Archive for the ‘Proust Was a Neuroscientist’ Category

The Neuroscience Revolution: Neural Buddhism and Proust

May 14, 2008

Well, May has rolled into town. The jacarandas are turning Los Angeles into a “purple haze” and the star jasmine buds send wafting scents of Pacific Rim sweetness into the air.

As seasons change, so does the discussion regarding neuroscience and its far reaching affects visual art, literature and religion. As all of the authors suggest, one gets the feeling that we’re clearly in the midst of revolution, with Frankensteinian fantasies that loom large. For your pleasure and curiosity, an article and books of note:

1. Today the New York Times ran an online article by David Brooks entitled “The Neural Buddhists.” Brooks ponders the limits of a materialist perspective held by 20th century scientists in light of the cognitive, existential and religious implications of neuro-plasticity. His claim? The debate between science and religion is moved into the non-reductivist territory of “neural-mysticism.” (Sadly, here again we see mysticism used as the over-arching frame for Buddhist practice — which by the way is recognized as a religious practice throughout Asian countries.)

See: OPINION | May 13, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist: The Neural Buddhists
By DAVID BROOKS
The cognitive revolution is not going to undermine faith in God — it’s going to challenge faith in the Bible.

2. Art historian Barbara Marie Stafford has published her thoughts on neuroscience and art history in her latest book ECHO OBJECTS, a frothy, in depth study of art history from a neuro-aesthetic perspective. Stafford, influenced by my colleague Warren Neidich, takes his “brain makes culture, culture makes the brain” thesis and translates its implications into a claim for the reciprocal alignment between neuroscience and the humanities.

3. SEED Magazine editor in chief Jonah Lehrer takes on the art and humanities, especially the “lit crit” crowd in his first book PROUST WAS A NEUROSCIENTIST. Lehrer, trained in neuroscience and literature, joins critical thinker Brian Massumi to claim we don’t need to know neuroscience to make or understand the mysteries of art but we sure can learn some fascinating stuff about the brain if we do so! I depart from Leher and Massumi as I’ve found, by sharing neuroscience insights with art students regarding the relations between the visual and soma-sensory cortex), light-bulbs of thinking brighten… and new perspectives about 2-d and 3-d media come about.

The question of how we study neuroscience and to what end remains before us: In an age that celebrates the autodidact and the social networking of learning, surely a little look under the hood of our own “minds” couldn’t hurt.

As far as I’m concerned, Dr. Frankenstein, feel free to enter and teach us what you’ve found!

May the Breath and the Creative Brain be with You!

Dr. G.