Synopses & Reviews
In this technology-driven age, it’s tempting to believe that science can solve every mystery. After all, science has cured countless diseases and even sent humans into space. But as Jonah Lehrer argues in this sparkling debut, science is not the only path to knowledge. In fact, when it comes to understanding the brain, art got there first.
Taking a group of artists a painter, a poet, a chef, a composer, and a handful of novelists Lehrer shows how each one discovered an essential truth about the mind that science is only now rediscovering. We learn, for example, how Proust first revealed the fallibility of memory; how George Eliot discovered the brain’s malleability; how the French chef Escoffier discovered umami (the fifth taste); how Cézanne worked out the subtleties of vision; and how Gertrude Stein exposed the deep structure of language a full half-century before the work of Noam Chomsky and other linguists. It’s the ultimate tale of art trumping science.
More broadly, Lehrer shows that there’s a cost to reducing everything to atoms and acronyms and genes. Measurement is not the same as understanding, and art knows this better than science does. An ingenious blend of biography, criticism, and first-rate science writing, Proust Was a Neuroscientist urges science and art to listen more closely to each other, for willing minds can combine the best of both, to brilliant effect.
"His book marks the arrival of an important new thinker, who finds in the science and the arts wonder and beauty, and with equal confidence says wise and fresh things about both." Los Angeles Times Book Review
"In this intriguing reflection...both art and science are freshly conceived." Howard Gardner
"Solid science journalism with an essayist's flair." Kirkus Reviews
"Brilliantly illustrated...amazing....[Jonah Lehrer's] clear and vivid writing incisive and thoughtful, yet sensitive and modest is a special pleasure." Oliver Sacks
"Jonah Lehrer provides a fresh and unique look at eight of the artists who define modern culture." Billy Collins, former poet laureate
Lehrer argues in this original book that science is not the only path to knowledge. In fact, where the brain is concerned, art got there first. Focusing on a group of artists, Lehrer shows how each one discovered an essential truth about the human mind that science is only now rediscovering.
About the Author
Jonah Lehrer is editor at large for Seed magazine. A graduate of Columbia University and a Rhodes scholar, Lehrer has worked in the lab of Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel and in the kitchens of Le Cirque 2000 and Le Bernardin. He has written for the Boston Globe, Nature, NPR, and NOVA ScienceNow, and writes a highly regarded blog, The Frontal Cortex.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents:
1. Walt Whitman
The Substance of Feeling 1
2. George Eliot
The Biology of Freedom 25
3. Auguste Escoffier
The Essence of Taste 53
4. Marcel Proust
The Method of Memory 75
5. Paul Cézanne
The Process of Sight 96
6. Igor Stravinsky
The Source of Music 120
7. Gertrude Stein
The Structure of Language 144
8. Virginia Woolf
The Emergent Self 168