9 November 2012

Osborne / Hume / Science / Art

“The same age which produces great philosophers and politicians, renowned generals and poets, usually abounds with skilful weavers and ship-carpenters. We cannot reasonably expect that a piece of woollen cloth will be wrought to perfection in a nation which is ignorant of astronomy.”
Thoughtful, this morning, after reading that Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne quoted the 18th century philosopher David Hume in his speech to the Royal Society. The above quote is from the essay Of Refinement in the Arts, which focuses primarily on the fine balance between luxury and morality in an industrious nation, but also considers the relationship between science and the arts.
"The spirit of the age affects all the arts; and the minds of men, being once roused from their lethargy, and put into a fermentation, turn themselves on all sides, and carry improvements into every art and science."
I enjoy the idea that cloth-making is in some way related to the study of the stars. But I also like to remind myself - and possibly Hume felt this way too - that it works both ways between science and the arts. Not only is a more knowledgeable, more technologically advanced world one in which we are more likely to produce great art, a world where great art is produced is also one in which opening our minds to thinking creatively allows us to make great leaps in science.

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