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

By Martin Johnson | Go to book overview

Introduction

What conceivable connection can cast into a single volume essays concerned with sculpture, music, poetry, and on the other hand even the briefest reference to the modern electrical theory of matter and the time-space framework of scientific measurement? Incongruity might seem still worsened by adding a few studies on ancient Chinese instruments and on the migrations of early mathematical knowledge through the medieval East, not to speak of attempts towards novel insight into Leonardo da Vinci and Spinoza--those enigmatic giants who bestride the gaps between science, art, and philosophy in the comparative simplicity of pre- modern knowledge.

But the selection is not the rambling hobby of a scientist relieving the intensity of experimental work by occasional trespass into lesser-known byways of art and archaeology. Stimulated by a fact of experience, namely that the author's students and colleagues in Faculties of Science and Medicine have taught him more about the arts than much official art-criticism, these studies are collected in the hope of seeing just how there arise the contrasts and subtle similarities which make so many scientists turn for recreation to the arts--and which might well make suitably expounded science a valuable item in the educational programme for the arts. Such recreation is much more than idle pastime, and becomes at times of hard work an intellectual and spiritual necessity. In any reconstructed system of education the poet and the artist will have to explain to the scientist, and the scientist to the artist, what each is trying to do: this will require something more penetrating than the mere popularisation of salient facts of scientific discovery, for which there are booksful of exposition already in plenty. It will require a mutual realisation of likenesses and differences between the logical and the imaginative in our response to human environment. A tentative approach to such problems is offered in the present thesis that the sciences and even the most fantastic arts are essentially essays in Communication of Pattern, Form, or Structure of mental images. The scrutiny of this common feature may well be of greater significance than any hasty decision as to whether the scientist's work is to UNCOVER pre-existing pattern in nature, or, like the artist, to CREATE his patterns. Such decision belongs to

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