In The Entanglement, philosopher Alva Noë explores the inseparability of life, art, and philosophy, arguing that we have greatly underestimated what this entangled reality means for understanding human nature.
Life supplies art with its raw materials, but art, Noë argues, remakes life by giving us resources to live differently. Our lives are permeated with the aesthetic. Indeed, human nature is an aesthetic phenomenon, and art—our most direct and authentic way of engaging the aesthetic—is the truest way of understanding ourselves. All this suggests that human nature is not a natural phenomenon. Neither biology, cognitive science, nor AI can tell a complete story of us, and we can no more pin ourselves down than we can fix or settle on the meaning of an artwork. Even more, art and philosophy are the means to set ourselves free, at least to some degree, from convention, habit, technology, culture, and even biology. In making these provocative claims, Noë explores examples of entanglement—in artworks and seeing, writing and speech, and choreography and dancing—and examines a range of scientific efforts to explain the human.
Challenging the notions that art is a mere cultural curiosity and that philosophy has been outmoded by science, The Entanglement offers a new way of thinking about human nature, the limits of natural science in understanding the human, and the essential role of art and philosophy in trying to know ourselves.
Alva Noë is professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is a member of the Center for New Media, the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, and the Program in Critical Theory. His many books include Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature and Learning to Look: Dispatches from the Art World.
“Alva Noë, one of the most important philosophers working today, argues that artistic creation lies at the root of ethics, philosophy, and even human agency. Fundamentally, Noë shows, each of us is our own artistic project, constantly remaking ourselves and the life worlds we occupy. A stunningly ambitious and brilliant contribution to twenty-first-century thought.”—Jason Stanley, author of How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them
“Although the word fun is rarely applied to philosophy, Alva Noë is fun to read. In The Entanglement, he argues that the aesthetic is always already ‘entangled’ in dynamic, embodied, reflective human experience, and, further, that art and philosophy are vehicles of liberation, the means by which, we, creatures of habit and our own rote technologies, can also wrench ourselves free of them. Boldly conceived, lucidly written, and charged with ethical meanings, this is a book that will spawn discussion, critique, and further thought, exactly—I think—what its author intended.”—Siri Hustvedt, author of A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women
“The sheer ambition of Noë’s ideas is impressive. His book is a beautiful example of poised, appealing, even amusing philosophical prose. My work as an art critic will certainly be shaped by the ideas in The Entanglement.”—Blake Gopnik, former chief art critic at the Washington Post and author of Warhol
“I am always inspired by Alva Noë’s elegant and fresh thinking.”—Sheila Heti, author of Pure Color: A Novel
“Bold, daring, and original, this book will help to move art closer to the center of philosophical attention, where it has always belonged. Alva Noë is one of the few big-picture thinkers with the expertise and imagination to synthesize a wide array of subjects into a compelling and lucid account of what makes us human. In The Entanglement, he draws on his many years of work on the philosophy of art and perception to give us his most comprehensive vision yet of the place of art in life and the shaping of meaning.”—Justin Smith, author of The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is