Fact and Fiction in the Neuropsychology of Art

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The Aesthetic Mind: Philosophy and Psychology (Peter Goldie and Elisabeth Schellekens (eds.)), Page: 54-70

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Frigg, Roman; Howard, Catherine
Oxford University Press
article description
In her investigation Zaidel uses a range of established artists (i.e. artists who are recognised as such by art history and society broadly construed) from a range of time periods and artistic persuasions as objects of study. Our main criticism is that this focus is mistaken for two reasons. First, to address the questions that neuroscience can reasonably be expected address, there is no need to focus on established artists. In fact, art school undergraduates would not be less valuable subjects. Second, the choice of historical figures as subjects forces Zaidel to extract her data from sketchy and incomplete historical records (incomplete in that they do not provide detailed information about the exact nature of brain damage suffered), which rarely, if ever, provide data that are fit for purpose. Studying ‘ordinary’ art students rather than established historical figures also makes this problem go away. And this is what we recommend should happen: rather then relying on gappy historical records, data should be gathered on living painters using state of the art technology, and these painters can be chosen arbitrarily since nothing depends on their standing in the art world.