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The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to…

The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art

by Anjan Chatterjee MD

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There's this fad nowadays, the neuro-fill-in-the-blank approach that seeks to reduce explanations of just about anything to a combination of neural mechanics and vague evolutionary Just-So stories. Maybe some people find such tales reassuring. As a child I loved Kipling's Just-So stories precisely because they showed up the ridiculousness of ex post facto pseudo-evolutionary reasoning. I am more susceptible to the minority view, that "Instinct is a Cheshire Cat" (Klopfer 1973, see N.S. Thompson's review in Quarterly Review of Biology 49.2). To my relief and pleasure, Anjan Chatterjee's volume is smart and well-informed, and takes a generous and open-minded approach to art. No pleasantly simple origin stories are spun in this book, which will be accessible to casual readers. A true scientist, Chatterjee savors complexity rather than trying to reduce it, and he does so with modest charm.
1 vote Nycticebus | Dec 25, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0199811806, Hardcover)

The Aesthetic Brain takes the reader on a wide-ranging journey through the world of beauty, pleasure, and art. Chatterjee uses neuroscience to probe how an aesthetic sense is etched in our minds and evolutionary psychology to explain why aesthetic concerns feature centrally in our lives. Along the way, Chatterjee addresses fundamental questions: What is beauty? Is beauty universal? How is beauty related to pleasure? What is art? Should art be beautiful? Do we have an instinct for art? Chatterjee starts by probing the reasons that we find people, places, and even numbers beautiful. At the root of beauty, he finds, is pleasure. He then examines our pleasures by dissecting why we want and why we like food, sex, and money and how these rewards relate to aesthetic encounters. His ruminations on beauty and pleasure prepare him and the reader to face art. He wanders through the problems of defining art, understanding contemporary art, and interpreting ancient art. He explores why art, something that seems so useless, also feels fundamental to our humanity. Replete with facts, anecdotes, and analogies, this empirical guide to aesthetics offers scientific answers without deflating the wonders of beauty and art.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:03 -0400)

"The Aesthetic Brain takes the reader on a wide-ranging journey addressing fundamental questions about aesthetics and art. Using neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, Chatterjee shows how beauty, pleasure, and art are grounded biologically, and offers explanations for why beauty, pleasure, and art exist at all"--… (more)

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