What can neuroscience tell us about novels, poems, and plays? Can fiction help us develop real-world cognitive skills? And can writers exploit our mental weaknesses—for our own good? These are some of the questions we'll be asking on this week’s show, “Your Brain on Literature.”
Marcel Proust once wrote about a hypothetical sufferer of “spiritual depression” who has no physical incapacity but lacks the will to act. If you've been walled up at home for weeks, you might suffer from this type of mental languor. A good book may be the jolt you need to spur you into new and creative thoughts.
Should we still be venerating works by Plato, Shakespeare, Woolf, and company as “great books”? Should we still be reading them at all? Or should we simply abandon the "Western canon"? These are the questions we're asking in this week's show.
“Reader’s block” might refer to anxiety about reading some intimidating book; reluctance to read at all; or that special frustrating phenomenon where you drag your eyes over the lines of a page without taking anything in. Sometimes it's the result of a philosophical mistake about reading.
Reading. We all do it, every day, whether it be reading books, text messages, street signs, or cereal boxes. But what is reading? This is an important question, but there is a surprising lack of research in analytic philosophy on this topic. How hard can it be to say what reading is?