Is Science Art or is Art Science? Humanism and its Grey Area

Most people think that Humanism is all about hard core rationalism and science. However, I think that the Arts are a huge part of Humanism because it amazing how much books, music, and visual arts have influenced our lives as much as science and rationalism has.

But what is Humanism? There is no solid definition of the idea because it’s meaning is different to every person, such as the ideas of Christian Humanism and Secular Humanism. Humanism is constantly evolving, and I feel that changing form is healthy for any idea. Humanism emphasizes using the Arts as well as reason and science to create conclusions.

In someways, I think that using science and rational thought is superior to emotion and belief.

Thinking with a neutral, non-biased standpoint is a great quality for helping other people come to a compromise on issues. When I was took a peer mediation class, I learned that having rational thinking is key to keeping things in balance while taking sides does not solve anything.

Science has also helped human society climb up the ladder. Medicine and electronics that we use everyday were brought up through science. Engineering, Chemistry, Biology, Physics and more fields of science continue to make our lives more comfortable, such as bringing heat and light to our houses during the cold night.

Science and rationalism doesn’t solve everything though.

Religion and belief provides hope,  security, and boundaries, which most humans require to feel comfortable with themselves and to lead a moral life. It is only natural for humans to have feelings and a need for security. Humans are very social beings, and we sometimes forget that when we look at the rational side of things. Emotion and social interaction with one another is natural and causes bonds to be made between people, whether creating best friends or bitter enemies.

Massive shifts in our lives, from individuals losing jobs to whole countries shattering under a collapsed government, cause “psychological aftershocks” that leave us humans vulnerable and our sense of comfort questionable. When people become mentally shaken up, the best way to help them recover is to find a counselor or phsycologist that can help them gather their thoughts; both of the professions require a study of emotion.

The Arts are a huge part of Humanism, which is also considered today as an “outlet” for emotion.

“Licinius the Emperor [Roman Emperor, ruled 81-96 CE], denounced learning and the Arts as a danger to the State and hateful in themselves” (Vergerius), but in reality, I believe that literacy helps build up society. Being able to read and write allows us as humans to understand other people’s viewpoints and help societies come to compromise on issues between different cultures. New ideas are created and spread through books, possibly catching hold in our systems such as governments or institutions. These ideas are stored into books, where they will reside for many years to come, educating those that read its contents.

Back in the Medieval Period, not many people knew how to read. The reasons why were numerous, from having to continue a family trade to surviving hunger and famine from poverty. According to Vergerius,

“Education which calls forth, trains and develops those highest gifts of body and of mind which ennoble men, and whichare rightly judged to rank next in dignity to virtue only… It is, then, of the highest importance that even from infancy this aim, this effort, should constantly be kept alive in growing minds.”

Teaching children improves their minds, eventually leading to the kids becoming more successful adults.However, if they do not continue to grow, their ideas will not grow, and thus their statuses will remain the same.

Either way, I think that Humanism is a balance of rationalism and emotionalism. Humanism emphasizes being human, and part of being human is having feelings and drawing our own ideas from preconceived thoughts. But as I said before, humanism is different for everyone. What is your definition?

Works Cited

Bushnell, Rebecca W. A Culture of Teaching: Early Modern Humanism in Theory and Practice. Ithaca, New York. Cornell University, 1996. Print.

Chapman, Roger. Culture Wars: an Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints, and Voices. Armonk, New York. ME Sharp Inc, 2010. Print.

Law, Stephen. Humanism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, New York. Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.

Brooks, David. “The New Humanism.” The Opinion Papers. The New York Times, 7 Mar. 2011. Web. 8 Feb. 2012.

Mar, Paul H. “Petrus Paulus Vergerius: The New Education (c.400).” Medieval Sourcebook. Internet History Sourcebook, 1996. Web. 9 Feb 2012.

Unknown. Einstein Pop Art. Web. 14 Feb. 2012. <http://mrquijada.org/Projects/8thgrade/PopArtPSHP/einsteinPopARt.jpg&gt;.

Geisel, Theodor Suess. You’re Only Old Once: A book for Obsolete Children. Web. 15 Feb. 2012 <http://images.borders.com.au/images/bau/97803759/9780375958908/0/0/plain/youre-only-old-once-a-book-for-obsolete-children.jpg&gt;

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10 comments

  1. brianthemathematician

    Hey Sydney, I have to say that image of Einstein really got my attention! There seem to be many interesting ideas in your post! You said that many medieval people could not read; what do you think would happen if many people today could not read? Do you think that people would fall into some of the same traps that medieval people did, or do you think that something else would happen?

    –Brian

  2. kristin888

    Hi Sydney!
    Super interesting post! Do you think that since humanism is constantly changing and developing, at some point the values of humanism will lean towards either science or art? Can science and art always be balanced in the realm of humanism?

    -Kristin

  3. ilana1234

    Hey Sydney, I really like your post! It illustrated the fact that humanism is more than what it is perceived to be. At the beginning of your post, you suggest that “most people think Humanism is all about hard core rationalism and science”, and you later go on to explain the arts within Humanism. How do you think our definition of Humanism would be different if people saw it from an arts perspective instead of science?

    -Ilana

  4. sydney013868

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for reading this post! Awesome question.

    If many people couldn’t read today, I think that humans today would continue to believe in ideas that caused mass paranoia, such as the Medieval theories about how the black plague spread like you said. The freedom of jumping classes was limited in the Medieval period too, while our present USA society gives the best opportunity to jump from class to class. If we couldn’t read, ideas would not spread so quickly, people wouldn’t be as educated, thus humans could rarely jump from class to class, and our opportunities as a race would be a lot lower.

    However, if you think about it, reading can cause mass paranoia too (especially if the news is about nukes). I think that reading has some downsides, such as the spread of ideas can kill certain cultures. I personally know that South Korea has changed drastically from a third-world country to a thriving industrial king, but according to my mom, a lot of the customs she had when she was a kid disappeared.

    Without literacy today, I think that we would be stuck back in time, but humanity would still progress. After all, most of the people were not educated in the Industrial age, but they figured out how to make trains, right?
    -Sydney

  5. sydney013868

    Hi Kristin,

    Thank you for your comment!

    I think that because humanism keeps changing, the values of humanism will favor science over art some years and art over science during others. To have perfect equilibrium is difficult to achieve. Currently, I believe that our society is leaning towards science because a lot of our education is based off of numbers and labels, such as the SAT, ACT, grades, and percentages. Also, art is often the first thing to go when budget cuts come around. However, lately things have started leaning towards art education wise. A lot of organizations are fighting to bring the arts back and personality is one thing that determines whether a student is accepted into a college, as I heard on NPR. Sometimes society will lean towards one of the two, but there will be a general balance over time.

    I hope this answered your question!
    -Sydney

  6. sydney013868

    Hi Ilana,

    Excellent question.

    I think that is society was more bent to the artistic side, our grading system would be a bit different. We would be less reliant on numbers to determine grades and would be more centered around personality and individuality. In some ways, I find that to be a good thing. According to my mom, South Koreans are very reserved and self conscious,constantly wondering what other people think about them. They also have an education system that is strongly based on numbers. The person with the best grade would sit in the front and the person with the worst grade would sit in the back, causing strong competition between the students and brings shame to those bringing the class GPA down. South Korea has the highest suicide rates of all countries.

    However, without rationalism and science, there wouldn’t be a standard for humans to aim at. To much art would cause the slow of science because the focus would have changed. Science brought out many of the medicines we have today (see post). Art has to have limitations as well.

    Actually, I think that Oregon is more based on art than on rationalism. From our motto “Keep Portland Weird”, I can conclude that we don’t care what other people think about us Oregonians. Lots of famous writers and artists have come from Oregon and we are a very liberal society.

    Thank you for reading this post!
    -Sydney

  7. Hi Sydney! I really liked reading your post. It’s interesting how you say that science and rationality aren’t exactly what humanism is all about. I agree completely, and it’s fascinating how you bring up the other side of humanism – artwork and human character. Without our character and determination, we surely wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the feats we have made in the past few decades, such as landing a man on the Moon. I think that artwork shows human character, and that human character is a prerequisite for everything else! How different do you think the world would’ve been if humanism didn’t exist? Do you think that it would be impossible not to have humanism, as humanism comes hand in hand with humans as a species?

  8. georgialeeann

    Sydney-

    Great post! You really put a lot of thought and effort into this post and it was a pleasure to read. I especially enjoyed your thoughts on the balance necessary for true humanism. One must- like you have- take into account that when studying humans, one must take into account both the logical AND emotional mind sets, if one wants to fully understand human reasoning. I wonder, however, what you think is more important for a humanist to understand? Must one understand and connect with logic and disregard emotion to understand the brain, or completely tap into emotion to understand the heart? I’d love to hear what you thought. Thanks!

  9. sydney013868

    Hi Ajay,

    Thanks for reading this post! I wil try to answer the question to my best ability.

    If Humanism did not exist, I think that humans would become religious fanatics like in the Medieval Ages because we would be too afraid of the unknown to find out what really causes certain events, such as the plague. However, I think that humans would eventually discover Humanism because, like you said, Humanism is a part of us. I think that it would begin to emerge when times become better, such as when the plague went away, people became more curious because the hardships had diminished.

    -Sydney

  10. sydney013868

    Hi Georgia,

    Thank you for reading my post!

    I think the most important aspect that a humanist needs to know is how to balance art and science, actually. The extremities of the two sides are not healthy for human society. On one hand, if we looked at logic and science only, we would find ourselves disregarding morality, such as the ideas of cloning and/or altering our children’s appearances genetically (like giving a child purple eyes) while if we only look at the emotional side of things, we would find ourselves constantly arguing with one another without resolving conflict and possibly leading to more war. I find that neither aspect is more important than the other, but instead have an equality that creates a need for the two ideas to find an equilibrium together.

    -Sydney

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