Thursday, March 09, 2006

Art and Science

(Afterthoughts of my discussion with Kalyan)

Meeting this time with Kalyan, I was really amazed with the diversity of his interests in things artistic. He is almost as crazy as me! ;)

I asked him: If he was so interested in all the artistic things, didn't he also feel the same way for science. His answer was NO.

He said that scientific achievements are rather insignificant compared to the truths which really matter. As per him, one secret worth unravelling anytime is : Why are we here? Purpose of life? etc. The question is definitely not original to Kalyan. We all have asked this question. Everyone has. And a lot has been talked about it. Kalyan's originality is in thinking that that's the one and only thing to be discovered. Nothing else matters.

And due to the insignificance of other findings in comparison to this pending discovery, science itself becomes insignificant.

Kalyan subsequently accepted that this was perhaps just trying to reverse engineer a reason for the fact that he wasn't so scientifically inclined as artistically. Perhaps, 'why' was beyond his comprehension actually.

Whatever...but I did gave it a thought (couldn't help, as usual), especially because, for me, science and art are not all that different. In fact, I find them similar in spirit.

I have looked at art as an act of creating the beauty that we see all around us. A particular way to look at this is: what beauty we notice around is essentially within us. Art is an expression of beauty. Fine arts are expression of visual beauty, music is an expression of auditory beauty, cooking is a beautiful combination of senses of taste and smell. Dramatics is a higher level art form combining all the above in variety of ways.

I feel, comprehension is another kind of beauty. Clarity in thought, knowing, understanding, etc. all of them cater to a sixth sense of ours, curiosity. Being able to perceive the same object, be it a concrete thing or a concept, in a variety of ways gives us a similar type of joy as good food gives our taste buds, music gives our ears, a painting gives our eyes. Like the other senses, the sensitivity towards this sense varies from person to person. For a person, eating the three meals of a day may be just a matter of routine bordering at drudgery. For someone else, those same meals could be a source of unbounded bliss (as in my case :) ). Similarly, being able to understand something may be, for someone, just a matter of pragmatic concern. Being able to put it well in words or other forms could again be a practical issue for him. For some (as, again, in my case), comprehension could be the essence of any intellectual exercise. To be able to understand something well -- however mundane, however exotic; however concrete, however abstract -- may become a passion similar in intensity as art is for an artist.

A philosopher, or a scientist, is an artist seeking beauty in comprehension. He wants to understand and express everything that there to know, in as many ways as possible, in as clear, complete, and correct manner as possible. For him, clarity of concept is that beautiful sculpture after finishing which a sculptor can sit and gloat ad infinitum.

Computer science, especially its theoretical aspects, are indicative of that passion for comprehension that equates scientists with artists. The kind of profound modelling and analysis that has gone into the computational tools is one thing to marvel upon. But the very fact that they could be conceptualised gives goose pimples!

Philosophy is another subject which excites similar feelings. Metaphysics, Ontology and Epistemology are subjects which just have no pragmatic reason to exist. The only reason they exist is some very sensitive people did spot that element of beauty in the concept of reality, concepts and knowledge. It's simply out of the world.

Yes. So, science does have a similar apeal as art. In fact, an artist has every reason to be as fascinated with science as he is with arts, and vice versa. Of course, due to limited time and faculties, we might always prefer one to another as our main occupation. But that's besides the point.

Related blogs:
Mystery and Curiosity

Understanding Epistemology

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