This series explore the nature of the mind, from neuroscience to psychology.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau 3: Classicism

I've covered this theme extensively. One of the ways artists were able to depict sex was by referring to classical myths. This legitimised erotic subjects. There is no better practitioner than Bouguereau, but now that we understand how he used symbolism to eroticise his pictures of girls, we can better appreciate just how provocative his neoclassical works are. In the first, Idyll, 1851, note how young the girl is. In Whisperings of Love, 1889, note the use of the jug symbol. In Work Interrupted, 1891, the girl is distracted by a love interest out of the frame, we know this [...]

Beauty And Sexualisation

This is a tough one to try and untangle, but it's important. Whilst it is true that we often find beauty sexually arousing, the two are not necessarily connected. It is also true that we can find some forms of beauty sexually cold, or non-arousing and be sexually aroused by things that are not beautiful. Unfortunately many people are confused about these differences, especially those who complain about the sexualisation of children. They interpret a picture of a beautiful child as sexualising that child. I am more and more convinced that many of the people complaining about sexualisation mistake [...]

Dakota Fanning Oh Lola! Update

Today's paper reported on some recent judgments by the Australian Advertising Standards Board, and lo!, there was a report on the Oh Lola! campaign featuring Dakota Fanning. Apparently the ASB received 5 complaints arguing that the ad sexualised children. Unlike the British ASA they disagreed, pointing out that the model was 17 and that it "was not an image that sexualises young women". So how is it that the British ASA rules one way and the Australian ASB the other? Could it be that sexualisation is largely a matter of subjective opinion? Since I wrote my original post on this, [...]

Dakota Fanning And The Controversy Over Oh Lola!

Here's a good example of a conservative (and absurd) reading of an image. The British Advertising Standards Authority have censored this image of Dakota Fanning advertising Oh! Lola perfume.

Kore And Shadow

There's a reason both art and psychology consistently turn back to the Greco-Roman tradition for inspiration and that's because the Judeo-Christian tradition is, in comparison, rather narrow and pathological. Indeed, I would say there is no insight in the Judeo-Christian narrative that is not also found in the Greco-Roman - with the Greco-Roman containing greater depth and sophistication.  Of course, many Judeo-Christians will claim that their narratives has made some unique contributions, but I just don't think this stands up to a close examination, especially when you consider that the 'Christian' component was largely inspired by specific Greek ideas. The [...]

The Transgressive Kore

Okay, time to stop pulling my punches... I understand society and culture in terms of hermeneutics. Things are not always what they first seem. A thing may be both its self and a symbol pointing to something else. The 'culture' war is not a debate about things as they are, but things as symbols. The culture war is a debate about meaning. The debate over children is not actually a debate about children as they are (or as they seek to define themselves) but about children as symbols. Jung described the Kore archetype thus: As a matter of practical observation, [...]

Abuse, Stress And Trauma

Now to a somewhat darker subject... For me an ethical imperative is that each individual should be able to reach their full developmental potential (another is speaking the truth). Evil can be defined as anything that thwarts developmental potential. Any ideology that has a limited view of human potential is, by definition, immoral. In my posts on institutional abuse and the work of Robert Sapolsky I touched on the neurophysiology of stress. There is a simple formula: abuse causes stress, stress causes trauma. An article on the 'shared parenting' debate in Australia says: Boys in rigidly sustained shared care were [...]

Stress And Baboons And What It Means For Humans

Saw a wonderful documentary on the ABC a few months ago. It featured the wonderfully eccentric professor of Biological Sciences and Neurology at Stanford, Robert Sapolsky. He is also a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship genius grant.Sapolsky's main research has been the study of stress in baboons. His findings, when considered in the light of other research, tells us something important about the human species.For the purposes of this post I will summarise what I consider his more significant findings.When he studied the physiology of baboons he found a significant difference between dominant and lower order males. The dominant males [...]

Eros And Psyche

Two great mythologies inform Western culture: the Greco-Roman and the Judeo-Christian. Greek and Roman myths have always been a rich subject for Western artists. However they often clash with Judeo-Christian values. One of the results has been a gradual sanitizing of the original Greek meaning. The myth of Eros and Psyche gives us two essential Western concepts. The word eros gives us erotic and psyche - psychology, psychiatry. The story of Eros and Psyche is the story of passion. Psyche is the most beautiful mortal on earth and Aphrodite becomes jealous of the adulation she receives. She orders her son [...]

Daydreaming And Neurophysiology

I used to daydream a lot as a kid. Of course in those days it was seen as being idle. In my novel Wild Child Bliss goes to see a specialist who might have an insight into they way she is wired (I don't want to spoil the plot). Great advances are being made using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Neurorologists can now see the mind in action and some have used it to see what is happening during daydreaming. Psychologist Jonathan Schooler has done research that shows that: ...neural recruitment in both default  and executive network regions was strongest when [...]