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Prof. Dr. Semir Zeki: “The neurobiology of beauty”

Portrait of Semir Zeki
source: Semir Zeki

As part of the event series “fundamente” organized by Studium Generale at UdK Berlin that deals with the question “What is reality”, Prof. Dr. Stefan Klein and Lisa Glauer, associate in the Graduate School programme, talk withProf. Dr. Semir Zeki about “The neurobiology of beauty”.

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 investigated neurobiologically. The answer 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, field A1 of the medial orbito-frontal cortex (A1mOFC). And the intensity of activity there is proportional to the declared intensity of the experience of beauty. This gives a neurobiological answer to Bell's question and shows that aesthetic judgment can indeed be quantified. The new findings also address long-standing questions in the philosophies of aesthetics, such as:  Is the experience of beauty culturally determined or does it owe something to biology? How can we distinguish between the beautiful and the sublime?Why do we commonly invest beautiful people with moral qualities that they do not necessarily possess? What is the use of beauty anyway?

Semir Zeki was appointed Professor of Neuroesthetics at University College London in 2008, having previously held the Chair of Neurobiology there. He specialized in studying the organization of the visual brain and has since also contributed to studying the neural mechanisms that are engaged during affective experiences, such as those of beauty, love, and desire. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, London; and also a fellow of other learned societies in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States. He holds four honorary doctorates in science and medicine.

The event language is English. Free admission.

When? Where?
Thursday, 8 November 2018, 6pm
Medienhaus, Aula
Grunewaldstraße 2-5
10823 Berlin 

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