Alva Noë at the Royal Institute of PhilosophyThe Entanglement

The Royal Institute of Philosophy 2023 London Lecture: What does art tell us about ourselves? Life, art, and philosophy

In this talk, Professor 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.

We make art out of life, but life in turn is remade by art. We are by nature tied to art, and this means, finally, that we can’t really speak of our “nature” at all. We are art’s product. Art is not a late accomplishment of our history, a mere cultural add on. We are entangled with art, and the whole phenomenon of the aesthetic, from the very beginning. If there is to be a science of the human (neuroscience, or cognitive science etc.) it must come to grips with our aesthetic character.

To get clear about all this we need to think anew about art, what it is, why it matters, and what it has to do with who and what we are.

Alva Noë is Professor of Philosophy, and Chair of the Department of Philosophy, at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a member of the Center for New Media, and the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences. Professor Noë is a 2012 recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2018 recipient of the Judd Hume Prize in Advanced Visual Studies. Until the end of 2024 he is an Einstein Visiting Fellow at the Free University in Berlin. He is the author of  Action in Perception (2004), Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness (2009), Varieties of Presence (2012), Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature (2015), and Infinite Baseball: Notes from a Philosopher at the Ballpark (2019), and Learning To Look: Dispatches from the Art World (2022). His latest book is The Entanglement: How Art and Philosophy Make Us What We Are.