Mihalis Papadakis
Meeting «Art - Science - Universe»
Eugenides Foundation, 8-9th November 2011


            The title of my speech is “The Participation of Art in the Evolution of Scientific Knowledge”.
Since this title can refer to quite different approaches, I am obliged to clarify right from the beginning my assertion, which is that the participation of Art is such, that it has to be considered as a precondition for the evolution of scientific knowledge.  That is, that the relation between Art and science is one of causality.
To phrase this differently:  I am an adherent of Evald Ilenkov, who has said:  “Whether scientists have realized this or not, it is very clear that nowadays science would not exist, had there not been artistic activity throughout history.
Art and science are clearly social activities. That is they belong to those activities that are considered distinctly human, in the sense that they appear at an advanced stage in the social organization of mankind and the development of the tool. But they also constitute, as we can see from today’s point of view, a turning point, each in its own way, in the evolutionary process of civilization today.
Rather schematically one could say that there are the following evolutionary stages:
1. Approximately two million years of evolution of the tool and social organization, which generates an increasingly distinct separation (division) of productive activities as the result and expression of the organization of productive relations.
2. Approximately 40,000 years, since the activity of producing images obtains its own distinct place in the division of labor.
3. Approximately 6,000 years, since science (empirical for most of the period) obtains its own distinct place in the division of labor.
These periods of time are, of course, controversial and constantly redefined on grounds of new finds. In the context of my speech, however, the important things are the relations of the time distances between these significant historical facts in the course of the humanization of Man. To my mind, these time distances reveal a logic that refers to causative relations between these periods.


The Tool:  Formalization of Knowledge

From today’s point of view, the stone tool might seem quite primitive. Nevertheless, from the very beginning of its construction it had to contain in its shape the attributes of at least three factors:  a) the attribute of the group (total) of the natural objects, on which it was designated to intervene upon, b) the attribute of the subject’s (user’s) hand, of its functional shape as well as of its user’s power (another total), and c) the attributes of the material, from which the tool is made, in order to cater for the above demands as well as for the intended result with durability.  
The expenditure of energy for the construction of durable tools was huge, and still is today. The tool isn’t made each time for a specific natural object, but for a group of physical objects with common attributes. The above general, yet indispensible factors create the mental images/shapes that contain the perception of the totals and the functions as attributes of the truth of the tools shape. This truth is verified by experience; it is conserved and passed on within the community, constituting the common use of the tool, and thus transforms into truth itself. However, by becoming consolidated as truth, it gradually becomes formalized - that is to say, the material body of the tool is rid of accidental forms - for the shape of the tool to become the clear Shape that illustrates formalistically the synthesis of the attributes that guarantee its success. In the process of using this approach Man gains increasing consciousness (knowledge) of these attributes, constituting him with a greater ability to “imprint” them into the form-shape of the tool.
The shape of the tool is also an image of an evolving analytic and synthetic thinking. This formalism of the tool also establishes a codification of transmitted knowledge, long before this knowledge takes the form of a “formal theoretic proposition”.  Moreover, I don’t consider it to be an arbitrary assertion to say that it also constitutes the basis of language and its distinction from emotional sounds.

Image per se

The image-depiction, which appears approximately 40,000 years ago, presupposes an ability, that belongs only to the Homo sapiens , the human of today. With the creation of the image-depiction, Man makes a leap in his already developed ability of deduction, of abstract thinking. Having learned to use shapes from the experience of the tool and having learned to trust them as images of truth, he uses them for a broader (i.e. going beyond the immediate result) analysis of his relations with the objects of the world that surround him.
By means of the image-depiction, the concept of the object reveals attributes and correlations increasingly more general than those of the first limited relations. By means of the image-depiction man starts to perceive the concept as an independent entity (concept per se) and to assign a “name” (number etc.) to it, which, together with the “names” of other concepts, now enables the thought to “think” by deduction, creating correlations that don’t depend directly on experience, and to communicate them.
Exactly the same way, and in a parallel process, Art itself learns step-by-step to understand and to use its images as images per se, as models, as references. This change in thought constitutes a different level, a different quality in the relationship of Man with his world.

The Power of Abstraction
Let’s take a simple example:  The image-depiction, for instance of an animal, does not constitute a copy, a mimesis, of a specific animal, but of the species. This would be meaningless and, furthermore, in vain, for it is practically impossible. The image-depiction of an animal is always the image of the subject’s experience with this animal. And, for this reason, the image inevitably relies also on memory, even if it is created right away. Memory functions quite selectively and in an abstract way, just as immediate perception does, because both are spontaneous mechanisms of evaluation.
As a result, the image-depiction inevitably focuses on the invariable elements, that is to say, those attributes that constitute the essence of the model (i.e. the animal). And by this way, the image-depiction acquires its meaning and significance as a depiction of the Substance and the Essence.
Therefore, Abstraction is the elements and the essence of the substance and the essence, through which the image will also correlate to future experience, making it of lasting value. The whole process of depicting doesn’t originate in the idea of abstraction. Quite the other way around, abstraction is a lesson that is taught by the very process of creating images. The fact that the image-depiction navigates to the generic, the invariable attributes (abstraction) lies within the nature of the image-depiction - they are one. Art teaches abstraction, even to those who don’t acknowledge it.
At this point, I’d like to parenthesize that in Art, abstraction springs from synaesthesia, and being, by that, freed from immediate necessity, it gives the primacy to Fantasy and Intuition.
Art aims to illustrate the allusions of Intuition that provoke the respective boundaries of rationalism. This is usually considered to be an irrational transcendence. The intuitional approach, the approach of that which is still unknown, is misleadingly characterized as the “intuitional knowledge of that, which cannot be known”, or Apocalypse, that is as a cognitive ability of a different nature, as Belief. Logic, however, is not a closed system, as some would like to present it, and that is why it continuously examines its laws and rules, because its model is the Infinite. In Art, too, this is always consciously present, throughout its history.

Measure and Calculation
Calculations, made by the Homo sapiens empirically for a very long period before writing them down, are incorporated into the shape of the tool, creating an indirect image of the existence of these calculations and their results.
The image-depiction (rock paintings and other art objects) reveals, on a higher level, the ability of Man to calculate quantities and their relations.
By painting again and again for instance an animal in different situations, the Homo sapiens stylizes the image more and more (abstraction) and learns to use it as the symbol of the substance of the depicted object in order to calculate situations, relations and future tactics. At the same time he learns to use points, lines and shapes as elements of a “language”, by which his abstract thought perceives and renders the image of the substantialities of the natural objects and situations that interest him. The freedom, given to him by the fact that the image-depiction has no immediate utility value, and his confidence in the truth of the shapes, create in him the urge to depict imaginary, cognitive tactics and fantastic relations between objects. In the image-depiction of the animal he learns to see the concept of the whole species. A multitude (total) that is expressed with the image of one, can now be calculated as a quantity of One. Since all members of the multitude are more or less similar to the One and determined by it, the One can become the Measure of the total. In this way, the Homo sapiens uses the image-depiction in its cognitive form − the form of thought- as the Essence or Standard of the unit, by which he calculates (counts) the natural multitude.
In the tool, the calculative side that exists within its shape is directly intertwined with the intended result. In this sense, calculation cannot become autonomous from its shape.
In the image-depiction Fantasy is liberated from the necessity of rendering an immediate result and gains its fully human, that is social, meaning. This enables thought in certain instances to transfer, through fantasy, its calculative side to more complex relations and shapes, and to occupy itself with the image, thus emphasizing on this side of its nature. But this emphasis on the calculative side leads back to utility value, as it happens in architecture and later in mathematics and science.
During the whole course of the evolution of the tool and image, Man certainly practices his observation also on calculations. One can say that seasonal, lunar and other cycles roughly relate to the biological cycle of plants, animals etc. Finds that are about 35,000 years old, refer to some kind of listing of quantities, and the very scarce samples we have up to now, surely do not reflect the knowledge that Man must have had on the representation of quantities and some arithmetic operations. Nevertheless, through the ability of depicting, the preconditions are cultivated for Man to learn to think with cognitive images and symbols, and to further develop language and social bonds.
The element of quantity, which is one of the two essential attributes of objects (the other is quality), has to have drawn his attention. Besides, the quantification of shapes is one component of the ability to create image-depictions. However, the ability of depicting is a prerequisite, also in a chronological sense, for the understanding of the concept of quantity as a distinct, independent concept.

A Leap in Thought
The process of creating shapes in Art, that depict the abstracting thought and affects its evolution, has as its starting-point the form of the shapes of the tool. The shapes of the tool constitute, so to speak, the “infantile” phase of the process of depiction, where immediate necessity dominates. The environment and the objectives of Man are categorized empirically into attributes that are depicted in the forms of the tools that are necessary for his survival.
However, from the moment that shapes are separated from the tool in the creation of images, these shapes start being combined and enriched for the description of situations and goals. In this way, they give form to more complex relational structures, thus broadening the world of Man and deepening his understanding of his world. Thereby, Man creates the images of the concepts that his thought uses. That is to say, he externalizes his thought and makes it object of thought.

Synthesis and Harmony
Analogy and symmetry, which by necessity exist within the tool, become basic attributes of the shape of the tool, where their truth as attributes is confirmed.
Through image-depiction, the Homo sapiens cultivates the creative abilities of his thinking in order to detect in the chaotic images of his experience the essential concepts and their functional structures, thus gaining the ability to direct his actions towards situations and conditions that he himself creates.
The creation of image-depictions that describe more complex facts (hunting etc.) imposes restrictions that lie within the very nature of depiction; restrictions for instance that are imposed by the “principle of economy”. Regardless of the natural borders (for instance the size, small or big, of the available surface, i.e.“canvas”), the process of depiction itself imposes the determination of the functional space of the depicted objects, for the image to express the meaning intended. As a result, the concepts of analogy and symmetry are transferred from the individual shapes to whole of the depiction, thus generating synthesis and harmony as attributes of the images as a whole.

From the very beginning, the shape of the tool has fascinated Man, offering him esthetic satisfaction. The fascination that he derives from the shape is as strong as the power of the tool’s truth that ensures his survival. From the tool, the image-depiction “inherits” this power of truth as its content, and it increases it, broadening its meaning. In irrational thought, this power is conceived as autonomous, as magic power, as fetish, something similar to the fetishism of “language” in Mathematics.
It is not by accident that “Beauty”, as determination of esthetic satisfaction, has crossed of into science as a criterion of the truth of its proposition.

With the image-depiction the Homo sapiens (today’s human) gains a huge historical privilege. The privilege to think his thought and to develop the means (that is:  language), by which this thinking is manifested.
This concludes my assertion that in the realm of the abstracting process of thinking, Art takes the place of abstraction that connects the Model (the objects and the phenomena of the world) with the abstract proposition of Science.

Mitchell Feigenbaum, a mathematical physicist, a pioneer of chaos theory, in a way comprises the above as follows:  “Art is a theory on how the world appears to man. It is quite obvious that nobody knows in detail the world that surrounds us. Artists have achieved to become conscious of the fact that there are just a few important things, and then set out to discover them. In doing this, they can do part of my research for me.

It is remarkable that the Neanderthal, who for about 4,000 years coexisted with the Homo sapiens sapiens in Europe and shared with him the same tools, never showed the slightest interest for art products. It has been suggested that this might have been the very ability of the Homo sapiens, which gave him an advantage against the physically much stronger Neanderthal and made him capable of living in harmony with the conditions of the natural environment.

Even much later, in fact even now, the similarity of a portrait, for instance, to the model might be of the highest importance for the one that commissioned it, but it is irrelevant as a criterion for the evaluation of the work of Art as such.

Fantasy is general ability of thought that functions on all levels of the reflection of the world in the mind. The liberation of fantasy from necessity, and its appearance as an independent ability also creates the misleading idea that fantasy only exists when thinking is freed of necessity, and especially in artistic creation.














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