The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain from Vienna 1900 to the Present
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain from Vienna 1900 to the Present

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  353 ratings  ·  53 reviews
A brilliant book by Nobel Prize winner Eric R. Kandel, The Age of Insight takes us to Vienna 1900, where leaders in science, medicine, and art began a revolution that changed forever how we think about the human mind—our conscious and unconscious thoughts and emotions—and how mind and brain relate to art.

At the turn of the century, Vienna was the cultural capital of Eur...more
Hardcover, 656 pages
Published March 27th 2012 by Random House
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich HegelAesthetic Theory by Theodor W. AdornoCritique of Judgment by Immanuel KantWhat Is Art? by Leo TolstoyThe Philosophy of Art by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Aesthetics: The Philosophy of Art
25th out of 68 books — 26 voters
اغتصاب كان و أخواتها by محمد الماغوطخرافة التقدم والتخلف by جلال أمينتراب الماس by أحمد مرادالهويات القاتلة by Amin Maaloufالتفكير العلمي by فؤاد زكريا
Highly recommended
32nd out of 72 books — 19 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,225)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Kandel's topic is one of the most ambitious. Here he an attempt to link together the arts and the sciences. Where and how does he do this?

This is a book in two parts. the first is an overview of fin de siècle Vienna and all of its accomplishments at that time. Our author lived there when he was a boy, so he holds a fond attachment for this image of the city as it was before 1918 (and before 1938).

There he begins with the great discoveries on medicine and psychology which were made in that city....more
Best book about bridging the two cultures: art(humanitarian) and science. The author already has a Nobel prize, so you know you are in good hands. We should invent a new award for books like these actually. It is even better if you read the book in Vienna as you can also see some of the paintings in the Upper Belvedere and visit the other 2 museums (Josephinum and Freud) that had a big role in Kandel's life and in the early history of the ideas behind this book. Will try to read it again after I...more
Because I have listened to Eric Kandel several times when he discusses what neuroscience knows about human brain behavior when a specific area of the brain has been damaged, I anticipated this book would follow that scientific endeavor. However, Kandel (a recipient of the 2000 Nobel in physiology) centers this book on understanding the unconscious as well as the conscious in art and begins with art in Vienna in the early 20th Century. He addresses what those artists were portraying as they shift...more
I'm almost finished with this book and I recommend it. It's not as good as his previous book, In Search of Memory, but how can it be? That was his life's work. This one is about the scientific and artistic accomplishments of turn of the century Austria, and how they contributed (or relate) to neuroscience developments. Kandel did as good a job as he could linking the two subjects: Austrian history and modern neuroscience. But they are two different subjects. If you like them both, it's a good re...more
Maria Fuentes
A fascinating book which integrates art and science and how they can enrich each other and lead us to a better understanding of the complexity of the human mind. Neurology and Psychology through expressionist art of Vienna 1900.......a true masterpiece by the Nobel laureate Eric Kandel! I will definitely enjoy this book again!!!
By far, this is one of the worst books I have ever read. I thought I was getting an interesting piece on how the brain reacts when viewing art..instead I got a hero worship guide to some of the most questionable people in art & science. This book really shows how dangerous it is that a few wealthy elite can virtually take over the arts and sciences in a city and use that wealth and influence to propagate garbage. The "artists" the author worships are literally,a man who not onl...more
Kunal Sen
My year ended on a high note, by finishing this most remarkable book – Eric R Kandel’s The Age of Insight – The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain from Vienna 1900 to the Present. The timing of this book was remarkable for me because it happened on the same year when my primary focus was to find a bridge that I can use to cross at will between my two passions – science and art. Right after I wrote a blog on this topic (Artists without Science), my Art Historian friend Ar...more
Frank Spencer
This book has a good combination of information about neuroscience and about art. The author uses three artists who worked around the time of Freud in Vienna to show how our brains process art and how processes outside of our conscious awareness are at work all of the time. He hopes that the new advances in neuroscience will allow more cooperation between those working in several fields to develop a theory of how we respond to art. There are implications for how we help people to cope and manage...more

This promises to be a long, dense read but I already am fascinated after the first two chapters....
Randol Schoenberg
This is an incredible book, a real tour de force in explaining in layman's terms some of the most amazing and important recent developments in neuroscience, biology and psychology, at the same time relating them to the artistic achievements of Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka in Vienna 1900. If there is a flaw, it is Kandel's avoidance of any discussion of music, and especially of Schoenberg, who also painted artworks that fit much better into his thesis than those of Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka. T...more
Eric Kandel deserves a lot of praise. Not only did his pioneering work on the neurobiology of memory pave the way for our modern understanding of mind, he has also untiringly pursued the integration of neuroscience and psychiatry. Moreover, he has always resisted going along with the widespread dismissal of Freudian thought in neuroscience, and kept an open mind with regard to psychoanalysis. For all his work, Kandel deserves praise.

But not for this book.

While I enjoyed his depiction of coffeeho...more
Melissa Earley
I found so many unconvincing and troubling statements and bad art history interpretations after just a casual flip through the book's captions and then the first 40 or so pages that I gave up. Dr. Kandel may know his neuroscience (I don't even know about that--I didn't get that far), but he does not know history or art history well enough or broadly enough to make this a worthwhile read. His summary of the Enlightenment was completely off base, as if he had read Candide and somehow missed that i...more
Mason Sawyer
Awesome book! I learned sooo much about the medical profession in which I work and the arts! I had no clue the depth of detail I was lacking. I knew that 1900 Vienna was inspirational to economics due to my favorite economist Von Mises but the book opened my eyes to the world of 1900 Vienna and all that it signified and changed for the rest of the world! Modern US Medicine was founded on Vienna's school of medicine. That's not all, the theories on the unconscious are incredible and intriguing. I...more
Not clear what the point of this book is. The chapters reviewing early Vienna psychologists (Freud) and artists (Klimt, Schiele) are interesting but I find myself asking why? Where is all this going...I think that this is ill-conceived. He is clearly interested in Austrian Art and his intellectual roots in Vienna around 1930s. but, then he tries to realte all this to modern cognitive and neuroscience and the links are either not there or tenuous. So, it all does not seem well motivated or indeed...more
Keith Kendall
Part one is a review of some pornographic material from about 1900 from Vienna. Freud also figures prominently in Part 1. Part 2 and Part 3 can't leave that heritage behind. It's time to exercise the rule that it's okay to not read the whole thing. Based on the topic of this book, it is no wonder that the Viennese period of greatness collapsed.
500 pages of science, art history, and art criticism written in a very straight forward manner, science for the general public. Some brain science is numbingly dull. This book helped me to recognize Freud as the first to place unconscious thought so central to psychology. Also it helped me start to realize how much of human thought is unconscious and how much our emotions and feelings are part of our thoughts. The author explains some fascinating results in testing consciousness near the end of...more
Kandel is a NObel laureate for work on neural biology. Here he explores the salon culture of 1900's Vienna, with scientists like Freud, and artists like Klimpt and Schiele. He describes how they brought a scientific analysis to the human mind, and to the meaning of and response to, art. Kandel clearly has a deep knowledge of the art of the time, and his own expertise allows him to give a lucid discussion of the development of modern art criticism and history. Although a little redundant, and per...more
opens a window onto Vienna c. 1900 - conservative & anti-semitic, avant garde and poetic all at the same time
Fascinating! The section about Messerschmidt's creativity while suffering from mental illness must be shared; not only did his "internal conflicts not hinder his imagination," but they actually seemed to be "more original than the excellent work" done prior to illness. One writer commented, "Messerschmidt's madness proved to be strangely liberating...he began to make art that was true to himself...his demons were now his muses, and he made the creative best of them by portraying them" in his scu...more
David Redden
This is a great book if you're interested in Viennese expressionist art and/or neuroscience, otherwise it will be one heck of a slog. In this book, Kandel, a Nobel Prize winner, explores ways in which art and neuroscience have or might in the future connect to inform each other, focusing specifically on the expressionist painters, Klimmt, and Schiele. I read this mostly as a follow-up to Hans-Georg Gadamer's Truth and Method, which presents a more purely philosophical view on how we interpret an...more
E. Journey
Dr. Kandel's Nobel Prize (2000) Prize is in Physiology or Medicine for "research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons." Thus, it is not surprising that, at the conclusion to this book, he believes that there is a need for what he calls a biology of aesthetics (or neuroaesthetics, in particular), that field of study which integrates the creation and appreciation of art, not only with the psychology, but also the biology, of the mind. Predictably, when it comes to art, the biolo...more
Ani Artinyan
Интересен поглед към биопсихологията на изкуството, както на самия креативен процес, така и на ролята на "консуматора". Книгата е написана от едно от светилата на съвременните невронауки - Ерик Кандел, носител на Нобелова награда за приноса си към разбирането ни за принципите на краткосрочната и дългосрочната памет на молекулярно ниво. Авторът използа като отправна точка творбите на Климт, Кокошка и Шийле, духа на Виена от началото на 20ти век, основните идеи на Фройд, както и съвременните разби...more
Aug 07, 2013 Janne rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
It took me a while to read this whole book: I had to intersperse it with lighter fare, but it was totally worth the weight of the hardcover book on my chest. The first half of the book was my favorite. In it Kandel narrates the history of the artistic and scientific world in the Vienna of the turn of the 20th century. With his neuroscience background, Kandel tries to explain how our brain respond to visual art, and how great artists have an intuitive understanding of that. Also, during that exci...more
Paul McNeil
This book reaches far- it takes the specific time and cultural situation of Vienna circa 1900 as a way of looking at both the relationship between art and science, and what we understand of the science of perception and empathy and how those things relate to both creating and appreciating art. Neuroscience, history, art history, psychoanalysis, psychology, studies of autism, and a host of other things are part of the mix, but Kandel (himself originally from Vienna and a Nobel Prize-winning resea...more
I think that Vienna in the late 20th and early 21st century is a fascinating epoch. So, naturally, I really enjoyed this book about that time period. It's a great survey of the field of psychology and the main artists of the Austrian Expressionist movement and the general history of the time. There is very good information about neurobiology and neuropsychology, which, for the most part is accessible to a general audience.

There are a few dry spots in the writing-- this occurs in the science and...more
I started reading this first last year, and found the beginning section about the artists and scientists fascinating. And then I got a little bored. The second time through I still found the beginning sections really fascinating, and the parts after occasionally difficult to read through because how many times can you read about Phineas Gage? I do wish some of those chapters had been a bit condensed. At 600 pages the book is a doozy. Still, the insights about how these neuronal processes drive t...more
Rob Boone
This is one of the most fascinating things I've read, and it's remarkably well-written. By exploring early 20th century Vienna (Klimt, Freud, Kokoshka), Kandel explores all of us. The book is primarily about our relationship to art, but ultimately, it's about our striving, if you subscribe to the belief that art is the highest point in the pyramid of human achievement. What we strive for defines us more accurately than any other measure, and Kandel explains quite well how what we currently striv...more
Lee Barry
Great book on the retinal, perceptual and cognitive aspects of art.
A century after the conversation between neuroscience, art an psychology began a few questions have been already answered and this book presents them in a fascinating way.

The most interesting thing about this book though, is the possibility of contemplating the vastness of the mysteries of the brain and to take a sneak peek at the new questions posed by this conversation that scientists and thinkers are challenged to tackle in the years to come.

In dit boek probeert de neurobioloog Kandel te laten zien hoe wij met onze hersenen naar kunst kijken en hoe de kunstenaars intuitief daarvan gebruik maken. De eerste hoofdstukken zijn vooral interessant. Daarin worden Weense kunstenaars van rond 1900 besproken (met veel reproducties). Het gaat dan om Klimt, Kokoschka en Schiele. Daarna wordt het allemaal wat technischer en is het soms wel erg pittig. Al met al wel erg interessant en goed geschreven.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 74 75 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul
  • Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist
  • Modernism: The Lure of Heresy from Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond
  • Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain
  • The Social Conquest of Earth
  • The Twenty-four Hour Mind: the Role of Sleep and Dreaming in Our Emotional Lives
  • Born under Saturn: The Character and Conduct of Artists
  • Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter
  • Divine Fury: A History of Genius
  • The German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century
  • Thunder At Twilight: Vienna 1913/1914
  • Letters on Cezanne
  • The Illusion of Conscious Will
  • The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution
  • Lee Krasner: A Biography
  • Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are
  • Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame
  • Wittgenstein's Vienna
Eric R. Kandel is an American neuropsychiatrist who was a recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. He shared the prize with Arvid Carlsson and Paul Greengard.

Kandel, who had studied psychoanalysis, wanted to understand how memory works. His mentor, Harry Grundfest, said, “If you want to understand the brai...more
More about Eric Kandel...
In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind Principles of Neural Science Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and the New Biology of Mind Essentials of Neural Science and Behavior Molecular Neurobiology in Neurology and Psychiatry (Research Publications (Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease))

Share This Book