- Paperback: 248 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 019026201X
- ISBN-13: 978-0190262013
- Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.6 x 5.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art Reprint Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Is the appreciation of art instinctual in humans or is it socially determined? That's the underlying question posed by University of Pennsylvania professor of neurology Chatterjee in his short and uneven book. While addressing that question, he presents some of the basics of neuroscience and investigates how we can define and observe the difference between pleasure and desire. He also describes how the brain responds to beauty, asking if there are some universal patterns that all humans agree are beautiful. Throughout, his analysis is consistent, for as he says, I will gaze at beauty, pleasure, and art through the bifocal spectacle of neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. The work is not fully satisfying, however, because Chatterjee is unable to give a comprehensive definition of art, and his discussion of natural selection is misleading, placing too much emphasis on survival and not enough on reproduction. He makes it clear that there is no art module in the brain, and that art, however it is defined, is free to vary in response to environmental constraints. His main conclusion, though, is as simplistic as it is obvious: The more the arts are released from selective pressures, whether they are state oppression or economic deprivation, the more the arts in that culture are free to vary. (Nov.) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"Chatterjee is a neuroscientist, so readers might expect a mechanistic treatise on beauty constructed from PET scans and clinical trials. But he offers no simple marriage of roses and neurons. To begin filling in the blanks left by neuroscience, he draws from anthropology, evolutionary biology, philosophy, and personal anecdotes. As Chatterjee reminds us, insight is the goal of science and art. His work succeeds by combining both toward a greater appreciation of the human experience."
--Bryan Bello, Science News
"Overall, The Aesthetic Brain offers an intriguing overview of the neural and historical underpinnings of beauty and art."
"[Chatterjee] makes a compelling case that although art and beauty may seem nonessential, they epitomize our search for pleasure and meaning in life."
--Scientific American Mind
"[Chatterjee] succinctly outlines the areas of the brain that are active in appreciating facial and body attractiveness and the implications for the evolution of our species. He makes the case for those aspects of liking and walking that relate to art and beauty. In his cogent review of the long history of human artifact-making art, he carefully considers the many definitions of aesthetics, art, and beauty. He examines all the major definitions of these and considers how many of them are found wanting in the wide world of art as it is currently comprised."
--Journal of Clinical Psychiatry
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Top customer reviews
- David Kemmerer
It confirms the value of music and art in our schools--just as they're being eliminated!
It's a fascinating read for anyone, but I especially recommend it to those teaching children.
Many decades have gone by since my personal attempts to find an answer until I read Eric Kandel's "Age of Insight" and V.S.Ramachandran's "The Tell-Tale Brain". Both of these books had sections that discussed the neurological (the "how") and evolutionary (the "why") basis of visual aesthetics. The ideas in these books also inspired me to create a series of art pieces that dealt with these questions.
Therefore, I was really ready to read Anjan Chatterjee's book -- an entire book dealing with this very question, and I was not disappointed. He has been able to present a wonderful summary of all the past work in this field, while making it accessible to non-specialists like us. I am also very glad that he didn't exclude the philosophical and social scientist's view of the topic. However, the most enjoyable parts are where he describes his own ideas about the subject and how he extended the frontier. I was truly surprised that Anjan Chatterjee didn't only deal with "beautiful" art, but also included purely conceptual art in his discussions. It is a very exciting time for this nascent field, and I can't wait to see what happens in the next few decades.