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Is science the only path to knowledge?
In this sparkling and provocative book Jonah Lehrer, author of The Decisive Moment, explains that when it comes to understanding the brain, art got there first. Taking a group of celebrated writers, painters and composers, Lehrer shows us how artists have discovered truths about the human mind—real, tangible truths—that science is only now rediscovering.
We learn, for example, how Proust first revealed the fallibility of memory; how George Eliot understood the brain’s malleable nature; how the French chef Escoffier intuited umami (the fifth taste); how Cézanne worked out the subtleties of vision; and how Virginia Woolf pierced the mysteries of consciousness. It’s a riveting tale of art trumping science, again and again.
A precocious and engaging book that tries to mend the century-old tear between literary and scientific cultures … Lehrer is smart, and there are some fun moments in these pages.
Lehrer is gifted with the ability to find philosophy in science and stray bits of science buried amid the rubble of literary history. He is less critic than armchair philosopher, searching for meaning anywhere great thinkers have left their footprints.
In this amazing first book [Lehrer] bridges ‘the two cultures’ with ease and grace. His clear and vivid writing - incisive and thoughtful, yet sensitive and modest - is a special pleasure.
This is a rewarding trawl through the consciousness of great artists, linked with
contemporary science of the brain which art has anticipated. Lehrer’s elegant style
makes this book both accessible and pleasurable.