Can Neuroscience Help Us Understand Art?

iStockphoto What is art? Why does it matter to us? What does it tell us about ourselves? It’s something of the rage these days to turn to neuroscience for answers. Neuroscience, after all, it is widely believed, holds the key to our very nature as conscious beings. I’ve been skeptical of the neural approach. (See here, here and here; this is also a running theme of my book Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature.) It’s not that I deny that our ability to inspect and enjoy a painting, for example, depends on our brains. Of course it does! Our ability to see or experience anything depends on our brains. How is this supposed to help us understand what makes art special? And as for aesthetic experience — our experience of…


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