Date: THUR 23 November
Location: University Centre Somerset, Wellington Rd, Taunton, Somerset TA1 5AX
In his book Art (1914), The English art critic, Clive Bell, asked: what is common to all that arouses the aesthetic emotion? Neither he nor his successors provided an answer, but the question was inspiring enough to be studied neurobiologically. The answer (strictly in neurobiological terms) is that the experience of beauty, regardless of its source (i.e. whether visual, musical, moral or mathematical) correlates with activity in the same part of the emotional brain, the medial orbito-frontal cortex (mOFC) and that the intensity of activity there is proportional to the declared intensity of the experience of beauty. This answers positively, on the one hand, a long-standing question in philosophies of aesthetics, namely whether aesthetic judgment can every be quantified, and raises, on the other hand, important questions about the uses of beauty.
Professor Semir Zeki from University College London is a leading British neurobiologist. He explores the definition of beauty from a scientific perspective, showing that there is a single fundamental characteristic to the experience of beauty, one which is independent of culture, education and ethnic background. In his book Inner Vision: An Exploration of Art and the Brain, Zeki researched into what goes on inside the brain while a person is looking at artwork.