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. -175 PDF (13.2 MB)
language of science and the verbal language of literary art are symbol systems, it is doubtful if the far-reaching and significant nature of this fact is appreciated. The nature of any symbolic system is to have a substantial independence from the thing it stands for. Hence, the numerical symbols and mathematical relationships in which scientific formulations are cast are not accurate because they must be but because the arbitrary symbols appropriately accord with the experiences of independently functioning observers or users. Numbers and mathematical operations are objective, non-real, tokens that serve as appropriate symbolic measurements for occurrences in nature. Language is no less a system of tokens by which man takes the measure of the universe. This is a fact seldom sufficiently appreciated, particularly by literary critics who are fond of hunting symbols in works of literature. The deliberate and piecemeal hunt for symbols in literary analysis seems often to contain an unspoken assumption that language is normally a rather literal and necessary correspondence between noises and things except in the rare instances where a writer has taken the conscious trouble to construct symbols. Where it is held, this is an unfortunate assumption because to be a symbolic system generally is the very heart and nature of language. Even our most literal statements are the product of the application of a symbolic system. It should be fairly obvious that the two sexual varieties of homo sapiens in nature are not actually the words "man" and "woman" but are tangibles to which we apply the labels of English with some degree of consistency. Thus, like the mathematical abstractions of science, the medium of literary art is a comprehensive symbolic system of communication. Both the scientific and literary endeavors are attempts to produce symbolic models that stand for human experience. Having briefly examined a poetic and a scientific model of the same feature of existence, we may now ask ourselves what it is about these two models of experience that gives to science and art their distinctiveness as forms of communication. Probably the most general thing that could be said is that the scientific and poetic models differ in their degrees of precision. This, of course, is only suggested in Maxwell's paradox where the second law is not considered in terms of the usual measuring units of scientific endeavor, such as calories, ergs and joules. These precise discrete quantities, together with the mathematical operations that describe their relationship in an energy conversion are characteristic of science at its best. However, even in the thought experiment that has been mentioned, gas in the scientific model compares with the term "brook" in the poem; molecules are comparable to the term "wave" in the poem and heat, as a single distinct feature of existence, is comparable to the term "existence" in this poem. Thus, while both models have implications about the sum total of everything, the scientific model restricts itself to a treatment of a few precise features of reality and avoids making any generalizations about the relevant implications for other aspects of existence. The poetic model, on the contrary, not only deals in entities from the less precise macro-world of reality rather than the micro-world that interests science, but also leaps to generalizations about the implications of one truth for other aspects of existence. That is, in Frost's poem, what is true about the wave is soon asserted to be true for man also. This difference between science and art is characteristic rather than unique to the example used. If we were to examine a number of instances in which science and poetry treat the same subject matter, the most encompassing and significant difference we would find is that the scientific model of a fact or phenomenon - either past or projected- will be cast in much more precise, discrete entities and more exact units of discernment than will an artistic treatment of the same or projected experience. It is only when science turns to the thought experiment or projected experience that it becomes quasi-metaphoric and approaches the kind of imposition that is characteristic of artistic models of experience. But even at that, the validation of a scientific thought experiment is sought in terms of measures and precise units of consideration that 1691 l