A&O 2020 CLASS NOTES March 31 2020



TUESDAY March 31, 2020

class notes



(Connect remote sites by ZOOM – instructions to come in e-mail)  

share your ideas about your project with a PowerPoint (est 10-12 minutes) or performance with your classmates.  This is an exploration of your semester project; 

THE FOLLOWING WEEK, Each of you will present the finished PowerPoint to each other and then (privately) review each other to help you flesh out / fill in gaps, indicate possible new connections.  WE are each other’s audience and reviewers. 

Each presentation should include (or strongly imply) possible connections to DEEP ethology and to ART: elements that are better communicated by visual information.

From last week’s check-ins:

  • “being on the edge to evoke your best form”
  • “half sleep” (hypnogogic sleep)
  • “afterthoughts” ideas that pop up after conversation ends


As requested, more specifics about competing projects (Powerpoint presentations and Paper)

Powerpoint presentations should be—basically—an outline of your project’s main points BUT INCLUDING aesthetic representations of whatever specific areas you wanted to emphasize about your general topic.


I am  very wary of impairing your creativity with detailed instructions, but some people are comforted by their existence, even if not following them (you can think of them as a safety net?)


So below I’ve identified steps that would guarantee the scholarship behind your topic is covered … but do not let this keep you from exploring outside your comfort zone – that’s much of what makes true art.    Think of it this way: traditional scholarly facts give you something solid to stand on … then reach further.  You would have taken “reason” to the limit, then stretched into “feelings.” 



REVIEW about composition and presentation of projects:


  • IDENTIFY GENERAL TOPICWHY the general reader should be interested in your subject.  For example, its influence on most people’s lives, its social costs or benefits … if discussing the psychological causes or consequences of some phenomenon (disorder, war, pandemic, beautiful art or scenery) why we should all be concerned. (Some people do this by monetizing—thinking of phenomena (a disease, a tree, working on or appreciating a work of art) in terms of cash value.  Whatever gets & holds attention.
    • There is a general principle in creative science that chemist Gunther Stent identified as applying to Why some important discoveries have gone neglected: the creator of the work did not help the audience connect it to pre-existing beliefs – it was too novel and the path of understanding it for the general public was not prepared!   Last week I shared with Katelyna comment by the poet Coleridge said, : “… every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished.”   In other words, you must prepare your audience…  You should read the Stent essay if you have time and creative ambitions:  https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/24922939 (this connects to the dynamic tension Thomas Kuhn identified between tradition and innovation.  This likely works in your own brain all the time as you experience new things.
  • NARROW DOWN to some aspect of that general topic that YOU find particularly interesting—possibly connected to behavior of friends or family or your own experiences.  This new focus is generally found in the course of background reading on your topic.  (Something reaches out from your scholarship to touch something emotion-laden in your own mind.)  
  • TO GET THE BIOLOGY COVERED: DESCRIBE one or more key BEHAVIORAL PATTERN(s) that typify or characterize or represent the focal topic.  This can include the CREATION or the APPRECIATION of a work of art (from a golf course to a painting)
  • REVIEW the DEEP ETHOLOGY of a key behavioral pattern: how the behavioral pattern comes to exist or have influence on us: Development, Ecology, Evolution, Physiology.   
    • (A good way to leverage what we have discussed is to consider what BIOLOGICAL NEEDS are being met (or not) at each level of organization.)
  • Comment on the artistic or biological dimensions as informed by your OWN interests in the topic.



  • Seeming whole.  Listen to https://www.npr.org/2020/03/28/823071293/art-critic-jerry-saltz-on-his-new-book-how-to-be-an-artist a short interview in which Saltz makes the point that one of the elements of genius in certain paintings (van Gogh, Picasso) is how it helps you see multiple elements simultaneously – we know this can be difficult AND can be learned… remember last week’s notes on Janusian thinking.  (neuro-types amongst you: there is likely a good reason for this that is connected to flicker-fusion creating an illusion of wholeness from separate frames: works in vision and—arguably—consciousness itself)
  • Stimuli to Feelings.   Okay, I hope it is clear to all of us by now that ART functions as communications when attributes of the physical environment are detected within us and lead to non-physical feelings. Stimuli evoke feelings: pleasure, pain, the sublime, laughing and crying, joy and grief. Artists discover ways in which your environment can be modified to better communicate their feelings. These ways can be learned by intense, dedicated study (e.g., Leonardo da Vinci), others discover some mechanisms spontaneously by endless, even compulsive, tinkering. Even serendipity.  That is, experience—deliberately sought or not—that eventually informs their intuition—connections are made at a subconscious level.  Many artists seem to know this and work to  get access to their subconscious (e.g., the Surrealists).  So, in Art & Organism, we are always on the lookout for examples of how science can explain any part of the process that leads to how we feel. How corporeal physical things become incorporeal feelings.  This is at the heart of all research on the nature (and nurture?) of consciousness. Some say, the greatest unanswered question of our time.  You will get a good feel for how our disposition and experience–feelings and understanding of what evokes them–work together by reading  Read Sarah Scoles on The Strange Blissfulness of Storms in a 2016 issue of Nautilus magazine. [HERE]