I’m writing at a Starbucks in Encino today. Outside. Beautiful day. I love L.A.! Just came from a seminar on Neuroscience and Creativity at UCLA. I’ll have a few comments about that in a later post. I seem to be on a theme roll for a while here with those two topics. I gotta admit, too, that I am thinking I should write my own book on the topic (maybe after I finish my Amy Beach and Me one). Scientists are studying this, but they are really missing the creativity and creator perspective, I think. I have made a few mentions of this in previous posts (will look up and link here later). There needs to be more cross-talk between scientists and creative people, too. And the scientists must take care that they talk to actual creators, not imitators – the latter being a descriptor for the majority of people practicing any of the arts. That in itself, is a huge topic of discussion – and I will discuss it, but today we are all about Walt Whitman and Proust and Jonah Lehrer again.
Lehrer focuses attention on poet Walt Whitman’s refusal to separate body/flesh and mind/spirit. He cites contemporary neuroscientist, Damasio, who conducted a card game study in which, over time, the game playing subjects’ fingers appeared to learn the “danger” of selecting from one card stack before the player consciously became aware of the game’s rigged win-lose pattern. The player’s fingers would hesitate, perspire, etc. as they approached the incorrect deck. Damasio calls this the “mind-body loop.” Lehrer raises this example as a modern day concurrence of science with poet Whitman’s apriori understanding of it.
This particular example of Damasio’s mind-body loop theory (hypothesis?) does not have me convinced. Why is it thought that the fingers are thinking and reacting, rather than that some part of the unconscious mind is calculating faster than the conscious mind, and directing the fingers to react (via sweat/perspiration) unbeknownst to the conscious mind? Or, perhaps, Lehrer has slightly misrepresented Damasio’s theory here. Maybe we need to ask him.
Adding author Robert Kurzban’s hypothesis about mind structure (Why Everyone (else) is a Hypocrite) to this mind-body loop idea, I might draw a different picture. Continue reading Back to Proust Was a Neuroscientist – with an intro riff to Kurzban’s Why Everyone (else) is a Hypocrite