2017 Abstracts Stage 3

Can we resolve the conflict between Art and Science

Gillian Mary Salmon, 2017, Stage 3

My object is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and my territory is the relationship between art and science. In my project I argue that the arts (and humanities) come into conflict with science (and technology). Richard Dawkins laments that in his view science does not get the same respect as poetry. Meanwhile Midgley claims that science attempts to colonise humanities with inappropriate methods. Habermas claims that science has ‘infected’ politics, ethics and philosophy. Warbuton argues that the concepts used to evaluate scientific research are applied to the arts as well, but are not fit for this purpose.
Lyotard looks at one of the causes of this conflict. Narrative has been the main way of transmitting knowledge, and is still used in the arts. However, science condemns narrative as no knowledge at all, since narratives are only legitimated by their general acceptance. Science, on the other hand, requires legitimation by empirical evidence, and must be able to justify and defend its claims against challenges. However, science can only justify and defend its claims by using narrative, so could itself be accused of begging the question by using a form it has condemned as not susceptible to legitimation.

Heidegger argues that technology, by treating human beings as a reserve, poses a danger to our very essence. Pirsig proposes care as part of the solution. Heidegger sees care as constitutive of humans, inextricably linked with human life and temporality. Pirsig’s version of care is what provides the creativity and imagination which he demonstrates is needed by science to come up with new theories and hypotheses just as much as it is needed by the arts. If this is accepted then care, creativity and imagination could provide the basis for a bridge between the sciences and the arts.

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