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    Can Science Be Used to Critique Art?

    Written by

    Michael Byrne


    It's an old opposition: art and science. Not opposition in the sense of conflict, necessarily, but rather in the sense of one appearing without the other. On the face of it, art should transcend the inherent boundaries of scientific validity and truth-seeking. There are rules for being a certain sort of art, but not so much for just being art itself, or for being objectively better art or carrying real meaning better or worse than other art.

    So much cultural criticism is even designed to make fun of (or pick apart) the very idea that art (literature, music, etc.) can hold lasting truth. Whereas, science is only interested in things that are true, and it has designed highly rigorous ways of identifying truth in the world. 

    There's a very deep philosophical rabbit hole that comes along with this line of thinking, but let's just summarize the question as, Is aesthetic taste beyond the scope of science? In other words, can it be said with objectivity that the aesthetic of Celine Dion is worse than the aesthetic of, say, Beck?

    Is there a fixed truth, a scientific truth, to that claim? Is that possible? In this snip of a recent Closer to Truth episode, physicist David Deutsch explains why the answer is actually yes. Philosophy, morals, art, and science are only separated from each other pragmatically. We simply haven't found the proper methods of bringing them together. Yet.

    So, if you happen to come across the fundamental language of popular music or even aesthetics in general, feel free to post it in the comments.

    Reach this writer at michaelb@motherboard.tv.

    Image: John Morton/Flickr