Art and the Brain: Chapter 15. The Possible, Improbable, and Realization of the Magical


Non-optical Technologies and Visualization
Sensations and Visualizations


None of the projects surveyed above explain why our valuation of sensory experience differs from person to person. Nor do they answer the question of how we do (or should) best visualize and/or embody sensation. One particularly tantalizing question they miss is: why is there such a range of perspectives in terms of what we perceive and how we evaluate it? In addition, why does the range of ways in which we cognitively know and culturally engage with our environment bear such different results? The conundrums are broadly based.

One question raised in Chapter 2 is why did those who visited the early caves fail to discuss the imagery they saw there. More recently, why did Robert Heath, who was experimenting with alertness in some of his schizophrenic patients fail to recognize evidence of “pleasure brain circuits,” despite patient reports? (Baumeister 2006). Or, what is Leonardo trying to convey when he talks about throwing a paint-filled sponge against the wall to draw inspiration from the random stains?

We might also ask what explains Röntgen’s x-ray discovery, since his insight and the subsequent problem-solving could not even begin until he actually recognized that there was a specific problem staring him in the face that needed a solution. Until Röntgen noticed the shadow in his apparatus and recognized there was a question to ask, there was no “problem” to solve. Still, as shown above, while we credit him with the discovery, it also exists within a broader narrative.

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