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Proust Was a Neuroscientist | [Jonah Lehrer]

Proust Was a Neuroscientist

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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 identified 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 this is what art knows better than science.

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.

©2008 Jonah Lehrer; (P)2008 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

What Members Say

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3.8 (249 )
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  •  
    Mark D. Jones Huntsville, AL United States 03-10-09
    Mark D. Jones Huntsville, AL United States 03-10-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent Book"

    Not sure what the others are griping about in regards to the narrator.

    The book is completely fascinating, connecting some dots that I had already thought about. Amazing how it dovetails nicely with the book "On Intelligence". If you are fascinated by the mind, by how we think and perceive then this is definitely a book you want to listen to.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caroline North RydeAustralia 05-22-09
    Caroline North RydeAustralia 05-22-09 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Art intersects science"

    Where art meets its application in the sinewy sinapses. Why do we hate the avante garde, learn to like it, then get bored by it and thirst for something new. Why does music move us, stock smell so good and art that approximates beat the exactitude of photography? I'm absoltely enthralled by every chapter, I think I'll just have to listen to the whole thing through at least one more time. Lehrer is surely a genius for bringing together so many disparate topics and explaining them using the latest knowledge of how our brains function.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eva Somerville, MA, USA 04-05-09
    Eva Somerville, MA, USA 04-05-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "We don't need a new definition of neuroscience ..."

    Very interesting attempt of reconciliating science and art. However, being a neuroscientist myself, I am rather dissapointed. I was looking forward to interesting insights/discussion, bringing both fields closer together. Instead, it seems like the author would like to make a point out of that artists/artisans are smart ( of course they are)and science can only hope to finally prove what the artists knew all along...
    I enjoyed listening and the book is both well written and read. thanks, I really appreciate it!

    19 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane Louisville, KY, United States 03-21-11
    Diane Louisville, KY, United States 03-21-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Art & Science"

    Lehrer's premise that the arts have anticipated many of neuroscience's recent discoveries about the workings of human perception are explored in this book through an examination of the works of a number of artists, composers and authors. It offers some fascinating insights into both science and works of art but unfortunately it becomes redundant and tedious as the author repeats many of his points again and again throughout the book. Even though the book is relatively short, it would have benefited from more editing.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Corina Jerusalem, Israel 03-03-09
    Corina Jerusalem, Israel 03-03-09

    Corina

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Pity about the narrator"

    Fascinating book, disastrous narrator.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve from MD 03-27-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good Science Bad Interpretation"

    The book is one big logical fallacy. To do scientific research and find out how the brain functions is great. However, taking this research then going back in time and finding some vague similarities to some artist then giving them credit for the discovery is absurd.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dave Clifford, ON, Canada 01-09-12
    Dave Clifford, ON, Canada 01-09-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting links between artists and the science"

    I really enjoyed this book - kind of a different look at what some of our most famous artists (cuisine, music, literature) were attempting in their work - and how they were coming close to uncovering, consciously or not, some of the mysteries of the brain and human perception. I first heard about this book while listening to back episodes of Radiolab – Specifically the show entitled Musical Language.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cheri Ojai, CA, USA 07-24-10
    Cheri Ojai, CA, USA 07-24-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Jarring narration"

    This fascinating book is almost ruined by a jarring narration that demonstrates a serious lack of awareness of syntax.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Grand Haven, MI, USA 11-21-08
    Joe Grand Haven, MI, USA 11-21-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "Audio Evolution"

    This new production of Proust Was a Neuroscientist published by Brilliance Audio is an able replacement to the previously published edition by the now on-haitus publishing venture, Audio Evolution. Surely the franco-philes who savaged the first edition will give this new recording, narrated by Dan John Miller, a fairer hearing than the first.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurie East Millstone, NJ, United States 12-09-08
    Laurie East Millstone, NJ, United States 12-09-08 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great book, unpleasant narration"

    I don't know, is it me? I found this book fascinating but could never get used to the narrator's annoying singsong and stopped with about 2/5 of the book to go. I will look for it in paperback so I can finish it.

    5 of 9 people found this review helpful
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