Science as a quest: Don Quixote, neuroscience and the interrogation of truth


Neuroscientist Rodrigo Quian Quiroga has wondered whether «scientists, embarked upon their personal quests – their quixotic endeavours – spend their time just thinking». This adjectival invocation of Cervantes’s Don Quixote pitches science as an epic quest that equates scientific rationality with the Don’s delusions. Does science quest after truth in a quixotic, literary way that philosopher Nicholas Maxwell terms «rationalistically neurotic»?


Quixote; quest; neuroscience; brain; Borges.


  • Ardila, J. A. G. (ed.), 2009. The Cervantean Heritage: Reception and Influence of Cervantes in Britain. Legenda/MHRA/Maney. London/Leeds.

  • Chapple, J. A. V., 1986. Science and Literature in the Nineteenth Century. MacMillan Education. Basingstoke/London.

  • Curran, P. J., 2009. «The Seemingly Quixotic Pursuit of a Cumulative Psychological Science: Introduction to the Special Issue». Psychological Methods, 14(2): 77–80. DOI: <10.1037/a0015972>.

  • De Cervantes, M., 2005. Don Quixote. Vintage. London.

  • Durán, M. and F. R. Rogg, 2006. Fighting Windmills: Encounters with Don Quixote. Yale University Press. New Haven, CT/London.

  • Goldinger, S. D. and T. Azuma, 2003. «Puzzle-Solving Science: the Quixotic Quest for Units in Speech Perception». Journal of Phonetics, 31: 305–320. DOI: <10.1016/S0095-4470(03)00030-5>.

  • Grossman, E., 2005. «Translator’s note to the reader». In De Cervantes, M., 2005. Don Quixote. Vintage. London.

  • Holland, N. N., 2012. «Don Quixote and the Neuroscience of Metafiction». In Jaén, I. and J. J. Simon (eds.), 2012. Cognitive Literary Studies: Current Themes and New Directions. University of Texas Press. Austin, TX.

  • Koch, C., 2004. The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach. Roberts and Co. Englewood, CO.

  • Lepenies, W., 1988. Between Literature and Science: The Rise of Sociology. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

  • Maxwell, N., 2004. Is Science Neurotic? Imperial College Press. London.

  • Quian Quiroga, R., 2012. Borges and Memory: Encounters with the Human Brain. MIT Press. Cambridge, MA.

  • Sleigh, C., 2011. Literature and Science. Palgrave MacMillan. Basingstoke.

  • Stadler, M., 2012. «The Neuromance of Cerebral History». In Choudhury, S. and J. Slaby (eds.), 2012. Critical Neuroscience: A Handbook of the Social and Cultural Contexts of Neuroscience. Wiley-Blackwell. Chichester.

  • Zeki, S., 2009. Splendors and Miseries of the Brain: Love, Creativity, and the Quest for Human Happiness. Wiley-Blackwell. Chichester.

Creative Commons License
Texts in the journal are –unless otherwise indicated– published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License