Neural Concept Formation and Art: Dante, Michelangelo, Wagner, by Semir Zeki

01/01/2002View on timeline


The neuroaesthetic mode of inquiry into these questions, as well as the answers provided, presuppose that art is essentially an extension of the brain’s cognitive and adaptive functions. Both reflect a “truth” Zeki (2002, 54) declared to be “axiomatic,” namely “that all human activity is dictated by the organization and laws of the brain; that, therefore, there can be no real theory of art and aesthetics unless neurobiologically based.”


That is indeed the assumption of the entire field. From it follows neuroaesthetics’ most typical hermeneutic device, which consists of considering artists as neuroscientists qui s’ignorent, as individuals whose main task is to explore the brain with the tools of their trade. What accounts for the impact of Michelangelo’s Pietà? The fact that the sculptor “instinctively understood the common visual and emotional organization and workings of the brain,” which in turn “allowed him to exploit our common visual organization and arouse shared experiences beyond the reach of words” (Zeki n.d.; specifically on the widespread idea of the artist as neuroscientist, see also Cavanagh 2005, Ramachandran and Hirstein 1999, Zeki 2000). 

Vidal, Fernando and Ortega, Francisco. Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (Forms of Living)....

Read the article, provided by Research Gate:Semir Zeki. 2002. “Neural Concept Formation and Art. Dante, Michelangelo, Wagner.” Journal of Consci...

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Published in 15/01/2019

Updated in 19/02/2021

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