Can Science Be an Art

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  • 7/27/2019 Can Science Be an Art


  • 7/27/2019 Can Science Be an Art


    C a n S c i e n c e B e a n A r t ?Epistemology s t h e V e h i c l e f o r aT r i p f r o m S c i e n c e t o A r t a n d B a c k

    John Stewart

    EPISTEMOLOGYFor those people who are not professional philosophers, itcan be difficult to understand what epistemology isallabout.It seems so immediately obvious that the world around usconsists of real objects (tables, chairs, houses, people, ani-mals, pavements and so on), which we perceive quite simplyas they are (in terms of colours, forms, sounds, touch, smell,etc.), that short of following the computer scientist's dictum("Whymake things simple when you can make them com-plicated?") one wonders what more there is to be said. Inprinciple, of course, this attitude is in itself an epistemologi-cal position, which I shall denote by the term 'common-sense realism'.It is quite probable, I think, that were it not for the ad-vent of modern science we would all still be quite contentwith the blissful ignorance of common-sense realism. Cer-tainly, the development of epistemology is historically re-lated to the birth and growth of Western science [1]. Lockein particular set out explicitly to put the work of such"master-builders... as the incomparable Mr. Newton" on asecure foundation [2]. His attitude to this task was modestin the extreme: he felt that it was "ambition enough to beemployed as an under-labourer in clearing the ground alittle, and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the wayof knowledge" [3]. By one of the most exquisite ironies inintellectual history, it was from these modest beginningsthat the movement of the British Empiricists, continuingthrough Berkeley and Hume, stumbled upon a major prob-lem, which quite upset the apple-cart. The problem is this:where do ideas and concepts come from? Take Hume's ex-ample: how is it possible to arrive at the notion that A is thecauseofB? The common-sense answeris that the idea derivesfrom observation and experience bya process of induction.But Hume produces a pitiless reductio d absurdumhat showsthat this is quite impossible. In the common-sense view, wewould have to suppose that the idea presents itself to us be-cause we observe that B is always preceded by A, and thateach time A occurs, B follows. But, asks Hume, how manytimes would we have to observe such a conjunction in orderto be logically justified in arriving at the idea of causality?Once? Twice?Ten times?A hundred, a thousand, a milliontimes?Bydint of asking this question seriously, we are forcedto recognize that the idea of a necessaryonnection betweenA and B can never be strictlyjustified. Worse, ifwe reallyhadno preconceived ideas, it is farfrom clear that we would evennotice the association between A and B. In short, it seemsquite impossible to explain how the formless stream of im-mediate sensory impressions could ever give rise to the con-

    ? 1989 ISASTPergamon resspic.PrintednGreatBritain.0024-094X/89 3.00+0.00

    cept; even if we suppose thatcausality exists, that A is reallythe cause of B, that is quite in-sufficient. Nevertheless, it is un-deniable that human beings dopossess an idea of causality.Theparadox is complete.The solution to this enigmawas proposed by Kant. Since itis manifestly impossible to ex-plain the origin of concepts onthe basis of primitive sensoryimpressions, these conceptsmust exist a priori, that is to sayas a precondition for the act ofobservation itself. Since any at-tempt to explain the origin ofconcepts on the basis of experi-ence leads straight to the para-dox of induction, Kantsuggests


    Imperviouso the ntellectualn-sights fcriticalpistemology,most f uscontinue ost fthetimeoimprisonurselvesn he llu-sion hatwecananddoperceivee-ality irectlyas t s'.The uthorsuggestshat neofthe unctionsofartmay eto renderstrulyon-scioushat ealityswonderfullyandmysteriouslyoreich ndcomplexhanweare ed obelieveon hebasis fanyiniteetofper-ceptual odes. inally,eexploresthepossibilityhatways fperceiv-ingheworldonstructedy cien-tistsmay ave placen hereper-toire fartorms.

    that we should seek instead to explain experience on thebasis of concepts. This amounts to turning common senseupside-down, and Kant himself spoke of his work as a "Co-pernican revolution" in the domain of epistemology [4].Kant's epistemology involves a fundamental distinctionbetween reality 'in itself' on one hand, and representationsof realityon the other. The relationship between a thing 'initself' and a representation of it is definitely not that of asimple reflection as in a mirror, nor even of a systematiccorrespondence: a representation is constructed on thebasis of conceptual categories that do not derive from theobjects of knowledge themselves. When we perceive a greentable, for example, the 'green table' is a representation ofreality, and it is a great mistake to believe that we perceivereality directly as it is. From a Kantian viewpoint, common-sense realism is an immense illusion.Since critical epistemology provides a devastating intel-lectual refutation of common-sense realism, one might sup-pose that no one could believe in it any more. But the factof the matter is that common-sense realism is not only aliveand well, it is actuallydominant: most of us believe in it mostof the time. How is this possible? We are not yet 'out of thewoods' of paradox.The issues at stakecan be clarified if we take a look at thesocial process by which facts are constructed in a scientific

    John Stewart (research scientist), Centre d'Etudes Transdisciplinaires, 44 rue de laTour, 75016 Paris,France.Received 25June 1987.

    LEONARDO,Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 255-261,1989 255

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    laboratory [5]. Lack of space pre-cludes going into details here: thecrux of the matter is that whenever asocial consensus emerges according towhich a hypothesis is 'true', the hy-pothesis (formulated on the basis of apriori conceptual categories) under-goes a metamorphosis and becomes a'fact'. There are actually two stages inthis transformation. Firstly, the hy-pothesis projects a twin image of itselfinto the 'real world out there'; and thistwin, absolutely identical in every re-spect with the terms of the hypothesis,takes on an independent existence inthe form of a real object. Secondly, therelationship between hypothesis andobject undergoes an inversion. Ini-tially it was the hypothesis that gaverise to the object; but, rapidly, moreand more reality is attached to the ob-ject and less and less to the hypotheti-cal statement about the object, untilthe point is reached where the objectbecomes the causeof the hypothesis.In practice, the conjuring trick is per-formed so neatly that the sleight ofhand is imperceptible and no onereally notices what has happened. Inother words, we arrive at... common-sense realism.It is important to realise that this de-scription of how he metamorphosis ofhypothesis into 'fact' occurs in no wayamounts to an epistemological justifi-cation. The metamorphosis occursFig. 1. John Stewart, Twosilhouettesorawhitevase?,ink on paper, 5.5 x 4.9 in,1987. This classic example of figure-ground reversal provides a particularlyclear illustration of perceptual 'switch-ing'. It is instructive to register mentallythe switching from one perceptual modeto the other and to exercise consciouscontrol over the process. Although it ispossible to increase the frequency ofswitching, it is rigorously impossible to bein both modes at the same time.

    when a social consensus emerges, andthis in turn is likely to happen when-ever a hypothesis functions reliably asthoughthere were a perfect two-waycorrespondence between representa-tion and reality. The catch, of course,lies in the 'as though'; the apparent'correspondence' is alwaysessentiallycontingent, being dependent on thestrictly local context within whichvarious actors, complete with all theirfears, hopes, attitudes and motiva-tions, put the hypothesis to practicaluse. This contingent locality is re-vealed by the observation that follow-ing a shift in the context of use, oftenbut not necessarily accompanied bynew experiments and observations, a'fact' can turn back into a 'hypothesis'and even perish as an 'artefact'[6].The history of science is quite litteredwith examples of established 'facts'that have been overturned by subse-quent theories. (In twentieth-centuryphysics, examples include the beliefthat the structure of physical spacecorresponds exactly to that of three-dimensional Euclidean geometry; thebelief that two events separated inspace either are or are not simultane-ous, independent of any motion onthe part of the observer; and the beliefthat anyobject possesses both an exactposition and an exact momentum; tosaynothing of the oscillation betweencorpuscular and wave theories of thenature of light. Chemistry, geologyand biology of course furnish theirown examples.) In other words, themetamorphosis of hypothesis into'fact' is reversible. But as Feyerabendhas pointed out [7], this means thatthe metamorphosis cannot be deter-mined by anyvalid set of methodologi-cal rules, because in that case themetamorphosis would neverbe revers-ible in this way.We are forced back onthe conclusion that the belief in real-ism (which is nothing other than thepsychological dimension of the trans-formation of hypothesis into 'fact') isindeed an illusion.I come now to a key point in myargument. We have just seen thatcommon-sense realism is essentiallyan illusion. However, what we alsoneed to realise is that it is an illusionfrom which there is no practicalescape. Whenever a representation ormode of perception functions reliably,it is humanly impossible to avoid fal-ling into the trap of believing that wedo perceive reality directly as it is. Icannot emphasize too strongly thatthere are sound practical reasons for

    this. Consider the extension of criticalepistemology to knowledge in generaland to our perceptions in daily life inparticular. As Gombrich has so aptlyremarked [8], in real-lifesituations weact first and think afterwards. If wewere rash enough to tryto keep a 'cor-rect' critical attitude constantly in theforefront of our consciousness, wewould be completely hamstrung. Wewould constantly be assailed bydoubtsabout the wisdom of trying to gothrough a doorway or to climb a stair-case, or even of getting out of bed inthe morning. When it comes to prac-tical action, there simply is no sensiblealternative to common-sense realism.The result is that the would-be lessonsof critical epistemology, expressed asthey are in abstract, intellectual terms,make virtually no impression on us.And yet common-sense realism is anillusion; and for reasons that I shall ex-plain shortly I think it is a pity to im-prison ourselves by believing in it un-reservedly. The question is, of course,whether anything can be done aboutit.

    ARTI shall state immediately the centralthesis of this section, to wit:art, by im-plementing the main insights of criti-cal epistemology in an immediately ef-fective way,provides us with avaluableantidote to the illusion of common-sense realism.It will be well to start this sectionwith an explanation of whyI think theillusion of common-sense realism is apity. It is not that I have a puritanicalobjection to illusion or error as such.It is rather that when we are under thespell of the particular illusion ofcommon-sense realism, when webelieve that we perceive reality itselfdirectly as it is, this not only bars usfrom actual access to alternate modesof perception, it blinds us to the verypossibilitythat other modes of percep-tion could exist. To make myself clear,I will put forth a major metaphysicalpostulate (which I cannot strictly us-tify other than offering it as a valuejudgement): I believe that 'reality' isinfinitely richer and more diverse thanany single representation (or set ofrepresentations) that we human be-ings are capable of constructing. If thisis so, then it is indeed an impoverish-ment to imprison ourselves within thelimits of a single mode of perception;and the pity is redoubled if we are not

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    even aware that we are imprisoned.And yet this is exactly what happenswhen we fall prey to the illusion ofcommon-sense realism.How does art pierce the wallsof thisprison? In a major philosophical text[9], Heidegger says that a work of artinstigates an unceasing tension orcombat between 'The World' (which Iinterpret as corresponding to a partic-ular representation or modality of per-ception) and 'The Earth' (which I takeas symbolising the receptacle of theunlimited multitude of alternativerepresentations which are de facto an-nihilated whenever we focus on anysingle modality of perception). Inother words, the mysterious magic ofa work of art consists in the artist's featof bringing a particular representa-tion to vivid life without falling into thetrap of reducing the totality of realityitself to this single wayof perceiving. Itis worth noting that Heidegger's analy-sis is centered not so much on theprocess of artistic creation as on whathappens when a work of art is activelyexperienced. He speaks of the 'Guard-ians' of a work of art, those in whomthe combat between World and Earthtakes place; without its Guardians, awork of art is merely a dead, emptyshell.The best wayof communicating thisconcept is probably to give some ex-amples in which works of art induce usto assimilate the epistemological dis-tinction between representation andreality. Myfirstexample, didactic in itssimplicity, is nevertheless a suitablemodel. We can perceive the well-knowndrawingin Fig. 1 either as apairof silhouettes facing each other or asa white vase. Two things are worthnoting here. Firstly,each of these twomodalities of perception annihilatesthe other: if we see the silhouettes, thevase disappears, and vice versa; it isrigorously impossible to see both atthe same time. (This offers a clue tothe tenacity of the illusion of common-sense realism.) Secondly, engaging inthe activity of making controlled pas-sages from one mode of perception tothe other involves a special quality ofconcentrated awareness. The point Iwant to make is this: actively experi-encing worksof art leads us to developa capacity for concentrated awareness,which in turn can radically modify andenrich our experience of life.Consider the drawings of Escher(Fig. 2). Their fascination derivesfrom the fact that our best attempts toconstrue these representations as

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    though they were what we usually takefor realityaresystematically rustrated.A variant on this theme is provided byMagritte's hyperrealist painting infuri-atingly entitled This is not a pipe (Fig.3). As long as we remain obsessed withthe 'common-sense' question 'What isit really?' the koan-like conundrumpersists; release comes only when andif we realise that we are dealing withrepresentations, which are not to beconfused with realityitself.With this as a clue, it is possible tosee the same theme running throughthe whole of Magritte's work, andindeed through the whole of theSurrealist movement. The Surrealistswere-and are-concerned to blurthe cut-and-dried distinction betweendreams and reality, to show that thedream-world is as real as what we usu-allytake for reality,and conversely that

    our everyday perceptions are as illu-sory as dreams. Other schools of art-the Impressionists, the Cubists, con-temporaryartthrough action paintingand beyond-all contribute, each inits own way, to diversifying our reper-toire of possible modes of perception.In my own experience, the effect of apainting is not limited to the time Ispend actually looking at it. It is pos-sible to assimilate something of theartist'svision, so that it becomes avail-able as an alternative to usual modesof perception. Thus, for example, itsometimes happens to me, at table orin the street, that I suddenly see thefaces of friends or strangers with thedeep lineal clarity of a Dfirer portrait(Fig. 4). When this sort of thing hap-pens, art is effectively mplementingwhat critical epistemology affirms in-tellectually: I am reminded that the

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    n e t ' f t A t w e p zFig.3. ReneMagritte,TheBetrayalfImages, il on canvas,21.5x 28.5in, 1928-1929.(?1987, ADAGP,Paris,France.Reprintedby permission.)"This s not apipe?- Wellwhaton earth s it then?"Howmanyreadersgetthepointunaided?Thepresentauthor,forone, had to have t explained o him.Theperceptual witch nvolvedhere is atthelevel of epistemologicalhought.blase complacency with which I ha-bitually observe the world is infinitelynarrow and meagre compared to theunbounded richness of reality.So far I have spoken only of thegraphic arts, but the 'epistemologicalperspective' applies equally to allforms of art. The art form that is mostdirectly and obviously related to thewaywe habitually perceive the world isprobably literature, and in particularthe novel. In all the great novels (fromThackeray and Eliot, through Dos-toevsky, Tolstoy, Flaubert, Stendhaland Melville, to Lessing and Fowles)we are presented with an open invita-tion to perceive those around us (in-cluding ourselves) in a new way.To bemore precise, it seems to me that thesenovels organise, with deliberate buttender irony, a back-and-forth'switch-ing' between two distinct modes ofperception (analogous to the 'switch-ing' between vase and silhouettes inmy basic metaphor). On the onehand, we can identify with the closed,self-centered consciousness that thecharacters have of themselves; on theother, we can take a step back and par-take of the lucid external vision thatthe author brings to bear, which bycontrast reveals the narrow vanity ofour usual wayof perceiving things.It is with theatre that the vital ten-sion of a mode of perception that mustbe both convincingly established andat the same time revealed as illusionreaches its paroxysm. The basic ex-istential problem of the actor, who

    must both enter into and 'live' the parthe is playing and yet at the same timekeep control so as not to 'lose' himselfin the role, provides another meta-phor for the essence of what I am try-ing to say.It is therefore not surprisingthat the greatest of playwrights pro-vides me with a quotation that expres-ses perfectly my fundamental meta-physical article of faith:There are morethings n heavenandearth,Horatio,Than are dreamtof inyourphilosophy....(Hamlet, ctI,Scene5)And the relationship between artand daily life that derives from my'epistemological perspective' is statedquite straightforwardly in anotherquotation from the same author:Alltheworld's stageAnd all the men andwomenmerelyplayers....(As YouLikeIt,Act II, Scene 7)In my own experience, this consti-tutes an alternative mode of percep-tion that offers fascinating possibilitiesfor 'switching'. It is more or less asthough I said to myself, in a real-life sit-uation, "Thesepeople are not reallyX,Y and Z; they are actors impersonatingX, Yand Z". The results of this switcharefrequently hilarious: people gener-ally caricature themselves with suchmerciless precision! The fact that wedo this quite unconsciously of courseonly adds spice when we do manage to

    see the joke.

    Music is the artform that offers themost serious resistance to my 'epis-temological' interpretation. I find itdifficult to determine whether this isbecause or in spite of the fact that inour culture music is a particularly ab-stract, intellectual form of art (it is theone most commonly appreciated andpractised by scientists). Music, and in-strumental music in particular, has ofcourse an exceptional capacity totransport us into a 'world' of its own.The trouble (from my 'epistemologi-cal' point of view) is that this otherworld bears no recognizable relation-ship to anything in our ordinaryworld.The result of this 'schizophrenia' isthat when we return from a musical'trip' our habitual modes of percep-tion are not necessarily enriched. Is ita total coincidence thatjazz musiciansare notorious users of psychoactivedrugs that present similar problems?Be that as it may, in myown case theway in to an epistemological perspec-tive on music has come through operaand song. Indeed, my epistemologicalmusings have contributed to a quan-tumjump in myappreciation of opera.Hitherto, opera had left me somewhatless than indifferent: squalling primadonnas on the radio definitely did notappeal to me, and on the rare occa-sions when I actually went to theopera, the idea of people actually sing-ing at each other seemed patently ab-surd. It was here that the 'epistemo-logical' attitude came to my aid byhelping me to relax: to staywith myini-tial impression as long as I was in thatmode of perception, but to remainopen to the possibility that an alterna-tive mode might supervene. And thusit was that the magic moment so wellknown to opera-lovers finally came tome: the moment when the marvellousemotional intensity that lies dormantand unsuspected beneath the surfaceof the most banal or absurd of situa-tions suddenly breaks forth in fullsplendour.I would like to conclude this sec-tion, therefore, by claiming that itdoes seem feasible to perceive art as away of putting flesh and blood ontothe dry bones of the intellectualinsights of critical epistemology. Ofcourse, this is a somewhat unusual wayof thinking about art;the mainstreamof philosophical thought has been pri-marily concerned with the basis of aes-thetic values, asexemplified byKantinthe Critique of Judgement [10]. How-ever, the 'multiple worlds' view of artthat I have advocated here is not

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    unprecedented: it is in line withDewey's Art as Experience [11 ], and hasbeen explicitly developed byEco [12].And even more to the point, I have aprecise reason for proposing this 'epis-temological perspective': to equip my-self with a tool for coming to gripswiththe subject of the next section, that is,can science itself become an art form,and if so what would it be like?

    SCIENCEThe links between science, art and the'multiple worlds' view are many andvaried; I cannot here do more thanbriefly cite a few of the more impor-tant cases. Popper [13] has made thefundamental point that scientificknowledge is not a 'reflection' of real-ity, but is based on hypotheses that(provisionally) escape falsification.Gregory [14] has drawn a formalseven-point analogy between this 'hy-pothetical' structure of scientificknowledge and that of human knowl-edge in general; and Gombrich [15]has demonstrated the relevance of thePopper-Gregory approach to an un-derstanding of perception in thevisual arts.Kuhn [16] has pointed out that sci-entific progress is not just a questionof the continuous accretion of evermore precise and detailed knowledge.Such periods of 'normal science' arepunctuated by 'scientific revolutions',in which whole conceptual paradigmsshift in such a way that the worldvisions of successive epochs may belargelyincommensurable. In a relatedvein, Holton [17] has described therange of different 'themata' that mayunderlie scientific thought, and Po-lanyi [18] speaks of the 'heuristic pas-sion' with which scientists adopt par-ticular paradigms or themata. He alsoextends these concepts to the arts, re-calling E. M. Forster's distinction be-tween 'flat' and 'round' characters ina novel: we say that a character isround if it can 'convincingly surprise'the reader.

    Bohr, author of the complementar-ity principle in quantum mechanics,has proposed an extension of switch-ing between perceptual modes to anunderstanding of human knowledgein general [19].Science, tragedy and comedy havebeen associated since their commonorigins in classical Greece; their con-tinuing links have been extensively ex-plored.

    Finally, the theory and practice ofscience as it is actually performed inthe laboratory epitomize the 'multipleworlds' view. The very concept of mod-elling (both descriptive and norma-tive) recognizes the metamorphosis ofone world into another: the method ofmultiple working hypotheses-in usefor almost a hundred years-cham-pions the creativity of holding severalsimultaneous explanations; the tech-nique of brainstorming and the simi-lar approach of lateral thinking bothgive the fullest support to the divorcebetween an idea and its 'real' counter-part by suspending evaluation of ve-racity.However, although these numer-ous links are definitely suggestive ofpossibilities, they are not in themselvessufficient to show that science, as itcurrently exists, really attains the sta-tus of an art form. Heidegger, for ex-ample, clearly had strong reservationson this score, perhaps best summedup in his famous phrase "science doesnot think" [20]. Thus, whereas he con-sidered that there is a close relation-ship between poetry (taken as theepitome of artistic expression) andthought (i.e. philosophical thought),he manifestly felt that science belongsto a different register altogether. I

    would now like to examine moreclosely what is at issue here.In terms of my 'epistemological per-spective', as I have schematically sum-marized it, art is effective just in so faras it succeeds in maintaining a vitaltension between two complementaryrequirements: Firstly, a work of artmust create a fresh mode of percep-tion, a 'World' as Heidegger wouldsay, that is incommensurable with ourusual way of perceiving things. More-over, this new World must be convinc-ing enough to detach us from ourcomplacent common-sense realism,which leads us to believe that our ha-bitual perceptions correspond to allthat there is. But secondly, a work ofart must also manage to communicatethis new World in such a wayas to in-crease our awareness that not only ourhabitual modes of perception, but allparticular modes of perception, in-cluding the new World itself, aremerely representations of reality, andthat we will impoverish ourselves if wefall into the illusion of taking themsingly or collectively as the totality ofreality itself.Now it seems to me that in the caseof science, in particular as it is com-municated to the general public, thesetworequirements tend to workagainst

    I 3 If-.Fig. 4. AlbrechtDiirer, TheMother ftheArtist,charcoaldrawing, 16.6 x11.9 in, 1514.The vision of anartist can affectus beyond thetime we actuallyspend looking atthe image. Thisportrait of Bar-bara Diirer (neeHolper), drawn 2months beforeher death at theage of 63, is oneof the master-pieces of Euro-pean art. Thepresent authorfeels that its emo-tional intensity is'engraved in hissoul', so that,having experi-enced it, he findsthe world is nolonger the sameplace.

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    each other, so that in the end neitherof them is fully realized. To start withthe second count, contemporaryWestern society is so thoroughly im-bued with scientific technologies thatmanifestly work, that the general pub-lic understandably identifies 'scien-tific' with 'true', as in the commonphrase: 'it is scientifically proventhat . . .'. Indeed it may not be toomuch to say that with the general de-cline in institutional religious belief,science has taken the place of theChurch as the major social referencepoint for 'truth'. Of course workingscientists, who have daily experienceof the fluctuating status of scientifichypotheses, know that this image ofscience as revealing a single, fixedtruth is a travesty. This probablyexplains their instinctive reticencetowardsmost attempts at popularizingscience. But the straightforwardappli-cation of this corrective-insistingthat the current hypothesis isonly a hy-pothesis, that there are numerous un-tidy details which do not fit in, and soon-effectively militates against thefirst requirement, which is that a dis-tinctive scientific 'vision of the world'be convincingly communicated.Itmaytherefore be worth exploringan alternativestrategyfor fulfilling thesecond requirement. In terms of my'epistemological perspective', I havesuggested that a basic technique forachieving this second requirementconsists of purposely providing at leasttwo alternate modes of perception be-tween which switchingcan occur. If weapply this to science, in the hope ofraising it to the status of an art form, Isee two major possibilities.The first possibility is to set up an'external' equilibrium between a sci-entific vision on one hand and aneveryday way of perceiving things onthe other. The potential here is surelytremendous. As Bachelard [21] hasnoted, scientific thought is character-ised by an 'epistemological breach'-in plain language, the basic notions ofscience are an outright affront to com-mon sense. In this, I think he is right;just consider a few examples.Inertial motion.According to physi-cists, any object, if simply left to itself,will continue moving indefinitely in astraight line. As Koyre [22] haspointed out, this is a strikingly non-empirical notion: no one in her rightmind has ever seen or heard of such athing.

    Primaryand secondaryqualities.Ac-cording to physicists and neurophysi-

    ologists, sounds, colours, smells, andso on-the most direct of our sensoryimpressions-do not really exist assuch. They are merely the illusory re-sult of a rather clumsy conjuring trickthat nature plays on us. The onlythings that really exist are particles(atoms) and electric charges (elec-trons) in various states of motion, andthese things themselves are com-pletely colourless, soundless and taste-less. Even Thomas, who doubted whathe saw,believed when he touched; butthat most tangible (sic)of realitiesfallsequally under the aegis of this aston-ishing doctrine.If this is not enough, consider athird example: genes.According to ge-neticists, these microscopic entities,which live as parasites in every one ofthe cells of which our bodies aremade,are transmitted unchanged from gen-eration to generation. Not only arethese genes impervious to the vicissi-tudes of our life experiences, but theyactually have the effrontery to pro-gramme all our actions with the soleaim of ensuring their own reproduc-tion, thus reducing our most cher-ished hopes and fears to the status ofsuperficial epiphenomena [23].I am not trying to ridicule science.On the contrary, I am trying to conveythe strengthas well as the essentialweirdness of scientific perceptions ofthe world. Science as art would theninvolve establishing a switching rela-tionship between such visions on theone hand and familiareverydaymodesof perception on the other. In thiscase, there would be no need to waterdown the sharpness of scientific vision;on the contrary, everything could bedone to exacerbate the shock, to bringout the fascination of this terrifyingwayof perceiving things, which has thepower to impress itself on our mindsas being at least as 'real' as our ordi-nary modes of perception.I can imagine a number of variantson this theme of setting up an exter-nal equilibrium between scientific andeveryday modes of perception. One,of particular relevance to our presentcondition, would be to arrange a con-frontation between an 'expert' and a'layperson'. The point is not to makethe expert an object of derision, butsimply to redress the usual imbalance,which leads us so often to submit pas-sivelyto 'expert opinion'. We are look-ing for that critical point where we cansee things both from the expert'spoint of viewand from the layperson's,so that we end up really wondering

    who is right. In a similar vein, the de-ployment of a scientific attitude in aneveryday situation has distinct comicpossibilities. Le Lionnais [24] haspointed out that, from the scientificpoint of view, it is little short of in-credible that if one lifts up a penciland lets it go it drops back to the tableand stops there, or that when onepicksup a cup, it does not slip betweenone's fingers like greased lightning.So we could imagine a play or a film inwhich an absent-minded professortakes his science seriously, and startsasking why (and if) we really can pickup pencils and cups and put them onthe table. Here again, it is not (simply)a question of poking fun atscience; weare looking for the balance-point thatmakes us wonder who is right. A finalvariant is to deploy the technique ofthe theatrical switch that I referred topreviously. Readers who have theopportunity of attending a scientificmeeting should try saying to them-selves, "That speaker is not really ascientist, she is an actor caricaturing ascientist." In my own experience, theresult can be devastatingly funny-and in no way precludes switchingback and listening with renewed ap-preciation to what the speaker (thinksshe) is saying.The second major possibilityfor or-ganising switching consists of settingup an 'internal' equilibrium betweenseveral rivalscientific theories in suchawaythat the spectator is unable to de-cide definitively in favour of any ofthem. The history of science (and, asworking scientists know well, contem-porary science) abounds with exam-ples of controversies that remainedopen over a significant length of time.These could serve as starting points. Ifwe choose the appropriate historicalviewpoint, it should not be difficult toset up the required equilibrium. Amodel of what I have in mind is pro-vided byLatour, who illustrates the re-versible metamorphosis between hy-pothesis and 'fact' by recounting thenightmare of a sociologist haunted bysuccessive theories of dinosaurs [25].Another amusing example, this timeof role reversal, has actually been pub-lished in a scientific journal in theform of a "One-ActPlay"[26]. Itmightalso be instructive to rehabilitate afrankly obsolete theory, the simplerthe better-we could bring in an un-shakable believer in the flat earth, forexample, or a lost, lonesome time-traveller, unable to convince his hosts(sympathetically concerned for his

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    sanity) that atoms, electrons and so onactually exist. Let me emphasize againthat the aim is to arrive at a pointwhere everyone reallywonders who isright. Finally, the 'internal' and 'exter-nal' approaches could also be com-bined. Something along the lines ofthe fable of the miller, his donkey andhis son could serve as an example: a'fall guy' lets himself be convinced inturn by each of a series of mutuallycontradictory scientific theories. Thefinal moral-he would have done bet-ter to trust his own common sense-would be worthwhile only if everyonewas convinced at the time, along withthe anti-hero.These are of course only a few sug-gestions, designed principally to illus-trate my point. My hope is that I havecommunicated my conviction that, al-though science is arguablynot fullyanart form at present, it could perhapsbecome one if we put our minds to it.AcknowledgmentsI would like to thank the reviewersof Leonardoortheir constructivecriticisms,and for their permis-sion to incorporate certain of their commentsinto the revised version of this text. I also wish to

    thank Cordon Art, Baarn, The Netherlands, forpermission to reproduce Escher's Waterfall;ADAGP, Paris, France, for permission to repro-duce Magritte'sCecin 'estpasunePipe;and EditionsCercle d'Art, Paris, France, for permission to re-produce the drawingLa mere e 'artisterom theirbook Direr, Dessins.References1. B. Russell, The Wisdomof the West(London:Macdonald, 1959).2. J. Locke, quoted in Russell [1] p. 215.3. J. Locke, quoted in Russell [1] p. 215.4. I. Kant,quoted in Russell [1] p. 238.5. B. Latour and S. Woolgar, Laboratory ife:TheSocialConstructionf ScientificFactsLondon: Sage,1979).6. Latour and Woolgar [5].7. P. Feyerabend, AgainstMethod London: NewLeft Books, 1975).8. E. H. Gombrich, "Illusion and Art", in R. L.Gregoryand E. H. Gombrich, eds., Illusion n Na-tureand Art(London: Duckworth, 1973).9. M. Heidegger, "Der Ursprung des Kunst-werkes", in Holzwege Frankfurt/Main: Kloster-mann, 1949).10. I. Kant, Critique fJudgement London: Mac-millan, 1950).11. J. Dewey, ArtAsExperienceNew York:Minton,Balch, 1934).12. U. Eco, OperaApertaMilan:Bompiani, 1962).13. K. R. Popper, TheLogic of ScientificDiscovery(London: Hutchinson, 1959).

    14. R. L. Gregory, 'The Confounded Eye", inGregoryand Gombrich [8].15. E. H. Gombrich, Artand Illusion(New York:Pantheon Books, 1961).16. T. S. Kuhn, TheStructureofScientificRevolutions(Chicago: Universityof Chicago Press, 1962).17. G. Holton, Thematic Origins of ScientificThought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UniversityPress, 1973).18. M. Polanyi, Personal Knowledge-TowardsaPost-CriticalPhilosophy London: Routledge andKegan Paul, 1958).19. N. Bohr, Physiqueatomiqueet connaissancehumaine Paris:Gauthier, 1961).20. M. Heidegger, UnterwegsurSprache Pfullin-gen: Nesker, 1959).21. G. Bachelard, Epistmnologie,Paris: PressesUniversitaires de France, 1971).22. A. Koyre, Etudesgalileennes Paris:Hermann,1966).23. R. Dawkins, TheSelfishGene Oxford: OxfordUniversityPress, 1976).24. F. Le Lionnais, "Science Is an Art",Leonardo2, No. 1, 73-78 (1969).25. B. Latour, "TheThree Little Dinosaurs, or ASociologist's Nightmare", FundamentaScientiae1(1980) pp. 79-85.26. M.Mulkay,"TheScientist TalksBack:A One-Act Play with a Moral, about Replication inScience and Reflexivityin Sociology", SocialStud-iesin Science 4 (1984) pp. 265-282.

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