A&O – ART & SCIENCE – The Art & Science of Art & Science



notes on a MAJOR THEME in ART and ORGANISM


ART and SCIENCE are catchphrases for configurations of cognitive functions. (localized and distributed coordinated processes in the brain and body that have more-or-less privileged connections with each other that make specific aspects of INPUT—INTEGRATION—OUTPUT more-or-less likely) ARTISTS and SCIENTISTS (and we are all more-or-less both) are highly motivated to make the contents of mind understandable (both to themselves and to others).    Our evolutionary biology has prioritized functions that support MEETING BIOLOGICAL NEEDS (both immediate and long-term)  As a working hypothesis we treat all specific COGNITIVE FUNCTIONS are highly ADAPTIVE (in the evolutionary past or developmental present) and contribute to direct and inclusive FITNESS. 


Art and Science share diverse cognitive functions and are to that extent mutually constitutive — intertwined.  Here is where one of our A&O epigraphs is particularly helpful (read the epigraph for A&O 2016-2017, “Parts and wholes…”)    Cognitive dispositions and competencies are not distributed equally.  We all enjoy differences attributable to our genetic and cultural make-up.  And to the extent that we can communicate with ourselves and each other, our knowledge and understanding of the world in which we must survive and hopefully thrive can be enormously enlarged.  [See KNOWLEDGE IS POWER]

(The differences and similarities of ART and SCIENCE as they might be useful to the development of interdisciplinary  college curriculum are explored in a recent conference presentation (Greenberg et al. 2017)[i])

Cultural memes that have contributed to traditional views of ART and SCIENCE:

Points to Ponder and debate as we compose our views about art and science and their interaction with each other and with teaching — really with any activity where people of differing experience share their ideas .


(adapting some terms borrowed from the neurology clinic, art can be EXPRESSIVE (as in creating art) or RECEPTIVE (as in receiving). In between, we discuss the MEDIUM (as in painting or music or dance) by which we communicate.)

“A distinctive human universal … art can be viewed as ordinary behavior made special.”—Ellen Dissanayake (1992)[xx]

“All good art is abstract,” Susanne Langer (1957:69)

” . . . every art purporting to represent involves a process of reduction… This reduction is the beginning of art…” –Andre Malraux, The Voices of Silence 1953:275[xxi].

Look in on Brain Pickings collection of quotations about art — arguably in the aggregate, these define art. 


 “The method of scientific investigation is nothing but the expression of the necessary mode of working of the human mind.”—T.H. Huxley[xxii] … recalls Einstein: “Science is a refinement of everyday thinking.”

“Science is neither a philosophy or a belief system.  It is a combination of mental operations that has become increasingly the habit of educated peoples, a culture of illuminations hit upon be a fortunate turn of history that yielded the most effective way of learning about the real world ever conceived. –E.O. Wilson (1998)[xxiii]

Look in on Brain Pickings collection of quotations about science — arguably in the aggregate, these define science. 

Views of Relationship  

“Art is I, Science is we” –Claude Bernard[xxiv]

“…parts and wholes evolve in consequence of their relationship, and the relationship itself evolves. These are the properties of things that we call dialectical: that one thing cannot exist without the other, that one acquires its properties from its relation to the other, that the properties of both evolve as a consequence of their interpenetration”—Levins and Lewontin11 


the technical and rational aspects of the disciplines [must not] take the place of the artistry (e.g. dealing with uncertainty, uniqueness or conflict) … [I am] concerned about … a ‘squeeze play’ in which technical rationality and dwindling professional autonomy in effect squeeze out the opportunity to focus on artistry in practice.”  –Schön’s (1987) view described by Vagle (2010)[xxv]


“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”—Albert Einstein

Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”—David Hume[xxvi]


Motivation.   Specific motives have been represented as NEEDS by Abraham Maslow, and our Art and Organism seminar explores his famous hierarchy of needs as biological (look at A&O notes on needs).  We can explore how meeting needs gives pleasure and aids our survival and thriving as individuals and as a species.

Art can be viewed as a form of communications (first with ourselves and then with others) that consists of a few subcategories that facilitate analysis and discussion: The need that can be characterised as EXPRESSIVE, a MEDIUM (paint, words, sounds, etc) that can communicate between parts of ourselves or between ourselves and others; and RECEPTIVE (viewing, hearing, tasting, etc)

But amongst our most urgent needs we can include the “need to know.”  “All men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves…”–Aristotle[xxvii]

“All of us have felt the pleasure of acquiring information … the enjoyment of such experiences is deeply connected to an innate hunger for information: Human beings are designed to be infovores.” It’s a craving that begins with a simple preference for certain types of stimuli, then proceeds to more sophisticated levels of perception and cognition that draw on associations the brain makes with previous experiences.”—Biederman & Vessel[xxviii]

“The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If  nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living.”—Jules Henri Poincaré

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. —Albert Einstein


Although the view that permeates our ART and ORGANISM notes is that ART and SCIENCE are alternative but intertwined–even mutually constitutive–ways of knowing the world, their cultures have often been so divergent that they seem as competitive with each other–as though only one view could be correct, as though one view would support and nurture our well being as individuals or as a species…

For example, read about the view of John Keats, the great romantic poet, on SCIENCE (read excerpt from recent essay in NAUTILUS)


Look at opening page of notes on Science and Spirituality.  Although the view that permeates our ART and ORGANISM notes is that ART and SCIENCE are alternative but intertwined–even mutually constitutive–ways of knowing the world, their cultures



Read about the coexistence and mutual support  of ART and SCIENCE in the classroom:  Greenberg, N. et al. (2017).  The Art and Science of Teaching.   In: The Proceedings of the 9th Annual Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy; https://neilgreenberg.com/art-science-of-art-science-05-11-2017/