YouTube Liberal Arts: The Art of Science, The Science of Art


Building on my recent theme of Anthropology and the Liberal Arts, I’ve recently been included in a YouTube Liberal Arts conversation. Inspired by the “Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci” exhibition at Hartwick’s Yager Museum of Art & Culture, President Margaret Drugovich convened five faculty to consider the Art of Science, the Science of Art.

Update on YouTube Liberal Arts: Apparently the YouTube Liberal Arts video has been taken down, but I’ve provided a more recent Hartwick College video above.

Much of what I had to say was about understanding how art and science were once unified endeavors and it is only in the relatively recent past that they became separated and even seen as dichotomous. I was cribbing Tim Ingold’s Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and SkillPerception of the Environment, as related to YouTube Liberal Arts, especially from some of the chapters I am currently teaching:

Etymologically, ‘art’ is derived from the Latin artem or ars, while ‘technology’ was formed upon the stem of the classical Greek tekhnē. Originally, tekhnē and ars meant much the same thing, namely skill of the kind associated with craftsmanship. The words were used, respectively in Greek and Roman society, to describe every kind of activity involving the manufacture of durable objects by people who depended on such work for a living, from the painter to the cobbler, from the temple architect to the builder of pigsties. . . .

The decisive break, according to Raymond Williams, came in the England of the late eighteenth century, with the exclusion of engravers from the newly formed Royal Academy, which was reserved for practitioners of the ‘fine’ arts of painting, drawing, and sculpture (Williams 1976: 33). It was, of course, symptomatic of a general tendency to distinguish intellectual from manual labour, along the common axis of a more fundamental series of oppositions between mind and body, creativity and repetition, and freedom and determination. But the more that ‘art’ came to be associated with the allegedly higher human faculties of creativity and imagination, the more its residual connotations of useful but nevertheless habitual bodily skills were swallowed up by the notion of technology. . . .

The source of the problem, in my view, lies not in the concept of art, nor in that of technology, but in the dichotomy between them. (349-351)

Somewhere in this conversation I also had the anthropological skirmishes in mind, of how to achieve humanistic science and scientific humanism (and see also Science & Humanities Together).

The other thing I like about this YouTube Liberal Arts segment is how it seems to closely link to the film about Pierre Bourdieu, Sociology is a Martial Art: “I often say sociology is a martial art, a means of self-defense. Basically, you use it to defend yourself, without having the right to use if for unfair attacks.”

YouTube Liberal Arts Update

See Anthropology: Worst Major for Corporate Tool, Best Major to Change Your Life and Are the Liberal Arts Relevant?

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