Sunday, March 16, 2003

I'm not going to go into the obvious today. It's pointless. Of course I'll end up there by the end of it, but lets see if I can keep my mind clear enough to venture something more complex than expressing a wish to kick someone in the teeth.

A short treatise on certainty.
The physicist Alan Lightman had a piece in The Times yesterday, concerning the relationship, such as it is, between art and science. Lightman earnestly tried to give 'art' what he considered it's due. He did not mean to be condescending, but in defending the 'illogic' of artistic creativity, he neutered it, and destroyed any 'logical' and therefore ethical reason for valuing it. I'm tired of saying this but I'll say it again: It is not only unnecessary but counterproductive to attempt to defend art solely by means of metaphysics.

"Science and art have different ways of thinking, and those differences, when explored and portrayed, can enlarge both activities.
For example, scientists struggle mightily to name things. To name a thing, you've distilled it and purified it, you've quantified it; you've put a box around the thing and said, "What's in the box is the thing, and what's not is not." Consider the word 'electron'...

"By contrast, artists tend to avoid naming things. A novelist can use a word like "love," but that word doesn't convey much in itself because each reader will experience love in a different way. To name a thing too precisely can destroy that delicate, participatory creative experience that happens when a good reader reads a good book. Every electron is the same, but every love is different. "

Replace the word 'novelist' with 'lawyer' and the word 'love' with justice, and you will, I hope understand the problem. Science is capable of certainty but as a moral barometer it is a worthless failure. I appreciate the value of science and of certainty as I appreciate the military, only if they are kept in their place. The debate is not between the logical sciences and the metaphysical arts, but between the desire to name and the desire to ask; both have metaphysical implications.
The article Antonin Scalia published in First Things should be considered loathsome to anyone who believes in democracy as a system, precisely because he argues not that justice, as it is defined in our constitution and our history, is order, but that order in any absolute sense- meaning certainty- is justice. His is the Hobbesian argument for the state. And though it is an argument made through his arch and reactionary Catholicism it is abetted by the common assumption among the intellectual elite that the metaphysical certainty ensconced so irrefutably in science is a value higher than the doubt that is basic not only to the arts and humanities but to the rule of law itself.

On a related note Mark Kleiman has written a post of such blitheringly stupid condescension and bitter cruelty, about a subject of such painful importance, that his friends, let alone Salam Pax deserve an immediate apology.
His logic is nonexistent and his arrogance grotesque.

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