The Aesthetic Brain takes the listener on a wide-ranging journey through the world of beauty, pleasure, and art. Chatterjee uses neuroscience to probe how an aesthetic sense is etched in our minds and evolutionary psychology to explain why aesthetic concerns feature centrally in our lives. Along the way, Chatterjee addresses fundamental questions: What is beauty? Is beauty universal? How is beauty related to pleasure? What is art? Should art be beautiful? Do we have an instinct for art? Chatterjee starts by probing the reasons that we find people, places, and even numbers beautiful. At the root of beauty, he finds, is pleasure. He then examines our pleasures by dissecting why we want and why we like food, sex, and money and how these rewards relate to aesthetic encounters. His ruminations on beauty and pleasure prepare him and the listener to face art. He wanders through the problems of defining art, understanding contemporary art, and interpreting ancient art. He explores why art, something that seems so useless, also feels fundamental to our humanity. Replete with facts, anecdotes, and analogies, this empirical guide to aesthetics offers scientific answers without deflating the wonders of beauty and art.
©2014 Oxford University Press (P)2014 Audible Inc.
I am a potter and I often listen to audiobooks while I work in the studio. I was interested in this book because I listed to a very short podcast on this subject which described how people all over the world preferred an image of particular landscape regardless of where they lived. I found that fascinating and hoped this book would tell me more along those lines.
The description looked so great, I neglected to listen to the sample before purchase- my mistake. The narration is of the old fashioned type that always reminds me of WWII news clips or 1960's nature shows. I was only able to get an hour in. I heard nothing I hadn't heard before about why certain people are more attractive to the opposite sex- facial symmetry, pointy chins, etc. I was really annoyed as I thought the book was going to be about art and neuroscience. I do not care which Hollywood actress the author is attracted to. That's not interesting to me and the objectification of women embedded in that discussion is not something I want to spend my time on. Between the narration, familiar information (to me anyway), and the way the book is written, I thought maybe I had bought a book published a long time ago (actually just 2013). When I realized I didn't like either the narrator or the book, I turned it off and went to find something else. I'm sorry I spent money on this one.
Author, editor, critic, teacher, etc.
A responsible, sober, up-to-date, and clear take on evolutionary neuroaesthetics, Chatterjee's book navigates the science and the anxiety the science elicits with tact and aplomb.
Information is great, it was a good deal to get there. From the esthetics of faces and places, through common philosophy of beauty to the Neuroesthetics and some implications. If you did not study psychology or neurology the (like me) , the brainsystems will seem a bit complicated. But it is really worth while to see it through.
I would suggest that any person who is very visually oriented approach this book with caution, or at least an image of the brain in front of you. The author goes on and on with things like, when a person sees something like X the Y part of the brain lights up, and just keeps on lifting things like that. The areas of the brain have very technical names, and are often abbreviated. There's very little synthesis going on in any individual chapter.
I kept wishing that the author built the story around parts of the brain and what they do, telling a story, synthesizing things, rather than around the visual stimulus coming first followed by the brain activity. Very frustrating, and I will be happily returning this.
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I got it because I've wondered about beauty and aesthetics for years:
"Why are flowers beautiful?"
I haven't finished the book yet, as I began listeting to it yesterday – but can already say it's a wonderful book! It talks about human beauty, baby face bias, fibonacci / golden ratio: aka "right down my alley"!
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