Friday, August 28, 2015

one more
"If you say why not bomb them tomorrow, I say why not today? If you say today at 5 o'clock, I say why not one o'clock?"

At the end of Modernism, science as romance.
Galison even has a paper: "Objectivity is Romantic"
It's just stunning at this point that this could be taken seriously.

Like the beautiful boy whose perfect grace fades after he sees his own reflection, what began as idealism has become mannerism. At the end of the age of the romance of science, science is defended as romance. There's literally no attempt at contextualizing the myths of science with the record of the failures of scientism.

from ObjectivityDaston and Galison
Yet the tone of exhortation and admonition that permeates the literature of scientific instruction, biography, and autobiography from the seventeenth century to the present is hardly that of a pragmatic how-to manual. The language of these exhortations is often frankly religious, albeit in different registers the humility of the seeker, the wonder of the psalmist who praises creation, the asceticism of the saint. Much of epistemology seems to be parasitic_ upon religious impulses to discipline and sacrifice, just as much of metaphysics seems to be parasitic upon theology. But even if religious overtones are absent or missed as so much window dressing, there remains a core of ethical imperative in the literature on how to do science and become a scientist. The mastery of is inevitably linked to a certain kind of self-mastery, the assiduous cultivation of a certain kind of self. And where the self-is enlisted as both sculptor and sculpture, ethos enters willy-nilly. It is useful for our purposes to distinguish between the ethical and the moral: ethical refers to normative codes of conduct that are bound up with a way of being in the world, an ethos in the sense of the habitual disposition of an individual or group, while moral refers to specific normative rules that may be upheld or transgressed and which one may be held to account.
P 374
This is the reason for the ferociously reflexive character of objectivity, the will pitted against the will, the self against the self. This explains the power of objectivity, an epistemological therapy more radical than any other because the malady it treats is literally, the root of both knowledge and error. The paradoxical aspirations of objectivity explain both its strangeness and its stranglehold on the epistemological imagination. It is epistemology taken to the limit. Objectivity is to epistemology what extreme asceticism is to morality. Other epistemological therapies were rigorous: Plato's rejection of the senses, for example, or Descartes's radical doubt. But objectivity goes beyond rigor. The demands it makes on the knower outstrip even the most strenuous forms of self-cultivation, to the brink of self-destruction. Objectivity is not just one intellectual discipline among many. It is a sacrifice.
P 376
It is a misconception, albeit an entrenched one, that historicism and relativism stride hand in hand, that to reveal that an idea or value has a history is ipso facto to debunk it. But to show that objectivity is neither an inevitable nor an eternal part of science passes no verdict on its validity, desirability, or utility — any more than to document that the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment first emerged at a particular time and place would per se subvert that judicial principle. Conversely, to point out that certain beliefs and practices have enjoyed widespread acceptance in various cultures and epochs is not necessarily an endorsement: no one thinks better of slavery or geocentrism on learning that many people in many places at many times have subscribed to them. 
C.P. Snow, Strangelove, and The Great Gazoo.

This leads back to Kubrick and Gursky, artists who describe the meanings behind Daston and Galison's"aesthetics". 
Daston and Galison at the end of the book refer to images by Marie Farge and Eric J. Heller, scientists with hobbies, as models for an art that combines science, romanticism and mechanism: aesthetic images of systems. The image on the left was the cover illustration of the March 8 2001 issue of Nature. You can see more here

It's a standard description of both Kubrick and Gursky that they make aesthetic images of systems. Critics who write about the works don't write about aesthetics; they write about the implications.

This is how art, and language, and history work. Gursky uses the language of Daston and Galison, Heller and Farge. He's from the same place and time, but he sees that language for what it is. He has an objectivity they lack. He sees the emptiness and labels it nihilism.

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