Consciousness, art, and the brain: Lessons from Marcel Proust

Consciousness and Cognition 13 (2):213-40 (2004)
In his novel Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust argues that conventional descriptions of the phenomenology of consciousness are incomplete because they focus too much on the highly-salient sensory information that dominates each moment of awareness and ignore the network of associations that lies in the background. In this paper, I explicate Proust’s theory of conscious experience and show how it leads him directly to a theory of aesthetic perception. Proust’s division of awareness into two components roughly corresponds to William James’ division of the stream of thought into a “nucleus” and “fringe.” Proust argues that the function of art is to evoke the underlying associative network indirectly in the mind of the observer by using carefully chosen sensory surfaces to control the stream of thought. I propose a possible neural basis for this Proustian/Jamesian phenomenology, and argue that the general principles of Proustian aesthetics can be applied to all forms of art. I conclude that a scientific theory of art should follow in a straightforward manner from a scientific theory of consciousness
Keywords *Art  *Consciousness States  Aesthetics  Brain
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DOI 10.1016/S1053-8100(03)00006-0
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S. A. Howard (2012). Nostalgia. Analysis 72 (4):641-650.
Andrea Lavazza (2009). Art as a Metaphor of the Mind. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 8 (2):159-182.

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