Splendors and Miseries of the Brain. Love, Creativity, and the Quest for Human Happiness - Product Image

Splendors and Miseries of the Brain. Love, Creativity, and the Quest for Human Happiness

  • ID: 2245908
  • Book
  • 256 Pages
  • John Wiley and Sons Ltd
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The brain is an evolutionary triumph of neural engineering. Its capacity to seek knowledge and form generalized concepts is boundless. In this ground–breaking new study, Semir Zeki explores the enormously elegant and efficient machinery of the brain to analyze its products in creative disciplines, and discover whether or not this intricate system brings different solutions to bear in solving problems in disparate fields.

Splendors and Miseries of the Brain, which is derived from Balzac′s novel of the same name, delves into the brain′s key functions of obtaining knowledge and forming concepts about the world. While these functions have been more thoroughly documented in neurobiology′s traditional disciplines physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, mathematics, and computer science to name but a few Zeki goes beyond these fields to scientifically study the products of the brain in literature, music, art, and other fields. By studying these fields, Zeki shows that we can reach important conclusions about how the brain functions and its common processes. He also examines the heavy price to be paid in terms of human happiness that comes with the exquisite capacity of the brain, and shows how misery can ultimately be turned to advantage, due to its intimate link to creativity.

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List of Figures vii

Note to the Reader ix

Acknowledgments x

Introduction 1

PART I Abstraction and the Brain 7

1 Abstraction 9

2 The Brain and its Concepts 21

3 Inherited Brain Concepts 26

4 The Distributed Knowledge–Acquiring System of the Brain 35

5 The Acquired Synthetic Brain Concepts 42

6 The Synthetic Brain Concept and the Platonic Ideal 46

7 Creativity and the Source of Perfection in the Brain 50

PART II Brain Concepts and Ambiguity 59

8 Ambiguity in the Brain and in Art 61

9 Processing and Perceptual Sites in the Brain 65

10 From Unambiguous to Ambiguous Knowledge 73

11 Higher Levels of Ambiguity 87

PART III Unachievable Brain Concepts 99

Introduction 101

12 Michelangelo and the Non finito 102

13 Paul Cézanne and the Unfinished 111

14 Unfinished Art in Literature 120

PART IV Brain Concepts of Love 129

Conte by Arthur Rimbaud 131

15 The Brain′s Concepts of Love 132

16 The Neural Correlates of Love 137

17 Brain Concepts of Unity and Annihilation in Love 150

18 Sacred and Profane 158

19 The Metamorphosis of the Brain Concept of Love in Dante 170

20 Wagner and Tristan und Isolde 182

21 Thomas Mann and Death in Venice 193

22 A neurobiological analysis of Freud′s Civilization and its Discontents 203

Notes 213

Index 227

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"′Courageous and carefully considered ... Zeki′s book is wide in its sympathies and sources, and it deserves attention as part of a fascinating enquiry set to continue for many years to come." (Brain, November 2009)

Set ... quite apart from the snappiness of most contemporary science–writing ... the book thinks hard, feels warmly and puts out provocative suggestions. (London Review of Books, October 2009)

I enjoyed reading this book and appreciated the attempt of the author to bridge the expansive chasm between experimental result on visual sensory input and the intimate human experiences for which we all strive. (The Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, September 2009)

"Zeki s book has a beautiful and enigmatic cover and title. Zeki explores the unachievable through the works of artists and writers, concluding with Freud s Civilisation and its Discontents. Counsellors with a background both in neuroscience and an interest in the arts will find it a fascinating read." (Therapy Today, September 2009)

"An exuberant read." (Times Higher Education, April 2009)

"The book offers a glimpse into the physiological, neurological and emotional mechanisms of the most profound human part of our experience." (Yoga and Health, February 2009)

This is a brave and unusual book¯what you are trying to do is look at the detailed neuroarchitecture of the brain, your particular specialty is how the brain sees (vision), and then apply it to a wider range of cultural ideas. I loved this book. (Andrew Marr, Start The Week, Radio 4, November 2008)

"What was once dangerous territory is now the hottest theme in brain research. the subtitle of Semir Zeki′s excellent new book is Love, Creativity and the Quest for Human Happiness ... .One of the world′s leading neurophysiologist [Zeki] has turned to brain imaging to explore matters as seemingly outside brain science′s territory as beauty in literature and art – and even ′romantic love.′" (Guardian, December 2008)

This is going to lead to a new way of writing about the arts, and a new audience for certain kinds of science at the same time. (Start The Week, Radio 4, November 2008)

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