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Naturalizing Aesthetic Experience

The Role of (Liberated) Embodied Simulation

Vittorio Gallese

cooperative naturalism, Smith argues, a naturalized aesthetics of film and art can be productively pursued by taking advantage of the contributions of evolutionary theory and cognitive neuroscience. The limited space available here prevents me from doing

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Mirror Neurons and Film Studies

A Cautionary Tale from a Serious Pessimist

Malcolm Turvey

on neuroscience to explain our responses to film. As the philosopher David Davies correctly states, our “inquiry concerning the arts should be informed by our best understandings in those sciences that bear upon the cognitive and perceptual capacities

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Governing through the Brain

Neuropolitics, Neuroscience and Subjectivity

Nikolas Rose and Joelle Abi-Rached

This article considers how the brain has become an object and target for governing human beings. How, and to what extent, has governing the conduct of human beings come to require, presuppose and utilize a knowledge of the human brain? How, and with what consequences, are so many aspects of human existence coming to be problematized in terms of the brain? And what role are these new 'cerebral knowledges' and technologies coming to play in our contemporary forms of subjectification, and our ways of governing ourselves? After a brief historical excursus, we delineate four pathways through which neuroscience has left the lab and became entangled with the government of the living: psychopharmacology, brain imaging, neuroplasticity and genomics. We conclude by asking whether the 'psychological complex' of the twentieth century is giving way to a 'neurobiological complex' in the twenty-first, and, if so, how the social and human sciences should respond.

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Ira Konigsberg

Film theory has been much involved with psychology, especially with the viewer's perceptual and emotional response to the images on the screen. Psychoanalytic and cognitive film theories, though not exactly kindred spirits, have so far dominated psychological film studies. At the present time, technology offers neuroscience methods to explore the brain that open up the discourse on the mind. This article explains ways in which neuroscience, and its study of the brain, can extend our understanding and theory of film by exploring three areas of our response to cinema. Although the perception of motion is a complicated business, the phenomenon of implied motion suggests the brain's readiness to find movement even when there is none and links together many of the same perceptual mechanisms we use when viewing film and also the world outside the theater. Attention, focus, and binding are essential for us to make sense of the vast amount of stimuli that bombard our eyes. They explain what we see and do not see when viewing film and also the way film technique controls our understanding of the action on the screen. Finally, the argument about what we feel and do not feel when watching the characters on the screen may receive some clarification by neuroscience's investigation of "mirror neurons" in our brain.

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Uri Hasson, Ohad Landesman, Barbara Knappmeyer, Ignacio Vallines, Nava Rubin, and David J. Heeger

This article describes a new method for assessing the effect of a given film on viewers' brain activity. Brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during free viewing of films, and inter-subject correlation analysis (ISC) was used to assess similarities in the spatiotemporal responses across viewers' brains during movie watching. Our results demonstrate that some films can exert considerable control over brain activity and eye movements. However, this was not the case for all types of motion picture sequences, and the level of control over viewers' brain activity differed as a function of movie content, editing, and directing style. We propose that ISC may be useful to film studies by providing a quantitative neuroscientific assessment of the impact of different styles of filmmaking on viewers' brains, and a valuable method for the film industry to better assess its products. Finally, we suggest that this method brings together two separate and largely unrelated disciplines, cognitive neuroscience and film studies, and may open the way for a new interdisciplinary field of “neurocinematic” studies.

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Hazel E. Barnes

While Sartre scholars cannot fairly be described as being opposed to science, they have, for the most part, stayed aloof. The field of psychology, of course, has been an exception. Sartre himself felt compelled to present his own existential psychoanalysis by marking the parallels and differences between his position and traditional approaches, particularly the Freudian. The same is true with respect to his concept of bad faith and of emotional behavior. Scholars have followed his lead with richly productive results. But we may note that the debate has centered on psychic and therapeutic issues, aspects of what Sartre called le vécu or lived experience, rather than on the findings of cognitive science or neuroscience. Although all existentialists and phenomenologists accept as a central tenet the fact that consciousness is embodied, there has been virtually no concern with the biological substratum. But the study of consciousness cannot be restricted within its own narrow confines—unlike, say, Greek grammar, which can be learned without reference to the rules of Arabic. At some point, there must be established an organic foundation for the behavior of the conscious organism.

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Frederick Luis Aldama

This article at once celebrates and puts at cautionary arm's length the tremendous advances made in the cognitive and neurosciences as research that can deepen our understanding of creating and consuming of literature, films, comic books. After providing an overview of recent insights by scholars with one foot in the humanities and the other in the cognitive and neurosciences, the article reflects on some key precepts that might be useful in our continued shaping of a humanities and cognitive based research program. For instance, the article explores the way authors, film directors, and artists generally not only construct artifacts that elicit positive emotions but also negative emotions. It also proposes a model for understanding how the “aesthetic” is a relation and not a property nor an essence of the object (a film) nor something to be found in the subject (us viewing the film).

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Norman N. Holland

Metafictions tell stories in which the physical medium of the story becomes part of the story as, classically, in Tristram Shandy or Don Quixote. In our times, both metafiction and metafilm have proliferated. Examples of metafilm include Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr., Woody Allen's Purple Rose of Cairo, Alejandro Amenábar's Abre los Ojos, Ingmar Bergman's Persona, the Marx Brothers' Horse Feathers and, in particular, Spike Jonze's Adaptation. In my experience and that of others, metafilmic movies have a peculiarly disconcerting effect, sometimes arousing fear, sometimes seeming comic. Why? Metafilms play tricks on the levels and kinds of our belief (or our suspension of disbelief). To explain the effect, we need to understand how our brains are functioning when we are, as we say, "absorbed" in a film. The answer lies in the fact that reality testing depends on activity in the motor regions of the frontal cortex. But in experiencing the arts, we are not moving or even planning to move. As a result, as Richard Gerrig's experiments show, we momentarily believe (or suspend disbelief in) the film we are perceiving. Metafilm, however, introduces another, more real reality, the physical medium of the film. Metafilm thus sends conflicting messages to the brain about moving. The result is what Freud called "a signal of anxiety." If the metafilmic effect is brief, we laugh. If it persists over time, it can arouse anxiety.

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Murray Smith

-Knoop. Neuroscience and Naturalized Aesthetics Opinions on the role and value of neuroscience vary markedly across the contributors. Elements of the neuroskepticism that I discuss in FACT are evident in the commentaries of Davies, Friend, and Levinson. Davies argues

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Stacie Friend

occasionally sharper. For example, he writes: Make no mistake: neuroscience will continue to spread into the making and the study of film and the arts in general. Film scholars and aestheticians can stay in their comfort zone and pretend it is not happening