Art and Science: Which one is More Righteous?Time after time, society has placed stereotypes on different personas. One common stereotype involves the scientist and the artist. Scientists and artists have been labeled extreme opposites in their pursuits of truth and understanding. The scientist is viewed as being rational, objective, and conventional while the artist is viewed as being impetuous, subjective, and creative. Although some truth exists in the preceding descriptions, the scientist and artist really are not as different as they may seem. Science and art often send the perceiver the same message. The scientist and the artist are both trying to describe the same world; however, they go about it in different ways. Through the definitions, intentions, and interpretations of science and art, it becomes obvious that parallels and differences between the scientist and artist exist.To begin, science is an organized body of conceptual knowledge. The contemporary American philosopher Wilfrid Sellars has characterized the two ways one views the world as the manifest image and the scientific image. The manifest image consists of the “world of ordinary experience, which includes such everyday middle-sized objects as tables and chairs, plus all the qualities one perceives as belonging to these objects, including color, smell, and taste” (Olen-375). Objects in the manifest image also include the arts. The scientific image consists of the “world of micro-theoretical entities-objects that cannot be observed, but are posited by the scientist. It is a world of molecules and their components-atoms, electrons, protons, and quarks” (Olen-361). In the scientific image, tables and chairs are viewed as clouds of unobservable particles. As described by the scientist, they are different from the way the human experiences them. Most important, they are described quantitatively. The qualities they have are measurable ones: size, shape, mass, velocity, energy, force, and so on. When looking at this list, one may see that many of the qualities of the manifest image survive in the scientific one. Others, however, do not survive. Color, warmth, taste, and smell, for example, do not survive, though they do have replacements in the scientific image. For instance, color is replaced by frequency of light waves. “Instead of saying that an object is blue, the scientist says that it reflects light waves of a certain frequency in certain conditions. Similarly, warmth is replaced by mean kinetic molecular energy, a quantity that objects have due to the motion of their molecules” (Olen-362). In truth, science is not the polar opposite of art; it only explains what exists in a different manner.Subsequently, art concentrates more on an intuition rather than a conceptual knowledge. “We have no art,” say the people of Bali. “We do everything as well as possible” (Abel-249). Until the Renaissance, activities such as sculpting, painting, and architecture were usually allied with carpentry and building. The term “aesthetics” wasn’t even contrived until the eighteenth century. “Ancient Greece had no art in today’s sense (the Greek techne, usually translated as “art,” is closer to “skill” or “craft”), nor did ancient Egypt, nor did medieval Europe” (Abel-249). Whatever one may define art to be, it will always convey information without striving for or attaining the rigor of science. “Thou shalt not commit a social science!” says W. H. Auden. “Art enhances human experience by its hints at the ineffable, by the interplay of multiple meanings, by suggestive overtones, allusions, and atmosphere. The meanings ‘leak through’ so to speak” (Abel-255). Art always has a capacity for a greater meaning; thus, the greater the latitude left to the reader, the richer the meaning. One must perforce choose between two inconsistent statements in science or in philosophy, but never between two works of art. “Critics quarrel with other critics,” says Santayana, but “with an artist no sane man quarrels.” This is why art is so difficult to translate; often the “creative misunderstanding” (Abel-225) is lost. Correspondingly, the perceiver often misunderstands the artist’s intentions. Idealist philosophers such as Croce and Cassier hold that “the objective value of art depends on the harmony between the artist’s inner intuition and its external expression, that is, between the ‘pet’s vision and his handiwork’” (Abel-256). Uncertainties about the intention of the artist ignited the “New Criticism” movement. Its advocates maintain that a work of art is public and self-sufficient; it is “detached form the author at birth. To evaluate a poem or a painting on the basis of what its creator may have intended is to appraise a phantom-the work of art as it might have been or should have been: we must consider it only as it is” (Abel-256). Inquiring what the author’s “real” intention was, or what the “true” interpretation may be, is useless. Any hypothesis that can be supported by evidence in the text ought to be thoughtfully examined and joyfully experienced. “To insist on the real meaning is to mistake literature and art for idealized science. A work of art is not a sense datum; it is not merely something perceived, but rather something interpreted. In the richness, multiplicity, and range of its legitimate interpretations lie its fertility and vigor as a work of art” (Abel-257). The scientist’s intention is to explain a fact; ideally, by embedding it within a general law from which, along with the particular conditions involved, the fact to be explained may be logically induced. If society never trusted some sort of evidence, nothing could be tested. The structure of today’s science is pragmatically justified and it is the most reliable knowledge available. It is, in every sense, objective. In this manner, science and art are total opposites: science is objective and art is subjective.
Likewise, the ways one interprets science and art are complete opposites. No “innocent eye” exists. Nietzsche called this “the fallacy of the immaculate perception.” In order for one to perceive something, one must add to his or her sense of datum and furnish an element of projection (Abel-34). No single act of seeing-as is therefore necessarily the only one or the correct one. Moreover, any one interpretation excludes all others. The psychologist Joseph Jastrow used a well-known drawing to illustrate this point. The drawing depicted is a figure that can be seen as either a duck or a rabbit, and it shifts from one to the other as one looks at it; it can never be seen as both, and neither interpretation is “correct.” Similarly, if in looking at a painting one concentrates on the brush strokes, they will not see what the painting depicts, and vice versa (Abel-35).When interpreting science, one should forget the stereotype of the scientist as the man in a white coat mixing chemicals in test tubes. Scientists are human beings. “Their judgement may be biased, their selection of problems may be whimsical, their assessment of the evidence may be faulty, their motivations may be suspect, and their observations may be distorted by their values. However, these factors may all be made explicit, and controlled. Science is a social and self-corrective enterprise” (Abel-82). The usual image of the scientist is deceptive. “He is not finding his way through a labyrinth which has one and only one pathway through it (there may be more than one, there may be none). He is not putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, solving a mathematical problem, nor a chess puzzle: both mathematics and chess presuppose specific postulates and rules of inference. Nature proffers no rules, no definitions, no stipulations, no guides, no Ariadne’s thread” (Abel-105). Society has made all these assumptions on their own. Society has and always will tried to interpret science, but as science proves itself, society accepts the conceptual knowledge science offers without reluctance.All in all, society’s stereotypes on scientists and artists are veritable to an extent. Nevertheless, science and art send the perceiver the same truths about the world. Yet, both fields pursue it in different ways. Through the definitions, intentions, and interpretations of science and art discussed above, the parallels and differences of the scientist and the artist are clear. In truth, science is objective and art is subjective, but only man can determine what is meant by each: man is the measure.