Monday, October 31, 2016

Reduction in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures

Nobel prize-winning scientist, Eric Kandel, discussed his recent book Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging The Two Cultures. Prof. Kandel has a unique perspective on the topic, given his remarkable scientific career as well as his deep interest in art.  He demonstrated how science can inform the way we experience a work of art and seek to understand its meaning.  He illustrated how reductionism – the distillation of larger scientific or aesthetic concepts into smaller, more tractable components – has been used by scientists and artists alike to pursue their respective truths.

Kandel drew on his Noble Prize-winning work revealing the neurobiological underpinnings of learning and memory in sea slugs to shed light on the complex workings of the mental processes of higher animals. He demonstrated through bottom-up sensory and top-down cognitive functions how science can explore the complexities of human perception and help us to perceive, appreciate, and understand great works of art. At the heart of the book is an elegant elucidation of the contribution of reductionism to the evolution of modern art and its role in a monumental shift in artistic perspective.

While it may all sound quite complex on paper, Prof. Kandel spoke clearly and used well-known works of art to illustrate his point for all to understand. 10 lucky members of the Salon were able to join this standing room only private lecture at NY's Princeton Club.

Eric R. Kandel is University Professor and Kavli Professor in the Departments of Neuroscience, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, and Psychiatry at Columbia University.  He is director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science and co-director of the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia.  In 2000, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine."