I’ve been making this mini-series on an autodidact approach to life.  Since it’s in Arabic, most of the viewers are from the Middle East, as far as I can tell. Perhaps later I will do the series in English, because the content is becoming even clearer to me through the doing. (An important aside about speaking in a second language- it forces you to really simplify your thoughts, avoid idioms, and speak directly. )

The act of learning is closely related to the act of creation.

On the plane from JFK to Palm Springs I read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (the 1990 edition, originally published in 1988.) I had never read it before, despite this book being such a classic of pop culture.

In the conclusion there is an amazing part that goes like this:

“Up to now, most scientists have been too occupied with the development of new theories that describe what  the universe is to ask the question why. On the other hand, the people whose business it is to ask why, the philosophers, have not been able to keep up with the advance of scientific theories. In the eighteenth century, philosophers considered the whole of human knowledge, including science, to be their field and discussed questions such as: Did the universe have a beginning? However, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, science became too technical and mathematical for the philosophers, or anyone else except a few specialists. Philosophers reduced the scope of their inquiries so much that Wittgenstein, the most famous philosopher of this century, said, “The sole remaining task for philosophy is the analysis of language.” What a comedown from the great tradition of philosophy from Aristotle to Kant!”

(Hawking, A Brief History of Time, 1990, p 174)

I mentioned how much these lines had struck me to Daniel, who remarked: “Right. And for centuries the role of artists was both: to research the what, the why, and at the same time create through them.”

Of course, I thought, immediately remembering all the anatomical sketches of the Renaissance and beyond.

The state of art celebrated by the market today- the art that is convertible to capital- is cynical (Hirst), ludicrous (Koons), or gross (Delvoye). Artists who have sought after truth or beauty in the past 70 years or so have been considered B-league anachronisms (Wyeths.)

The classic role of art has been to inspire, ask questions, and synthesize hypotheses that can’t yet be proven. And historically, the role of art has been to make beauty.

There’s an observation that the best physicists work from a place of aesthetics (how should this work out in an aesthetically ordered world?)

But artists have given up on the beauty aesthetic, just like the second law of thermodynamics (entropy increases.)




Posted by:Brook DeLorme

2 replies on “Artists, Physicists, and Philosophers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s