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

By Martin Johnson | Go to book overview

PART THREE
Historical Failure to maintain a Balance between the Scientific and the Imaginative

Chapter 10
Introduction

In Part I, I have discussed some of the contrasts and likenesses between the aims and methods of physical scientists and imaginative artists. The scientists were found to be correlating the concepts which arise from measurement, into patterns capable of communication. Any final form of the pattern was required to be independent of individual behaviour of differing observers. The artists were likewise building forms and patterns in their several media of expression, but in order to communicate stimulus towards a creative response which must differ from one individual to another. In Part II, I traced this element of imaginative response through a somewhat unfamiliar variety of artistic achievements. The most obvious sequel would be to call at once for scientists and artists to regard each others' labours with a new interest and sympathy which might well grow to enthusiasm, and to call for a planning of future education towards that end.

Unfortunately both the history of civilisation and the temperament of certain historical figures must be disillusioning, if we expect any success from throwing science and art together without warnings against the mixing of inflammable materials. To superpose science and art profitably requires not only recognition of the restricted similarities in aim and method already discussed, but the confronting of dangers from which only historical investigation of past misfits can be an adequate guard.

There have been eras in which an educated man could only live up to his standard if he were at the same time a poet and a philosopher and an experimental or mathematical researcher. In certain Oriental civilisations this effort towards synthesis was not merely a measure of the primitive state of the relevant sciences, and an encyclopedic mind was genuinely cultivated. The net result in advancement of science was often amazingly productive in

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