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

By Martin Johnson | Go to book overview
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Chapter 3
The Communication of Measurement in Modern Physical Science

I

Contacts between science and philosophy, or between science and religion, or between science and technology and craftsmanship, have never been impossible although they have not always been friendly. Contact between science and the more imaginative or even fantastic arts would seem unattainable. Such strange juxtaposition, however, I have already shown intention to suggest. For the arts of fantasy can only form an integral part of legitimate human endeavour if they imply that the imagination of an artist, expressed in a formal pattern of sound or words or material structure or design, acts by stimulating a responding imagination to definite and coherent purpose. Further, I have insisted that any scenes or material objects described in those arts need bear no simple relationship to the experienced sequence of our sense impressions of the external world. For instance, a fairy tale, or 'the music of the spheres' or 'the light that never was, on land or sea' are legitimate concern for this kind of communication by stimulus of the imagination, just as the façade of a commercial edifice might be the concern of a craftsman in the more obviously utilitarian arts, and murder may be the concern of a novelist or dramatist who scorns any imputation of fantasy. Now much of the concern of the modern physical scientist, atoms, electrons, atomic nuclei, electron-waves, etc., is essentially not of a nature to be directly known to sight, touch, or hearing. These 'things' are as far from being objects of direct sense-perception as anything imagined by the most fantastic of artists. If the latter justifies himself by the coherence of the communicated ideas to which his patterns give rise, where is he resembling and where is he differing from, the physicist whose view of the universe is a deliberately woven structure of ideas which also radically diverges from sense perception?

Without any move towards competing with the popularised versions of modern physics now filling so many works of deservedly

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