Music is an ancient and ubiquitous form of human expression. One important component for which music is sought after is its aesthetic value, whose appreciation has typically been associated with largely learned, culturally determined factors, such as education, exposure, and social pressure. However, neuroscientific evidence shows that the aesthetic response to music is often associated with automatic, physically- and biologically-grounded events, such as shivers, chills, increased heart rate, and motor synchronization, suggesting the existence of an underlying biological platform upon which (...) contextual factors may act. Drawing on philosophical notions and neuroscientific evidence, I argue that, although there is no denying that social and cultural context play a substantial role in shaping the aesthetic response to music, these act upon largely universal, biological mechanisms involved with neural processing. I propose that the simultaneous presence of culturally-influenced and biologically-determined contributions to the aesthetic response to music epitomizes Baumgarten’s equation of sensory perception with taste. Taking the argument one step further, I suggest that the heavily embodied aesthetic response to music bridges the cleavage between the two discrepant meanings—the one referring to sensory perception, the other referring to judgments of taste—traditionally attributed to the word “aesthetics” in the sciences and the humanities. (shrink)
John Tradescant the Elder was probably born in England in the 1570s. The earliest known historical record of his life documents his marriage to Elizabeth Day, at Meopham on 18 June 1607.1 A long career working as gardener in the service of England’s nobility—among his employers were Robert and William Cecil, Edward Wotton, and George Villiers —provided numerous opportunities for travel abroad in pursuit of the exotic species for which his eminent employers clamored. As a result of his voyages, Tradescant (...) not only imported hundreds of plant varieties for his clients, but also amassed thousands of artefacts and other.. (shrink)
Among Leibniz’s contributions to the philosophy of mind, two topics bear relevance to contemporary discussions in cognitive sciences: the mind-body problem, and the universal language. Leibniz’s deterministic view rejects inter-substance causality between mental and bodily states, as well as between mental or bodily states of different individuals. In addition, Leibniz believed in the need to enhance communication through a universal language based on symbolic representations. Here I reconsider Leibniz’s ideas in the light of experimental evidence coming from mirror neurons. These (...) recently discovered brain cells, responsive to both action execution and observation, are thought to enable the interpretation of the action performer’s intentions through their representation in the observer’s own brain, thus storing embodied shared representations. I propose that mirror neurons’ cross-modal responsiveness, whereby seeing an action being performed by somebody else triggers similar neural response to that of performing that action oneself, can be interpreted as an instantiation of intersubstance causality. I suggest that mirror neurons’ properties speak not only to the non-dualistic equation, supported by brain science in general, whereby in a given individual, mental states arise from bodily states but also introduce the possibility that bodily states may arise from someone else’s bodily states. In addition, I propose that this automatic embodied flow of information between individuals (from performer to observer) bears relevance to Leibniz’s intuitions on symbols. Specifically, I suggest that the shared representations stored in mirror neurons, thought to enable the interpretation of the action performer’s intentions, may be seen as a biological instantiation of Leibniz’s planned, but never realized, universal characteristic. (shrink)
Priority of the “self” is thought to be evolutionarily advantageous. However, evidence for this priority has been sparse. In this study, subjects performed a gender categorization task on self- and non-self target faces preceded by either congruent or incongruent periliminal or subliminal primes. We found that subliminal primes induced a priming effect only on self target faces. This discovery of a self-specific priming effect suggests that functional specificity for faces may include timing as well as spatial adaptations.
The self/non-self distinction is essential for survival, but its neural bases are poorly understood. Studies have sought neural specificity for 'self ' in cortical regions. However, behavioural evidence showing that humans are able to single out self-relevant information in the absence of awareness suggests that the cognitive self/non-self distinction might be rooted in subcortical structures involved in automatic, unconscious functions. Here we employ subliminal presentation of self and non-self faces and repetition suppression to show neural specificity for 'self ' in (...) the brainstem reticular formation, providing the first evidence for self/non-self distinction in subcortical structures. Our finding suggests that the brainstem may act as a neural substrate for the sense of 'self '. (shrink)