it’s an interesting argument:science and art would both be bettered in a coupling of their (un)like bodies and minds.
and more precisley, perhaps ‘I’ don’t: but one could say with Francois Lyotard and others that science already is art. and if one took that stance, then science and art need simply confess their already ongoing state of living in sin and get on with the process of procreation.
because pro-creation is really what is at stake when art is called in to help us see what the sciences are up to…
that’s my contention at least, after reading the above article by jonah lehrer, a clearly brilliant writer, scholar, thinker of all things scientific. convincingly lehrer skims the histories of science and art, finding in their historical overlaps (picasso, atomic theory, etc) brilliance in the making. or, rather, brilliance in the metaphor. for as lehrer writes, science needs art to give us metaphors for understanding its production. it is an interesting argument, one I would agree with wholeheartedly if it didn’t leave out the founding metaphors of science themselves. for at base, as Francois Lyotard pointed out in the Postmodern Condition
The principle of legitimation functioning in capitalism is efficiency or performativity [see The Postmodern Condition], and this principle attempts to be hegemonic. Science and technology are prime candidates for this attempted hegemony, since they contribute to the growth of capital. Lyotard accepts that performativity is a legitimate criterion for technology, but argues that it is not proper to science. He develops his argument around what he calls postmodern science, by which he means recent sciences such as Benoit Mandelbrot’s fractal theory and Rene Thom’s catastrophe theory that search for instabilities rather than regularities in systems. Following to some extent philosophers of science Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend, Lyotard argues that the performativity criterion does not accurately capture the kind of knowledge developed in the sciences nor the way such knowledge develops. For Lyotard, science is a language game to which legitimation by performativity is not proper. Such performativity merely subordinates science to capital.
quoted from amy woodward’s article on Francois Lyotard, on the internet encyclopedia of philosophy
as a language game itself (could we say metaphor?), science is not a description, the description, of what is true. nor is it truth in need of translation via art: science is itself a language game, an art, if you will… and one particularly prone to capitalist intervention and interpellation.
thus rather than take the hardened binary stance Lehrer offers wholesale, we could, should, (even must?) nuance this a bit… claiming instead, as we first said that science as art simply needs to take a look in the mirror, embrace its creative underpinnings and continue to nurture that of which it is most intimately made. while also inspecting its own drive for translation, for metaphor, for public consumption.
yet as Lehrer pointed out, it is not just the external world that science aims to describe and which art would be best suited for aiding in description: it is the very internal self that seems to slip through the palms and poetry of both science and art to date. somehow words, (Lehrer, like early philosophy, looks first -though not exclusively – to poetry for artistic function), fail when we try to describe the spot we stand in most intimately, the spot we are… in fact the blind spot that subjectivity, personality and individuality continually prove to be in neuroscience.
precisely here, in the blind spot where science as art reaches without success, stand two philosophical figures working a metaphor of, of course, themselves: as two. as blind spot. as the high noon shadow. as mid-day.
alenka zupancic has written a book on what she is calling the two of nietzsche…
and Zizek’s recent talk and, of course, the parallax view call on the ultimate metaphoricist, jacques lacan, to describe the very blind spot they are and we are… endlessly and without escape. as Zizek uses hitchcock to show, the truth of the subject is exactly the blank between the subjective and the objective view. it is not Scotty looking at Kim Novak’s character and it is not the lens looking at the two, but precisely the breakdowns and build ups of both views which constitute the subject. or to use Zizek’s example of Levi Strauss’ work: it is not the villagers who describe their understanding of exchange, nor the anthropoligist’s own assessment, but precisely the breakdown between these two descriptive circles which best serves to describe the workings of the village exchange in question.
Zupancic calls this, with a very particular (yet compellingly interesting) Nietzsche, the shadow cast at high noon, the shadow that falls on its own object almost without distinction from that object, to reveal not one object but, in fact, two.
what does this mean for us, for science, for Lehrer’s point? am I not making his point by employing philosophy (the supposed art of words and wisdom) to explain the scientific gap in the subject? you could certainly say so. or am I fighting a personal battle against the ‘truth’ claims of science regarding its own corner on life? you could say this as well… yet the proposal at hand, the metaphor I’m working to the bone is instead one of noncompliance: between what can be explained subjectively and what can be explained by science is the gap, the break(down), the parallax view. the answer is there, and perhaps the metaphors all lie there as well, in a gap and break where art might humbly yet curiously re-find and refine scientific description from within its own blindspot: in the paint, pixels and poetry already within the lab and without.
thanks to artist John Parker for the Lehrer link.