University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The Arts Collection

Page View

Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology

Ianni, Lawrence A.
[Editorial comment: science and art as forms of communication: an inquiry into the place of art in a technologically-oriented society],   pp. [164]-175 PDF (13.2 MB)

Page 174

of the so-called two cultures have
proposed the inherent superiority of what
their area of interest communicates. The
scientistic scientist, who in his very
narrowness contradicts the
open-mindedness of science, simply
feels that the great precision of scientific
models of experience precludes the value of
any other conceptions. Ironically,
he is usually the type of person most
vehemently engaged in hinting about the
inherently humanistic values of the
sciences while he can neither grasp
nor articulate them himself. Behind the
other barricade is the precious,
super-sensitive artist or artistic
enthusiast who whimpers about the
valuelessness of science as opposed to the
rich humanity of art, which he
is busy killing with kindness and clich6 as
bizarre bad taste is piled upon rehashes of
outmoded and unsupportable values.
This wrench in the structure of society
stems from the failure to grasp
that the difference between the artistic
and scientific models is a matter of
degrees of precision and not of subject
matter. On the other hand, when
174    the differences in precision are
recognized, the conclusion that greater
precision of itself makes an inherently
superior model of experience has also
created difficulty. Such is simply
not the case. The greater efficacy is not
always on the side of the greater
precision. It has been pointed out by John
Von Neumann that mathematical
formulations, which are the very
type in which science deals, are capable
of substantially greater precision than any
other type; yet concomitantly with
this precision comes a decrease in
reliability. That is, in the mathematical
sense, greater exactness in formulation
increases the chances for something going
wrong. Thus, as precision increases
the potential for error increases so that
a system constructed of these
formulations can be highly precise and
highly unreliable. On the other hand, it is
possible that a model or system can be
much more severely limited in
precision yet quite high in reliability.5
That is, a conception or model of
experience may not be exact, but to the
extent that it is valid it is consistently valid,
This is another way of saying that a
sound generalization, while it may
ignore a number of particulars
and the variety in those particulars,
nevertheless holds consistently true in a
certain way. It is, in other words, reliable
though it is not exact. The models
of experience proposed to us by art accord
with this principle. Good artistic models
of experience are low in precision
and high in reliability. For this reason,
the rise of science in human society
does not make art outmoded unless art
chooses an obsolescent course for itself.
Science can only shove art into the
background to the extent that art fails
on its own to present man with
relevant models of new human experience or
more reliable models of familiar human
experience that still communicate to
him the implications that science treats
in a more precise way.
In some respects art has deluded itself
in defending its existence by proposing that
its contributions to the science-fascinated
society is in providing the humanistic
values that science lacks. The plain
fact of the matter is that it is
impossible to keep values out of
scientific considerations. Man inevitably
sees the coldest and the hardest and the
most objective of facts within a value
framework. The most abstract, coldly
logical mathematical conceptions cannot
help but remind us that it is no longer
possible for us to see the world as it was.
Thus, the relevance of art in a
technologically-oriented society is not
in being an exclusive purveyor of values
that it concocts. Science shares with art
the task of giving value to human life
by providing art with a reservoir of implicit
values. The ultimate benefit of the
artistic form of communication
resides in its ability to transcend the
limitations of science. Art speaks just as
surely to the intellect of man as does
science. The seeing of art and science as
having separate provinces of the emotions
and reason respectively has contributed
unfortunately to the dichotomizing of
man's existence and intellectual
life. The job of art is to talk to
man about the same things that science
tells him - to talk about them in
a way that gets beyond the limitations of
being precise and exact.
What art says to man may not be exactly
true but it is true nevertheless - and

Go up to Top of Page