Proust Got There First

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

In his new book Proust Was a Neuroscientist (Houghton Mifflin, 2007) Jonah Lehrer writes about how novelists and other artists intuited knowledge about the brain that scientists are only now figuring out.

Proust Was a Neuroscientist is available for purchase at


Jonah Lehrer

Comments [10]

thegayrecluse from Washington Heights

The most obnoxious thing about this interview is the "surprise" expressed by the writer that artists take the search for "truth" any less seriously than a scientist. Even the most cursory examination of the artistic canon in any genre reveals the obvious truth that good art is timeless for the exact reason that good science is not, which is to say that science will always be limited by its exploration of the world of rationality, which as most of us understand on some level is only half the picture.

Nov. 08 2007 10:19 PM
Mikel Frank from New Jersey

Picasso said, "Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth." I am an artist and I agree with Mr. Lehrer (the one called Jonah) that artists take their work very seriously, they do not consider it entertainment, but rather a continuous search for truth and meaning. What it means to them, how the search helps them grow as a human being and how it communicates truth to others.

Nov. 08 2007 07:35 PM
chestine from NY

oops at the heart of both scientific and artistic EXPLORATION is curiosity

Nov. 07 2007 11:38 AM
chestine from NY

At the heart of both artistic and scientific is CURIOSITY which I find is in very short supply in the professions - my heroine among the discoverers is Emilie Conrad, author of Life on Land - through haitian prayer dance, she discovered a protocol for healing spinal chord injury artist and FEMALE!

Nov. 07 2007 11:37 AM
Letitia Coburn, Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, from Pleasantville, NY

Jonah Lehrer's articulation of the intersection between neuroscientific and artistic "knowing" about brain functioning arrives at a seminal time in the growth of both disciplines. As a Creative Arts Therapist (Dance/Movement Therapy and Psychodrama), I applaud WNYC for bringing this author and book to our attention. Those of us who use the arts and action methods to work with trauma survivors have known for years that we must use the senses to heal memory-based trauma. Thank you for highlighting another friend's work in the healing of these injuries.

Nov. 07 2007 11:12 AM
Gabriel Reich from Richmond VA

The comment about the reduction of "truth" to only what can be atomized and quantified has some important policy implications in education. My research in historical thinking and answering multiple choice history questions (from NY's Global History Regents Exam) has lead me to question the assumption that test scores somehow reflect what we assume they reflect in an accurate way. And yet, it is these test scores that are used almost exclusively when making high-stakes decisions about kids and schools.

Nov. 07 2007 10:57 AM
David from upper west side

Scientists and artists are BOTH breaking past barriers of perceived knowledge.

What hinders progress is NOT ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.

That is a concept that BOTH scientists and artists understand; their "starting point".

Nov. 07 2007 10:51 AM

This is about the Alec Baldwin comments. I didn't know quite where to post this... Are we being a little PC about the racial component of dirty neighborhoods. I've lived in different ethnic neighborhoods, and anecdotally, I've seen that the different ethicities do seem to have different standards of cleanliness. It happens to not be about just the landlords either. If you happen to be 30 feet from a trashcan, but still with throw your gnawed chicken wings on the sidewalk, that's something learned in a community. Can we really have this discussion if we're more concerned with being politically correct?

Nov. 07 2007 10:51 AM
hjs from 11211

Leonardo da Vinci - a great scientist a greater artist

Nov. 07 2007 10:50 AM
Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

And Jules Verne wrote about television a half-century before its actual invention-so what?
Science isn't about simply coming up with facts about the world; it's about the means of understanding the world.

Nov. 07 2007 10:49 AM

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