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

  • ID: 2245908
  • Book
  • November 2008
  • Region: Global
  • 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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Semir Zeki
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