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

By Martin Johnson | Go to book overview

Conclusion

A scientific approach to experience is becoming universally available, and its consequences both in technology and in philosophy are inevitable even if we do not always decide that they are desirable. Simultaneously, in the stress of dangerous years, men are increasingly intent on exploring the imaginative in arts and even religions, some with devoted enthusiasm and some with critical scrutiny. A tangle of incompatibilities is therefore now inherited from the traditional antagonisms between our logical and aesthetic reactions to experience. Throughout the foregoing groups of essays there has frequently recurred the suggestion that some of these antagonisms might become understandable and even might become reconciled: the ground for such synthesis is to regard science and art as each a mode of communication of mental imagery by pattern or structure in some selected medium. But the suggestion will only be of service to the modern crises of feeling and of thought if there is also recognised the danger of misreading the limits of association between science and art: the overlap of logical and imaginative can be as disastrous today, crippling art and sterilising science and philosophy, as in less subtle civilisations where primitive science and philosophy were not so divorced from the arts.

This thesis decides the sequence of the present four groups of essays. The function of pattern and structure and form, for instance in sculpture, decoration, music, and poetry, emerged in Part I and was illustrated by the five studies of Part II. When this function can be fulfilled, the call for an artist to represent objects or scenes of external experience is overridden by the need for his imagination to stimulate a responding creation in the minds of the public. This creation's independence of external fact was emphasised, and criteria of realism were therefore transferred from any correspondence with outside phenomena to coherence and character in the imaginative consequences for the receptive mind. Hence the significance of ancient Chinese or medieval European carving, and of some modern poetry and stage arts, was not found in their representational content but in properties akin to those of the most abstract music. A detailed comparison was made between

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