. The second phase continued as an interaction between art and a cognitive psychology of art, introduced by the Vienna School of Art History in the 1930s. The third phase, which began two decades ago, saw this cognitive psychology interact with biology to lay the foundation for an emotional neuroaesthetic: an understanding of our perceptual, emotional, and empathic responses to works of art.

Of the 32 chapters in this book, I will only be looking here at the seven which discuss specific works of art. The other chapters present a history of the science of mind and brain -- all of which is fascinating, but beyond the scope of this blog.

To obtain a meaningful and coherent focus for this reemerging dialogue, I purposely limit my discussion to one particular form of art— portraiture_and to one particular cultural period—Modernism in Vienna at the beginning of the twentieth century. I do this not only to focus the discussion on a central set of issues but also because both this art form and this period are characterized by a series of pioneering attempts to link art and science.

BTW - a briefer and quite succinct response to Kandel's major arguments can be found here

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