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« Torn from the Pages of Friedrich's Sketchbooks | Main | Blockbusters, Week 2 »

June 06, 2003

Free Reads -- V.S. Ramachandran

Friedrich --

From a BBC 4-sponsored talk given by Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition and professor with the Psychology Department and the Neurosciences Programme at the University of California, San Diego:

I would say there is something special about humans - that is reflective self-consciousness and it's unlikely that dogs, for example, have that. But there's something even more unique about humans, which I don't think any of us can explain yet. Sometimes reporters come and; humour - you know, we're the laughing primate; we have free will; we can contemplate the consequences of our actions, so on and so forth. But there is one quality that I think is very special and that is the need to be more than human. In other words, you're constantly confronted with this dilemma. You know that everything that you hear from science and from neurology, that you are a beast, just a hairless ape which happens to be a little bit more clever than other apes. At the same time, you don't feel like that. You feel like you're an angel trapped inside this body, constantly craving immortality, craving transcendence trying to escape from this body. And this is the essential human predicament.

Good, huh? It's from a terrific five-lecture introduction to contempo neuroscience, presented in very enjoyable, non-technical English. Go here to read them all. Arty 2Blowhards visitors won't want to miss Lecture 3, "The Artful Brain," or this brief discussion here, in which Prof. Ramachandran draws up a tentative list of ten laws of art. Both of these talks left me with an urge to introduce Prof. Ramachandran to our friend Nikos Salingaros. I think they'd find a lot of common ground.

I'm tellin' ya: neuroscience, computer science, evo-bio and evo-psych, the classical revival, Alexander/Krier/Salingaros, the Web ... All these semi-parallel things are happening. They're live ideas and fields, and more and more they're feeding into and reinforcing each other. There's juice there to feed on and power there to surf on. Meanwhile the arts continue sucking on the long-dried-up corpse of Euro-theory -- po-mo, decon, etc. How can they be so completely unaware that the world left them in the dust about 20 years ago?



posted by Michael at June 6, 2003


Dr. Ramachandran's "The neurological basis of artistic universals," is pretty impressive. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. It does appear that between genomics, neuro-science and their relations with evolutionary biology, we are on the verge of a significant revolution in our understanding of many issues that in the past were effectively black boxes. This, of course, meant that they were very available to people peddling persuasive stories about them. Not only the arts, but much of our current culture is still based on notions that have about the same scientific basis as voodoo or bloodletting. I feel as if we've been laboriously trying to design steam engines, and somebody just tapped us on the shoulder and said, I've got this mathematical treatment of thermodynamics you might be interested in.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on June 6, 2003 01:53 AM

Wow, great stuff. Thanks for the links!

Posted by: Yahmdallah on June 6, 2003 09:30 AM

It IS great stuff. Thanks. (See, every time you think that academia has nothing to tell you...along comes somebody like this---kind of an angel).

Posted by: annette on June 6, 2003 09:33 AM

And ain't it a pity that stuff this fresh and interesting isn't coming from the fine-arts world? And wouldn't you think the fine-arts people would wake up, go thru a brief period of feeling incredibly foolish and ashamed of themselves, and then get with it and start behaving differently?

But I know I'm a foolish dreamer...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 6, 2003 10:35 AM

You're not the only one.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on June 6, 2003 11:55 AM

Perhaps someday you will join us,
And the world will be as one.

Posted by: Deb on June 6, 2003 09:35 PM

Great link! I've bookmarked it to read in between customers...

Posted by: Felicity on June 7, 2003 01:43 AM

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