Fondovalle. Light transitions #3

Neuro sciences and aesthetics

Recently I started to use a bit more Twitter. Still have to figure out the way in which it may be useful as a bidirectional com device. Mainly I'm using it as a support to this blog to share some references to things I go on stating here.
Several of the starting tweets (see the twitter's box on the left) have been about articles found in the field of neuro sciences. Mainly I'm interested in some evidences about the way in which we carry out visual thinking. Right or wrong these sciences could be, they are contributing in defining the line between "evolutionary" (immanent) or natural limits and the cultural ones (that can be learned or acquired). Frankly I'm still a bit uncertain about the possibility to gain insight in cultural phenomena through physiological evidences. But right or wrong these sciences may be, they are contributing in defining the line between evolutionary (natural) limits and the cultural ones, that can be learned, acquired and modified. But if neuro sciences have an indisputable experimental basis in showing evidences other "neuro thinkings" as it is the case of neuro aesthetics locate themselves in the realm of philosophical speculation. In such case they are, so to say, outside the scientific frame. It is the case of experiments in which paintings or other art pieces are presented to people being monitored for the cerebral activity. I will not question here the experiment, I'm questioning the choice of the "masterpieces" as being highly relative to the aesthetic beliefs of the observer/tester. It seems to me that the predominance of personal aesthetic judgment of the observer severely undermines the validity of this kind of experiments. On the funny side it reminds me something similar to the Pavlov's experiments carried out on dogs' salivation (just substitute dogs with "experimental subjects looking at a piece of Art"). At the end the outcome is the idea that "Art is something that gives pleasure". A rather generic assertion given that there are so many things that give pleasure not being art. Yes looking at a piece of Art is a pleasure but it is so as much as having a "good shit" (no references to Manzoni's "Merda d'Artista"). Not surprisingly most of the writings in neuro aesthetics I have seen are limited in their examples to a few well known and very limited cases all located in the past. Past times art has a questionable status when it comes to aesthetic value determination due to the presence of some other over imposing values as the one of being a survivor among the many of its time. And, given the cultural acceleration impressed by Internet, art from before 20 years ago is to be considered from the past. Those are not, any more, valid examples of contemporary art. For an aesthetic theory to be of some use there must be the inclusion of, at least, some correlation to what happened in the last 20 digital years and the newly raised, or adapted, practices in circulation and evaluation over the Internet of what is to be considered Art, with a special regard for the emerging social contexts.

1 comment:

Jim Johnson said...


I would recommend a terrific new book: Alva Noe Out of Our Heads: Why You are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons fro the Biology of Consciousness (Hill & Wang 2009). Noe is a philosopher who teaches in the neuroscience program at UC Berkeley and has a well informed by highly skeptical view of most neuroscience.

Hope all is well.