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The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand…

The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind,… (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Eric Kandel

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324751,297 (4.09)4
Title:The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present
Authors:Eric Kandel
Info:Random House (2012), Hardcover, 656 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present by Eric Kandel (2011)

  1. 00
    Gustav Klimt and Emilie Floge: Photographs by Agnes Husslein-Arco (JuliaMaria)
  2. 00
    The Shape of Fear: Horror and the Fin de Siècle Culture of Decadence by Susan J. Navarette (nsblumenfeld)
    nsblumenfeld: Both books are fascinating explorations of the interplay of fin-de-siècle art (Austrian Modernist portraiture; English horror literature) and science (neuroscience; the body sciences). While they take very different approaches both are fascinating additions to European cultural and intellectual history.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I really enjoyed the first half of this book. However, I wasn't interested in the 2nd half about the physiological details of vision and how the brain preforms image processing. This seems like two separate books with two separate audiences . ( )
  ghefferon | Jul 22, 2017 |
While I am familiar with the rules of composition, I have often wondered why we like odd numbered compositions more than even, why the rule of thirds is the rule of thirds. I mean, we all know that it looks “right” but why? It’s hard-wired, so what’s the why behind the what. I read The Age of Insight hoping to find some answers. While I didn’t find answers to my specific questions, I did learn a lot more about how we are hard-wired not just to value art, but to be artists. I learned so much more about how our brain functions and how our brain functions on art and it was fabulous.

Eric Kandel is a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, a neuroscientist who knows more about how the brain works than most of the brains in the world united. He is also a polymath who might have majored in History rather than medicine if he had not fallen in love. I do have to say the most romantic gesture I have ever seen in a book is found in this book. I read it and could only say, “Awwwww.” Then I had to tell everyone because it was so sweet. Don’t worry, you’ll recognize it when you come to it.

Kandel looks at how art has been influenced by our growing understanding of the mind and of psychology and how our brains experience and appreciate art. We learn about the conscious, the unconscious and why it’s always a smart thing to go putter around or go for a walk when you’re stuck trying to solve a problem. We learn a lot about fin de siècle Vienna and the social scene that mixed scientists, doctors, and artists together to cross-pollinate and they did – leading to the Expressionist movement and a wild burst of creativity in science, medicine, psychology and art.

Do not be intimidated by the idea of a Nobel neuroscientist writing a book for you to read. Kandel writes beautifully and clearly. He never condescends or dumbs it down, but he distills the central ideas without overloading readers with minute details. He explains processes with clarity and makes effective use of metaphors. It also seems as though neuroscience is unique in the sciences in not creating a taxonomy of exclusion. Here’s an example of what I mean, “Segregation of information begins in the primary visual cortex. There, as we have seen, information is relayed along one of two parallel pathways—the what pathway and the where pathway.” Why they didn’t name the what pathway the flibbertyhoosit I have no idea, but hooray for names that are descriptive. This makes it much easier to follow and so even though I am a lay reader who didn’t even take biology in high school, I had no trouble following the science.

Kandel is a beautiful writer and when he writes about art, he is eloquent and authoritative. He talks about emotional reactions to art and you know that he his talking about how art moves him. He has the scientist’s gift of organizing information so the book makes sense in how it presents information. it all hangs together into one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. I enjoyed it so much that I have backtracked and read passages again just for the pleasure of understanding what he is talking about when it’s a topic I should feel intimidated by and for the joy of reading someone who loves art, science, the mind, and wants to bring them all together. He is enthusiastic, excited by the idea of consilience – a unity of knowledge, though doubtful that it can happen in the foreseeable future, but reading this book, you can see the potential even within this one man.

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/9781400068715/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Jul 6, 2017 |
(english below)
Un libro davvero interessante, che abbraccia discipline apparentemente diverse quali l'arte, la neurobiologia e la psicologia e ne svela gli intimi legami nella Vienna di inzio Novecento.
Pur avendo già visitato Vienna in passato, dopo aver letto il libro spero di poterci tornare un giorno, per ammirare le opere di autori quali Klimt, Kokoschka e Schiele con occhi più preparati.
Non c'e' una pagina del libro che io abbia trovato noiosa. Lo raccomando a tutti.

It is a lovely book to read, which embraces disciplines which only apparently are far away from each other, such as neurobiology, psychology, and arts, and bring them together at the beginning of the Nineteen's century to reveal the most intimate links between them.
Although I have already visited Vienna in the past, after reading this book I just wish I will be able to go back one day in order to visit again those museums and look at the paintings of Klimt, Kokoschka and Schiele with better trained eyes.
The writing is easy to follow and there is no single page which I have found boring or superflous. A book I would certainly reccommend to everyone ( )
  ferrarini_luca | Dec 6, 2016 |
Taking a bit over 500 pages, the Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel slowly develops his argument for a better integration of the arts and sciences. Specifically, he looks at the vision system, brain science and the perception of both the artists and the viewer.

Having majored in Psychology and Mathematics academically, I found this to be an interesting update on brain science developments and some smart observations on the painters in 1900 Vienna. My own research into the visual system through the information processing curriculum was actually a fit into the argument.

The book looks at three painters and what he surmises is their attempt to paint the unconscious in their subjects and a bit of the artist. Although they did not have direct contact with Freud, scientists and artists had a better opportunity to mingle at that time in Vienna. Actually, the projections onto the artists internal processes is the weaker part of the argument.

This work provides a generous selection of paintings and diagrams of the visual system and brain to assist the general reader. The book is not aimed at a specialist or professional but the reader wanting more depth into how we see and process what we see. Kandel is reaching out rather than down to those also in other areas of study. We actually record unconsciously much more information than reaches our conscious awareness. The proof of the importance of the unconscious is compelling. Freud would certainly be vindicated on that important part of his theories. Intriguing ways have been devised to offer evidence of the unconscious.

If this book stimulates conversation between science and the arts communities, we may all want to ease drop on that.

The findings presented are certainly at the very beginning of where this may lead us. ( )
1 vote Forthwith | Dec 11, 2015 |
500 pages of science, art history, and art criticism written in a very straight forward manner, science for the general public. Some brain science is numbingly dull. This book helped me to recognize Freud as the first to place unconscious thought so central to psychology. Also it helped me start to realize how much of human thought is unconscious and how much our emotions and feelings are part of our thoughts. The author explains some fascinating results in testing consciousness near the end of the book.

The most amusing moment in the book for me was finding that the figure noted on page 378 to the sentence "In art, as in life, there are few more pleasurable sights than a beautiful human face", was a photo of the author's wife.

I wouldn't recommend this book to readers who are not interested the project to help bridge the gap between science and art. ( )
1 vote joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
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A brilliant book by a Nobel Prize winner, "The Age of Insight" takes readers to Vienna in 1900, where leaders in science, medicine, and art began a revolution that changed forever how we think about the human mind--our conscious and unconscious thoughts and emotions--and how mind and brain relate to art.… (more)

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