Strange Tools Art and Human Nature

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 9/27/2016
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang

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A philosopher makes the case for thinking of works of art as tools for investigating ourselves

In Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature, the philosopher and cognitive scientist Alva NoŽ argues that our obsession with works of art has gotten in the way of understanding how art works on us. For NoŽ, art isn't a phenomenon in need of an explanation but a mode of research, a method of investigating what makes us human--a strange tool. Art isn't just something to look at or listen to--it is a challenge, a dare to try to make sense of what it is all about. Art aims not for satisfaction but for confrontation, intervention, and subversion. Through diverse and provocative examples from the history of art-making, NoŽ reveals the transformative power of artistic production. By staging a dance, choreographers cast light on the way bodily movement organizes us. Painting goes beyond depiction and representation to call into question the role of pictures in our lives. Accordingly, we cannot reduce art to some natural aesthetic sense or trigger; recent efforts to frame questions of art in terms of neurobiology and evolutionary theory alone are doomed to fail.

By engaging with art, we are able to study ourselves in profoundly novel ways. In fact, art and philosophy have much more in common than we might think. Reframing the conversation around artists and their craft, Strange Tools is a daring and stimulating intervention in contemporary thought.

Author Biography

Alva NoŽ is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also serves as a member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences. A graduate of Columbia University, he holds a B.Phil. from the University of Oxford and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. NoŽ is the recipient of a 2012 Guggenheim fellowship and is a weekly contributor to NPR's science blog 13.7: Cosmos & Culture. Visit his website at www.alvanoe.com.

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