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    By: Angus Fletcher

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    "Recent work in cognitive science has rooted our moral dispositions in the more ancient and less plastic regions of our brains, seeming to confirm Darwin's suspicion that a biological approach to human life must necessarily produce a narrowly conservative (and perhaps even immutable) account of ethics. This book, however, explores a now-forgotten suggestion made by William James and other early pioneers of cognitive science who saw art as a means to translate the experimental study of the mind into a skeptical, pluralist, and progressive approach to the good life. Using Hamlet and a number of other popular and influential seventeenth-century tragedies as case-studies, this book shows how aesthetic experience can help organize the biological functions of our brains into adaptive social networks that not only make us more resilient to the pressures of natural selection, but fulfill the human need for intentional life. Seen this way, art is not--as many recent cognitive scientists have suggested--simply a mirror of our natural mental functions. Rather, it is also an active contributor to new functions, a useful tool for translating the theoretical discoveries of science into progressive ethical practice"--

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