Science, Art Probe Mind's Nature

Cape Times (South Africa), August 9, 2013 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Science, Art Probe Mind's Nature

BYLINE: REVIEW: Dawn Garisch

Eric Kandel

Random House

"A brain scan may reveal the neural signs of depression, but a Beethoven symphony reveals what that depression feels like. Both perspectives are necessary if we are to fully grasp the nature of the mind."

During the past two decades the study of brain science has undergone a revolution - one that will surely have a positive effect. Recent inventions allow us to study more accurately the astonishing organ of perception, emotion and meaning-making residing in our skulls.

If you want to read an eloquent, insightful and riveting account of this development, I can highly recommend The Age of Insight, written by Nobel prize-winning neuroscientist and teacher of intellectual history Eric Kandel.

The tome is beautifully illustrated, and my review copy is prickling with thin post-its, marking many fascinating facts and insights.

The central question the book investigates is: what does someone looking at a painting bring to the experience - what Kandel refers to as "the beholder's share"?

This is the first welcome surprise - that a serious scientific work foregrounds both art and emotion as key elements in our search to understand ourselves.

In attempting to answer this question, the author starts in Vienna in the early 1900s. Here, for the first time in the West, medical scientists, writers and artists began to get curious about what lies beneath surface concerns.

This happened for several reasons. The microscope and evolutionary theory allowed biologists to track cellular and genetic influences that were previously invisible.

The taboo on autopsy was lifted, which permitted physicians to correlate symptoms with pathology. Sigmund Freud's work recognised and recorded the importance of dreams, instinctual drives and emotional life as contributing to behaviour.

In art, the invention of photography forced painters away from the quest for accurate representation and into the realm of the personal interior.

Cross-fertilisation between that which we usually regard as mutually incompatible - art and science, emotion and reason, logic and creativity - happened in salons or society meeting places.

Here the artists, doctors and writers - who were investigating what lay beneath facial expressions, emotional and physical symptoms, and dreams - could exchange ideas.

As a result Gustav Klimt met doctors who allowed him into the dissection rooms and tutored him in medical discoveries.

His famous portraits incorporate cells of reproduction, embryology and evolutionary theory. Freud could admire the writer/doctor Arthur Schnitzler's ability to reveal interior monologue.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Science, Art Probe Mind's Nature


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?