Inner Cinematography and Awareness
Lionel Naccache is a neurologist, professor at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital, researcher at the French Brain and Spine Institute (ICM), and member of the French governmental advisory council on bioethics issues. He is the author of many best-selling books, including Le Nouvel Inconscient, L’Homme réseau-nable, Le Chant du signe and Parlez-vous cerveau ?
Scarcely was cinema born when the philosopher Bergson, metaphorized it, speaking of the “cinematographic mechanism of thought:” “Whether we are thinking about the future or expressing it, or even perceiving it, we are doing nothing less than activating a sort of inner cinematography.” Lionel Naccache takes this metaphor of internal movie-making and with the tools of modern neuroscience, explores the ways cognitive mechanisms produce our perception of the world.
The central tenet is that fiction is at the core of our thoughts. Movies, from The Matrix to Inception, depict humans as the creator of fiction; humans live in a world of their creation. Our minds, says Naccache, have a fundamental property that consists of projecting “meanings in an unstoppable and uninterrupted way” onto what we experience. These fictions, illusionary or not, “are, above all, the meaning things have for us.”
This book is an exploration of how we generate these fictions, via cerebral processes and our experience of the world. Along the way, we learn that our brains grasp the world at around 13 images per second (as opposed to 24 in filmmaking), and turns these static images into apparently continuous movement, creating the illusion of stability, the completeness of the visual field, eliminating jumpy movements and inventing the contents of the blind spot of the retina, etc…
With plenty of wit and skill, the author makes spectacular use of the cinematographic metaphor. Though the style is lighthearted, Naccache offers an extraordinary incursion into the way in which our representation of the world and our awareness are shaped.