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Hardcover Proust Was a Neuroscientist Book

ISBN: 0618620109

ISBN13: 9780618620104

Proust Was a Neuroscientist

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Format: Hardcover

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

In this technology-driven age, it's tempting to believe that science can solve every mystery. After all, science has cured countless diseases and even sent humans into space. But as Jonah Lehrer argues in this sparkling debut, science is not the only path to knowledge. In fact, when it comes to understanding the brain, art got there first. Taking a group of artists -- a painter, a poet, a chef, a composer, and a handful of novelists -- Lehrer shows...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings


I'm an artist and I found this book to be extremely inspiring. Our culture has really devalued art. As the author notes, we associate art with entertainment and aesthetics. But this book is an inspiring survey of some great artists who were much more than mere entertainers. They did much more than just make pretty things. Rather, they used their art as investigations into experience and the mind. This book is a beautiful reminder that art can be an ally of science as we try to learn about human nature, how the brain works and the mystery of experience. I loved this quote from the book: "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, but we are also just stuff."

A strong neuronal perturbation

It is not surprising at all to hear that artistic musings can predate and even validate scientific theories and observations sometimes by several decades. And since it is ultimately the senses and the brain that allow the appreciation of art and music, it is natural that artists and musicians, even if they know nothing of contemporary cognitive neuroscience, would be able to create works that would exploit both the power and limitations of the senses and the brain. This book, elegantly written but far too short for those who are captivated by its contents and are greedy for more, gives some examples of this. Indeed, composers, authors, chefs, and artists such as Walt Whitman, George Eliot, Auguste Escoffier, Marcel Proust, Igor Stravinsky, Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, and Paul Cezanne all showed great insight into brain function the author argues, and it was this insight, although they may not have explicitly acknowledged it, that enabled them to have such an impact. This impact was sometimes delayed as far as social recognition was concerned, but if examined in the light of modern research in cognitive neuroscience, their contributions take on a whole new meaning, and one that goes beyond how they affected the individual reader or listener. The author's contributions in this book can be viewed somewhat loosely in the context of what might be called `neurocriticism', or `neuro-humanities'. The goal of these disciplines (not really recognized "officially" by academia) is to interpret literature, art, science, and other categories in light of what is now understood about the science of the brain. This is a fascinating approach to the understanding of these categories, and one that is gaining momentum as better experimental techniques are discovered for studying brain processes. And such an approach will also assist in bringing together, or maybe even setting apart in a way that is justified by neuroscience, the sciences and the humanities. The author ends the book longing for recognition of the arts as a legitimate mode of cognition; one that can offer paths to knowledge and insights that science may not be able at first to traverse. But with scientific studies of consciousness gaining credibility, and with phenomena such as synaesthesia being taken seriously by the scientific community, the author has no cause to worry. It is the brain that holds the key to the sciences and the humanities, and if it brings them together this will be fine for both artist and scientist. If it sets them apart, one can delight in the toggling between one and the other, engaging maybe in a temporary riot of mental cognition, much the same as what Stravinsky's audience did as detailed in this book. Either alternative is awesome.

Lehrer is an up-in-coming giant of the field!

As a professional musician and a long time student of neuroscience, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in amazing connections, though not the dry, action potential laden synaptic type. In "Proust was a Neuroscientist", Jonah Lehrer eloquently steers the reader through the intertwined histories of art and science, vividly illustrating how art often trumps science, finding conclusions before hypotheses are even posed in a lab. Lehrer should be commended for his beautiful style and effortless story telling ability. Well done!

Not to be missed

If you want to know how your brain works but have no desire to read a scientific treatise on the subject, then this book is for you. The premise is refined and beckoning. The name Proust in the title encouraged me to pick up the book, but perusing the jacket had me hooked. Artists as scientific validation? I had to find out how these two seemingly unique areas could be so intertwined. Reading each chapter, one must savor the full experience of what the author has written. I found taking a break between each new chapter revelation enabled me to reflect and find similar thoughts and discoveries in my own life and thoughts. This prepares you for the next disclosure. For the artist, reader and budding hedonist in you - this book will bring them all together.

Ingenious, clear and well written

I have read numerous reviews of this book, and was afraid that it would be too difficult to understand, given the title and subject matter. I was surprised to find it clearly written and definitely accessible, even without a background in either art or science. I especially enjoyed the discussion of neuroscience advances in memory research. My favorite chapter was about the chef, Escoffier. It makes sense that chefs would discover how to manipulate our taste buds long before scientists could explain why something tastes so good. Proust was a Neuroscientist is creative and original, and helped me think about the relationship between science and art in a new way. I recommend it.
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