Art and Scientific Thought: Historical Studies Towards a Modern Revision of Their Antagonism

By Martin Johnson | Go to book overview

Author's Preface

These groups of short studies, and the discussions which link them, are put forward in a belief that likenesses and not only contrasts exist between the two traditionally antagonistic attitudes, the logical or scientific on the one hand and the imaginative or poetic and artistic on the other. It is conceivable that comparison between the two might benefit both; for the tradition of isolation and antagonism is a recent consequence of modern centuries of specialisation, and it now shows signs of giving way to a spasmodic intercourse between the sciences and the arts which is sometimes enthusiastic but usually bewildered. Such intercourse is apt at present to be the contact between strangers speaking different languages; science at least is vastly more complex than when Leonardo da Vinci and the medieval orientals practised arts and philosophies indiscriminately, so that the current epoch calls for definitions and mutual recognitions to replace those which through centuries of disuse have fallen out of phase, if not out of date. It will be of some interest to see where there has been any alteration in the fundamental approach of the scientist to nature.

There is even a reason for raising such discussion during a war whose minor consequences include a severe shortage of paper and printers, and whose other consequences have certainly diverted the energies of author and most readers into channels more immediately urgent than the academic; for it is particularly among the scientific trainees for war-time technology that questions are most urgently being asked. They insist upon enquiring what contribution a scientific outlook will make towards those human orientations which are also influenced by poetry, music, and the arts.

In larger issue a similar problem overhangs already the educational plans for Reconstruction: science is officially patronised during war-time as the source from which convenient or necessary inventions may be expected, but will it remain in peace-time a mere minister to material ease and facilitated communications? Or can it become a clue to our insight into the meaning of human nature's environment, and achieve an influence upon education in the widest sense comparable with that of studies which used to monopolise the title 'humane'? In the future such questions will

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