Re: Art (was Re: Skeptics Take on the Extropian Concept)

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Mon, 2 Mar 1998 12:16:37 -0800 (PST)

> I think some of the motivation for the debate comes from an attitude
> which is not often stated but underlies the hostility towards artistic
> endeavors. It can be expressed baldly as:
> The discovery of penicillin has done more to increase the sum total of
> human happiness than all of the great literature, paintings, and other
> forms of art, combined.

The problems with this construction are many; even if one concedes
some truth to it.

(1) It ignores comparative advantage. Van Gogh and Fleming are
very different people, with different abilities, influences,
desires, and ideas. It serves all of us well that each was
able to push his unique talents to their limit. If Van Gogh
had abandoned art for medicine, he would never have discovered
anything like Penicillin--he just wasn't suited for that--
but the world would have lost what he did create.

(2) It ignores the hard-to-measure but very real influence of
inspiration to scientists. I, for example, have chosen the
science path because I am well suited for it. But I realize
that the projects I choose, the methods I employ, the ideas
I study, were all influenced by /all/ of my life experience,
much of which involves art. My early pacifism, later modified
into libertarianism, I can attribute in no small part to
being profoundly moved by Picasso's /Guernica/; and that has
certainly influenced my scientific work as well. How many
other scientists are inspired by Sci-Fi in various forms?

(3) Who gives a damn about the "sum total" of human happiness?
I exist for /my/ individual happiness, and nothing else.

(4) Mental exercise increases brain function, and Shakespeare is
no less a mental exercise than Newton. Indeed, it is literature
and art that expand the boundaries of what we can imagine--and
later produce--with science.

I'm sure there are others.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC