Tag Archives: Lehrer

Proust was a neuroscientist?

Jonah LehrerAs if to build on our recent discussions of clashing historiographic sensibilities (see part 1, 2 & 3), All in the Mind recently turned its attention to Jonah Lehrer‘s book: Proust was a Neuroscientist. (Get the MP3 of his interview here.)

Lehrer’s basic argument is simple: artists have often anticipated aspects of brain science that bench scientists are only now beginning to understand.

Using similar terms, Publishers Weekly described it thus:

Lehrer explores the oft-overlooked places in literary history where novelists, poets and the occasional cookbook writer predicted scientific breakthroughs with their artistic insights. The 25-year-old Columbia graduate draws from his diverse background in lab work, science writing and fine cuisine to explain how Cézanne anticipated breakthroughs in the understanding of human sight, how Walt Whitman intuited the biological basis of thoughts and, in the title essay, how Proust penetrated the mysteries of memory by immersing himself in childhood recollections.

But can Proust, or any of the other artists he names, really be considered a neuroscientist? (In other words, should historians of neuroscience include these characters in the disciplinary lineage?) No, said Lehrer in his interview on All in the Mind. Continue reading Proust was a neuroscientist?