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Cognitive Science, Literature, and the Arts: A Guide for Humanists Hardcover – July 3, 2003
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The interactive feel of the book makes it appealing without compromising its value in explaining scientific concepts. As I read the book, I kept thinking that it would be an effective text in a classroom, where students from the various fields could directly engage with the scientific studies, access the artistic works used to reference artistic concepts (e.g., James Cameron's Titanic, John Coltrane's rendition of My Favorite Things, and Shakespeare's King Lear), and flush out areas that receive little treatment in the text, such as visual art. In this kind of environment, I believe, the whole would prove to be greater than the parts.
Although aimed primarily at humanists, scientists interested in cross-fertilization will find much to chew on in this volume. To the author's credit, he successfully provides background material readers can use to participate in and contribute to a research program in cognitive science and literature either individually or collaboratively. His most successful achievement is the integration of the literature of cognitive science with arts that have a strong story line. The entry into music is adequate, while visual arts remain on the periphery of the study.
While this effort is of enormous importance, it is at a very preliminary stage. For one thing, the actual functioning of the brain is so sophisticated and complex that many descriptions of cognitive processes are more metaphoric than conventionally `scientific'. That does not mean that they are not systematic or thoughtful. Rather, they depict the processes of cognition in terms that are far more simple than what is clearly going on. It is no surprise that Kant is key to their procedures, for the Kantian model of a human observer trying to bridge an unbridgeable gulf, constrained by decidedly `human' equipment but nevertheless attaining useful knowledge, is much in evidence here.
Given the `metaphoric' nature of this knowledge, it should come as no surprise that its conclusions often square with those of thinkers whose methods and materials predate those of cognitive science. For example, Hogan's interesting discussion about creativity involving both novelty and aptness squares precisely with Samuel Johnson's demands for novelty and what we would term something like `faithfulness to the realities of human psychology'.Read more ›