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Splendors and Miseries of the Brain: Love, Creativity, and the Quest for Human Happiness Paperback – December 31, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1405185578 ISBN-10: 1405185570 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (December 31, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405185570
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405185578
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"'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)


“This book is not about what neuroscience reveals about love and about art, but it is about what love and art reveal about the brain. This book reveals the intimate relationship between the fundamental function of the brain and the highest of human experiences.”–Chris Frith FRS, University College London, and author of Making up the Mind 

“The Brain Sciences hold out the great promise of being a natural bridge between the sciences, concerned with the nature of life and the universe, and the humanities, concerned with the nature of human existence. No one is in a better position to bridge this divide than Semir Zeki, and he has succeeded in illustrating how it must be done in this remarkable book, The Splendors and Miseries of the Brain.” –Eric Kandel, University Professor and Kavli Professor, Director of Kavli Institute for Brain Sciences, Columbia University, and Senior Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Vince Leo on January 2, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Semir Zeki is a one-person interdisciplinary team: part neurobiologist, part art historian, and part philosopher. Expanding on his original research into the neurobiology of color vision, Zeki proposes the brain as a knowledge-gathering entity that functions through inherited (biological) and synthetic (experiential) concepts, which organize all sensory data into consciousness. For Zeki, there is no reality outside of the projections created by the knowledge-organizing concepts of the brain. The beauty of his system is that it allows for both a universalized material reality produced by the inherited concepts and shared by every human brain, and individualized perception based on synthetic concepts that are unique and environmental.

This is where things get interesting. Unwilling to limit himself to the evidence provided by current scientific research, Zeki expands his investigation into the products of the brain--philosophy, art, and literature--using them as data with which to reconstruct more complex brain concepts, namely love and beauty. For Zeki, beauty and love are produced by an inherited concept structured by a desire for unity/union with another individual. Unfortunately (and here's the miseries) neither of these inherited concepts can be fulfilled by synthetic lived experience, leaving every human being a tragic victim of unfulfillable biological expectations. According to Zeke, creativity is the brain's way of trying, through art and culture, to either make this gap understandable or to bridge it (and so the splendors).

Not to worry if you don't comprehend the science immediately, Zeki will repeat it many many times.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jürgen Eichinger on January 15, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
a review of very special kind, the chosen connections are not easy to read but very paying for your understanding when done!
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