LUDOVICI: Superiority of Art over Science

Science has bestowed many benefits on mankind; and therefore, there are a large number of people who revere and glorify it. An article posted on science.ie in June of 2014 expresses the sentiments of these admirers of Science. “Science empowers us to shape every aspect of our world. Thanks to the power of science we can improve our health and wellbeing, explore new worlds, and make our world a better place; the only limits are those we imagine!”

But there are others who criticize Science because it destroys the myths that bestow meaning and beauty upon the world. In this video, we will discuss 20th century British philosopher Anthony Ludovici’s scathing criticism of Science, and we will also discuss his argument that mankind ought to relegate Science to an inferior position in favor of Art.

Ludovici claims that mankind has ceased from believing in miracles. Modern science has removed the sense of wonder that mankind once possessed when it encountered natural phenomena. Mankind now understands the weather, the movements of the planets and stars, the origins of diseases, and mankind’s relative insignificance in the universe better than at any time in the past. “Once, for instance, their sky was the mighty god Indra; the clouds were his flock, and he drove his flock across his vast fields — blue and fragrant with delicate flowers. Their fruitful rain was the milk which their god Indra obtained from his herd of cows, and their seasons of drought were times when the god Indra was robbed by brigands of his flock. Now, their sky is infinite space. Their clouds are masses of vapour in a state of condensation more or less considerable, and their rain is the outcome of that condensation becoming too considerable.”

Despite the tremendous improvements made by Science to mankind’s health and life expectancy, mankind does not desire mere existence; it desires its existence to have meaning. In other words, the truth is good, but meaning is better. “A belief is often life-preserving and still false from the standpoint of reality. It is a matter of finding that belief, whether true or false, which most conduces to the love of an exalted form of life.”

Science does not bestow meaning upon the world. The scientist is cold, calculating, and apathetic. Ludovici even notes that scientists seem to derive a perverse enjoyment in describing man’s insignificance on the cosmic scale. “A scientist is a sort of inverted Midas at whose touch all gold turns to tinsel, all pearls turn to beads, and all beauty withers and fades. Having nothing to give, he merely robs things of the beauty that was once laid in them, by insisting upon the truth of their reality. Their joy seems to be to feel themselves small and despised.”

An artist, on the other hand, cannot help but bestow meaning upon the smallest trifle. “Listen to your artistic friend’s description of the most trifling excursion he has made, and then set your inartistic friend to relate his journey round the world. The first, even with his trifling excursion in his mind, will make you think that life is really worth living, that the world is full of hidden treasure. The second will make you conclude that this earth is an uninteresting monster, and that boredom can be killed only by the dangers of motor racing, aerial navigation and glacier climbing.”

To conclude, scientific advancements have significantly improved the health and longevity of mankind, but it has severely crippled our sense of meaning and purpose. In light of this, Ludovici advises us to prefer art over science, and to prefer a belief, whether true or false, that is conducive to the love of an exalted life.

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10 thoughts on “LUDOVICI: Superiority of Art over Science

  1. First, I personally don’t feel that science obliterates mystery. Science opens up more questions about our world and the universe, than can explained. No matter what science nails down, a believer may sit back in awe and say, ‘Wow! So that’s how God does it!’ It’s really a matter of personal philosophy and interpretation.

    Second, art is a language of metaphor, open to interpretation. Any great story, for instance, whether it’s an old fairy tale or one of the modern Superman movies, whether it’s a pagan myth or a Christian parable – any story that is retold and retold, endures because people identify with it, it resonates with their won experience. Great stories are not necessarily true (as in fact-checked), but they contain truth.

    Maybe good science is an art. It always starts out with a plot (hypothesis). Maybe good art is science (social science).

  2. “the truth is good, but meaning is better” this is try in all too many cases… We even ready to give up on some truths and ignore as long as possible the reality around us to maintain our beliefs and sense of meaning… Science gives us healthy “reality check”, but it is not responsibility of science to fill in the void of meaningless which it inadvertently creates (for some people only I believe), though creation of this void is not a primary target of science also…

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