Parks, a successful author in fiction and nonfiction, is understandably drawn to the philosophers’ side. He describes an influential moment almost a decade ago when attending a conference on art and neuroscience at the university where he teaches in Milan. The keynote guest, a “professor of neuroesthetics”, had his scientific theory shredded with exhilarating force by a speaker from the floor. That heckler was Riccardo Manzotti, a specialist in robotics and psychology with “a rather wild look” and “the most intense blue eyes”, and Parks has since fallen under his spell.

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