By Alva Noë
A thinker makes the case for considering artistic endeavors as instruments for investigating ourselves
In his new booklet, Strange instruments: paintings and Human Nature, the thinker and cognitive scientist Alva Noë increases a couple of profound questions: what's artwork? Why can we price artwork as we do? What does paintings exhibit approximately our nature? Drawing on philosophy, paintings background, and cognitive technology, and making provocative use of examples from all 3 of those fields, Noë bargains new solutions to such questions. He additionally exhibits why fresh efforts to border questions about artwork by way of neuroscience and evolutionary biology by myself were and should remain unsuccessful.
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Extra resources for Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature
They seek to explain art, to treat art as a phenomenon to be analyzed. Maybe we’ve been overlooking the possibility that art can be our teacher, or at least our collaborator. Not because art is cryptoscience, but because it is its own manner of investigation and its own legitimate source of knowledge. This is what is suggested to me as I think back on this conversation with the artist. This is a puzzling if attractive possibility. It’s attractive, for it offers, right off the bat, some clue to why art is so important.
We rarely if ever need to stop and ask questions about door handles. Unless we are designers, we don’t think about them very often. Our attention is fixed on getting into or out of the room, on what we are doing and where we are going. Manipulating doors by their handles becomes second nature. Indeed, the handle becomes the hub of a whole little organized activity of getting around in the houses we build and the places we live. We get organized by door handles, spontaneously reaching for them, gripping them appropriately.
As the baby grows older, and stronger, and as the mother gains more confidence, the process gets smoother and more efficient. But the basic issue—getting the baby to eat enough before it falls asleep—is something that requires attention and negotiation. Now, consider this activity of breast-feeding carefully and notice that it exhibits six distinct features. First, it is primitive. It is basic. It is biological. Breast-feeding is not the achievement of high culture but surely something whose roots lie deep in our mammalian origins.