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

By Martin Johnson | Go to book overview

PART ONE
Features of Resemblance and of Contrast between the Arts and the Sciences

Chapter 1
Introduction

Fact and fancy, exercise of the reason and of the imagination, training towards the logical and towards the visionary, surely these are pairs implying not merely antithesis but antagonism? It is important to decide whether the hostility so often suggested by these contrasts is inevitable, or whether it is a superficiality; suspicions grow with lack of acquaintance when educational economics confines the individual to scientific or to literary training, and any trespassing across the border between the two becomes a serious offence. It is conceivable that the scientist with artistic enthusiasms and the artist reading or enquiring in science are merely indulging in the piquancy of unfamiliar flavours. But it is also conceivable that the scientist and the artist, each at his own work, are in some real sense pursuing the same aim and by methods having more in common than is usually admitted.

The possibility that there is territory common to both might develop from two observations; firstly, the distinction between scientific knowledge and random opinion is that the former requires a pattern or logical structure rendering it universally communicable, so that it becomes subject to acceptance or rejection by all who abide by an agreed canon of argument. It will be shown that recognition of this in quantitative discussion is the basis of the physics of Relativity. Now criticism and appreciation in the arts will be found also to depend upon a notion of 'communicability', but with certain differences of interpretation. The second possibility of common aims and methods arises from the insistence by modern physics upon 'objects' such as electrons and atomic nuclei, which have no direct resemblance to the objects of perception by our senses: for at the same time the whole tendency of modernism in the arts has been towards freeing the artist from the primitive

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