Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Scientist and the Poet

An article by Paul A. Cantor on The Scientist and the Poet. His statement that

To the poet, the scientist seems unimaginative and literal-minded—with his head buried in the ground of facts, incapable of comprehending the larger significance of what he does. To the scientist, the poet seems to have his head up in the clouds, indulging in fantastic visions of what might be and losing sight of the way things really are.
reminds me of what Nietzsche has Zarathustra say about how the tallest trees have the deepest roots, into evil. Yet, Nietzsche's a very complex writer. For Nietzsche, the "evil" are those who challenge the status quo (thus, for Nietzsche, this is not a bad thing). And who challenges the status quo more than scientists? And in their reductionism (to pick up a stereotype of scientists that is increasingly inaccurate with the advent of the complexity sciences), we have the image of "down" and, thus, "buried in the ground." If the poets are, on the other hand, stretching ever-upward, into the clouds, then there is an argument here for what Cantor is arguing -- that the division between the poets and the scientists makes no sense. More than that, the higher the poets stretch into the clouds, the deeper their roots need to be, if they are going to last. The greatest poets will have to become more rooted in the sciences under this argument. Indeed, the more disconnected the poets have become from the world of science -- and from the world itself -- the more disconnected poetry has become from any audience other than academics and fellow poets. Of course, I have argued in my paper on The Spontaneous Orders of the Arts that this may be an expected outcome of the arts becoming indepentent spontaneous orders. But is this a necessary outcome? If so, people like Frederick Turner and me may be on the wrong track. But isn't there room for interdisciplinary -- cross-spontaneous order -- works?

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