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AESTHETICS AND MOTIVATIONS IN ARTS AND SCIENCE

 

Contents

 


INTRODUCTION

Kiran C. Gupta

 

THE title Aesthetics and Motivations in Arts and Science may sound a trifle too long.  Further it may give the impression of encompassing almost all creative endeavours in arts and sciences.  Due to these reasons, I will first define the scope and format of the seminar on which this publication is based.   I will also discuss briefly the themes of motivations and aesthetics in theories of basic science.

Aesthetics in Arts, be it poetry or painting or music or dance or some other form, is a well-studied subject.  The same cannot be said of sciences.  However, many do accept that the pursuit of "basic science" brings insensitivity to and criteria of beauty, truth, harmony, order and pattern.   A large number of scientists like Poincare, Einstein, Heisenberg, Dirac and many other have eloquently expressed their deeply-held convictions on the relevance of aesthetic considerations in scientific pursuits.  More recently, Professor Subramanyan Chandrasekhar, one of the leading scientists of our times, has written a remarkable book entitled "Truth and Beauty : Aesthetics and Motivations in Science.   We have borrowed both the title and the main themes of the seminar from this seminal work of a great scientist.  Chandrasekhar's book is a collection of seven lectures which fall into two categories : whereas the first four lectures deals with question of aesthetics and motivations in the pursuit of physical theories, the last three lectures are basically biographical in nature.  In his deeply elegant, incisive essays Chandrasekhar presents an insight into three topics: (i) The quest for beauty and truth in the theories of Physics, (ii) The similarities and differences in the patterns of creativity of Shakespeare, Beethoven, and Newton, and (iii) The aesthetic base of Einstein's general theory of relativity.  The author has looked into these items in the context of basic science alone.  According to him, 'basic science seeks to analyze the ultimate constitution of matter and the basic concepts of space and time'.   After analyzing in depth the motivations and the patterns of creativity in the works of Kepler, Michelson, Rugherford, heisenberg, Dirac and others, Chandrasekhar says : "The motivation has always been systematization based on the scholarship.'  He goes on to pose a question : 'To what extent are aesthetic criteria, like the perception of order and pattern, form and substance, relevant in the pursuit of science?"...

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SOME THOUGHTS ON THE AESTHETICS AND MOTIVATION IN ARTS AND SCIENCE

K. G. Subramanyan

 

MAHATMA GANDHI is supposed to have quipped when someone questioned him about his attitute to art that when he could see a glorious sunset through his window and enjoy it directly, why would he need an artist to catch it for him in a painting? May be not exactly in these words, but very nearly so.  True, you could offer him the reasons why, that one sunset is not like another, that you cannot see a beautiful sunset all the time though you may like to see it over and over, that what an artist comes up with is not a mechanical reproduction of a sunset but an improvisation on its basis with a different kind of appeal, etc., etc.  And Mahatma himself was sharp enough to have known all this.  If we can go by what Acharya Nandalal Bose has written about him in a short article, he had sufficient enthusiasm for art, had discriminating taste and saw with care even those things he had not been introduced to.   And from other reports we know that while on a short visit to Italy he spent more than an hour looking at the Vatican masterpieces within his tight schedule; and when questioned later whether he was really disinterested in art as people believed, he had denied this and added that if the force of circumstances had not driven him into political activism he would have chosen to be musician.

However, it is not Mahatma Gandhi that we would like to discuss here but the Aesthetics and Motivations in Arts and Science.  I have started with this statement only to say that all human beings, irrespective of whether they are artists or not, be they mahatmas or men in the street, can see the world around with pleasure and wonder and this pleasure and wonder can be close to what we call aesthetic...

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CREATIVITY IN SCIENCE 

C. K. Majumdar

 

SOMETIME AGO the well-known astrophysicist S. Chandrasekhar published a book Truth and Beauty : Aesthetics and Motivation in Science discussing creativity and creative processes in science.  Chandrasekhar started his career in India before independence and then spent almost all his working life abroad.  Because of his eminence, his views and opinions have always been taken seriously in India. It was felt that it would be interesting to have a discussion of the motivations of scientific work in India since independence.  When a proposal for such a discussion was formally mooted in the S. N. Bose National Centre for Basic Science, it was said that Visva Bharati would be the right place for holding this meeting.  For Chandrasekhar has also explored in detail some aspects of the creative faculty of great writers and artists.   In Visva Bharati Rabindranath Tagore collected some brilliant artists; his admiration for natural sciences, imbibed in childhood, never diminished and towards the end of his life he wrote a beautiful account of the universe and the quantum theory in Bengali.

So we meet in Visva Bharati to discuss the creative processes of scientists in India and compare them with those of men and women in fine arts and performing arts in India.  My specialization is in science.  I shall indicate some issues that appear interesting in this context, and other will go deeper into them.  Hopefully, we shall achieve a better understanding of the creative processes in science...

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THE FACULTY OF CRITICISM

Sukanta Chaudhuri

 

THE FIRST thing that strikes the student of literature when he takes up Chandrasekhar's book is its title Truth and Beauty.  It recalls the ending of Keats's "Ode on a grecian Urn". Keats is a poet much studied by literary academics, but his aesthetics are definitely unfashionable.  No student of literature, or to my knowledge any of the art, would use the words 'truth and 'beauty' with such easy confidence today.  They may almost be considered taboo; we have emphatically made it our concern not to focus, at least explicitly, on the aesthetic appeal of a literary work, to identify or extol 'beautiful' poems.

This often has the consequence that we miss out on the direct pleasure that non professional readers derive from a poem, play or novel.  If, as is to be hoped, we derive some pleasure from our task, it is of an analytic and cerebral nature.  This division between the common reader, even the most enlightened, and the specialist is a creation of the twentieth-century literary establishment.

Many of us feel it is not a happy division.  When we find an intellect as subtle, versatile and complex as Chandrasekhar's involving the familiar premises of truth and beauty, taking profound direct pleasure in the aesthetic impact of a work of art as much as a scientific theory or system, we should be led to re-examine our own deviant practices...

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BEAUTY AND CREATIVITY IN ART AND SCIENCE - COMPARISONS AND REFLECTIONS

  N. Mukunda

 

THE IMPORTANCE of aesthetic aspects and of sensitivity of beauty of harmony in natural laws is illustrated through examples from developments in physics.  Apparent differences in the patterns of creativity of gifted artists on the one hand, and path-breaking scientists on the other, are described.  Subtle ways in which these two domains of creativity share common features, and are closer to one another than may be imagined, are recalled.

A few years ago the well-known physicist S. Chandrasekhar put together a collection of essays composed over a forty year period, with the title Truth and Beauty -- Aesthetics and Motivations in Science.  In these essays he gives a remarkably sensitive analysis of aesthetic aspects in the pursuit of physical science, and also a comparison of patterns of creativity in art and in science.

Of course, before Chandrasekhar many other gifted scientists too have reflected on these matters and expressed themselves with great eloquence.  It seems evident that their experiences and expressions ought to be made known to a much wider audience than a specialised scientific one.  The present article will be built around the writings of several inspiring figures in physical science, mathematics, and, to a limited extent, also in the life sciences...

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INTERPLAY OF SCIENCE, CREATIVITY, BEAUTY, NATURE AND EVOLUTION 

Pushpa M. Bhargava and Chandana Chakrabarty

 

BEAUTY - one could, perhaps, define beauty in many ways.   To us, a satisfying definition of beauty would be: conformity of parts to one another and to the whole in a way that it gives us a pleasant, inwardly satisfying aesthetic experience and make us respond in appreciation, always inwardly and often outwardly; this appreciation comes naturally and intuitively, with no ulterior motive or purpose; it gives us the feeling that we have grown richer in knowledge and experience without acquiring definable or concrete bits of information or skills which could be articulated precisely in spoken words or action.  The response is, therefore, abstract; yet; it leaves a deep imprint on us.

SCIENCE - science is the body of knowledge acquired through the application of the scientific method which consists of four steps: question, hypothesis, experiment and answer. Such knowledge is evolutionary, falsifiable, verifiable and repeatable; it has an element of universality and allows one to make testable predictions.  The right to question is fundamental to the scientific method and to science, though neither allows questioning for just questioning's sake; in the scientific method, certain criteria need to be satisfied before one may question existing knowledge...

Creativity...

Evolution...

Nature...Top


HARMONY, CHAOS, AND BEAUTY

  D. P. Chattopadhyaya

 

It is generally believed that both in artistic and scientific works the concerned persons are in search of harmony.  The harmony of nature and its experience, direct or indirect, are believed to be expressible in different ways.  In science the harmonic character of nature is captured in laws and theories, in their proclaimed scope of universality.  Pressing the point further, some persons maintain that even the fields of our perception, especially the visual ones, are found to have the sort of structures in which the elements are related in a coherent or, at any rate, congruent way.   What nature-in-itself is an undiscussable abstraction, yet it is necessary to generate one particular, rather than another, set of structures.  But the process of generation is not straightforwardly causal.  It may be described as quasi-causal or even free from any physical or natural compulsion...

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THE AESTHETICS MACRO-CAUSALITY  

  Bikash Sinha

 

I DO CONSIDER it appropriate to pay one's tribute to Prof. Subramanyan Chandrasekhar at the outset, before taking a plunge into the aesthetics of macro-causality, based on his book Truth and Beauty: Aesthetics and Motivations in Science.

Brought up on the refined diet of music, mathematics and aesthetics, Chandrasekhar's own writing is probably the most appropriate mirror of his personality.  I quote: "When Michelson was asked towards the end of his life, why he had devoted such a large fraction of his time to the measurement of the velocity of light, he is said to have replied 'It was so much fun'."  Prof. Chandrasekhar goes on to some length to explain the term quoting even the Oxford Dictionary -- "fun" means "drollery", what Michelson really meant, Chandrasekhar asserts is "pleasure" and "enjoyment" -- evidently "fun" in the colloquial sense, a concept, so familiar in our so called ordinary life has no place in Chandrasekhar's dictionary...

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MUSICAL CREATIVITY : MOTIVATIONS AND AESTHETICS - A COMPARISON WITH SCIENCE 

Prem Lata Sharma

 

ENQUIRY INTO motivations in creativity, whether in the arts or science, must address itself  to the primeval motivation in creation itself.   It is proposed to conduct this enquiry here on the basis of Indian traditional thought.

The Upanisads say about this motivation:

  1.     "He did not enjoy himself alone".
  2.     "He desired - I am alone, let me have a second one".

Thus, the most basic motivation in Creation is the desire on the part of the Supreme Being to extend Himself for the sake of 'play' or enjoyment.   Creation could, therefore, be understood as self-extension.

The human being is naturally interested in the process of the creation of the world of which he forms a part.  He has a basic urge to realize the unity between the 'inner' and 'outer', between the microcosm and macrocosm.  The Vedic 'poet' (Seer) has pronounced this unity in direct terms, such as:

  1.     "The moon is born of the mind".
  2.     "The sun is born of the eye".
  3.     "The mind is born of the moon"...

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IN DEFENCE OF AESTHETIC MOTIVATION IN SCIENCE

P. K. Mukhopadhyaya

 

...the work of the prophetic poet, the texts for example of the Rg Veda.... are only 'beautiful' in the same sense that the mathematician speaks of an equation as 'elegent'; by which we mean to imply the very opposite of a disparagement of their 'beauty' ... the 'appeal' of beauty is not to the senses, but through the senses, to the intellect. -- Ananda K. Coomaraswamy

The philosopher must first work out his own detailed and systematic account of the aesthetic enjoyment of nature... the neglect of the study of natural beauty... is a very bad thing. -- R. W. Hepburn

I think if you are going to change quantum theory, it has to be in a way which preserves its inherent beauty.  All laws of nature must be elegant or beautiful in structure at deep level -- Roger Penrose..

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IMAGINARY UNIVERSES : ART AND SCIENCE IN THE RENAISSANCE 

Supriya Chaudhuri

 

IN 1623, replying to a virulent attack made on him by the Jesuit astronomer, Orazio Grassi, (writing under the pseudonym Lothario Sarsi), Galileo published II Saggiatore, or The Assayer, in which he defended his idea of scientific truth as against tradition, authority, or the fables of poets.

In Sarsi I seem to discern the firm belief that in philosophising one must support oneself on the opinion of some celebrated author,as if our minds ought to remain completely sterile and barren unless wedded to the reasoning of some one else.  Possibly he thinks that philosophy is a book of fiction by some author, like the IIiad or Orlando Furioso -- productions in which the least important thing is whether what is written in them is true.  Well, Sarsi, that is not how things are.   Philosophy is written in this grand book the universe, which stands continually open to our gaze.  But the book cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and read the alphabet in which it is composed.  It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one wanders about in a dark labyrinth...

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TAGORE - EINSTEIN CONVERSATION : THE PHYSICAL WORLD AND THE HUMAN MIND 

Sitansu Ray

 

IT CANNOT be claimed that Tagore was scientist.  Yet, it can be quiet confidently asserted that he had a scientific bent of mind.  He wanted to be aware of the findings of scientific researches, the cream of scientific discoveries and evaluated them in his own realization.  This awareness is off and on reflected in his creative writings, poems, and songs as well.

The great scientist Einstein, on the other hand, had a keen aesthetic bent of mind as is reflected from his keen interest in music, the humanities and culture.  He himself was an amateur but accomplished violin player too.

The two friends of long standing met several times in Europe and once in America.  The gist of one of their encounters and conversations as documented provides us with their reciprocal approaches to physical science, psychology and ethics, and the art of music, both Indian and Western...

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BEAUTY IN ELEMENTARY PARTICLE PHYSICS  

S. Chakrabarty

 

A SHALLOW truth is a statement whose opposite is false; a deep truth is a statement whose opposite is also deep truth -- Niels Bohr

In this article we try to 'unify' arts and science through aesthetics or beauty.   Similar to arts, scientists have defined beauty in science in terms of symmetries.   Here we consider in brief the role of symmetry in elementary particle physics.   We conclude that aesthetically appealing theories are more likely to be correct so that aesthetics should give motivation for the correct theories in science...

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