Month: November 2017

The Truth in Art

Essay #1: Art vs Science

The essay mainly describes how like science, art is also able to convey information about the human experience to the audience. This is because there are simply some things that cannot be expressed in a mathematical equation or a scientific hypothesis, but are better off expressed in some kind of art form.  For example the effects that the Vietnam war had on the Vietnamese people. While a historically objective recount of the events of the Vietnam war and it’s effects could provide us with a picture of the war, an image similar to that of Nick Ut’s image of naked children running away from a napalm attack crying provides us with a much better idea of the horrors that the Vietnamese had to endure throughout the Vietnam War.

Image result for vietnam war images

Essay #2: Art and Truth

In this essay, we look at the relationship between the truth and works of art. In the most obvious case, factually true statements can give us correct information about things like historical settings. Many people think that another example of truth in art can be found in photographs, since you cannot fake anything in a raw-unedited photograph. However if a set of pictures is published showing only part of the story. For example in a violent protest, the photographer can either focus on the violent demonstrators or the harsh police. Furthermore wouldn’t the photograph’s caption also tell a story? Leading us to ask, was the story every really ‘true’ in the first place? Overall I believe the essay is trying to say that truth and knowledge do not necessarily need to be outright labelled, in order to prove that they are present in the arts.

After Reading the Related TOK Chapter

The content of the 2 essays that I read reflect the content of the TOK chapter, because both talk about how there are multiple ways of defining truth in art and how truth in art is different from truth in science. It also reflects how both essays suggest that the knowledge in art is inherently for an aesthetic, emotional, moral or other intellectual purpose. The chapter also reflects how in both essays, the knowledge gained from the arts is purely subjective. The knowledge that one person gained from one piece of art, may be different then the knowledge that another person gained from the same piece of art.

What is Art?

Claim: There is no real purpose for the arts.

After reading this link on whether knowledge can be found in works of art, I believe that art does have a purpose in our lives in more ways than one. In the article, it says that art helps to give us conceptual knowledge of our own concepts (ie personal feelings, mental states, etc.), moral knowledge and knowledge of alternate possibilities. Art can help to transfer a great deal more information than we care to give it credit for, because it also helps to deepen and enhance our aesthetic experience of the world. A debatable topic that could take up hundreds of words and is full of complex analogies, can easily be answered in a piece of visual art.

Another purpose for art is to entertain, and this purpose is especially prominent in art forms like film, tv, dance, etc. While entertaining they can also broaden our perspectives and our knowledge, exactly like how the article describes. Take the popular anime series Steins; Gate for example. It serves it’s purpose to both entertain the audience, and to open their minds to the possibility of time travel and it’s effects and/or consequences.

However one could claim that art has no real purpose if the audience cannot interpret the art piece. In everyone’s lifetime, everyone has probably seen at least one art piece that they look at and have absolutely no reaction to. Take the famous painting the Mona Lisa for example. Unless you were a professional artist/ art critic, or have extensive knowledge regarding the arts. Most people would probably just look at the painting and not feel anything except maybe disappointed and underwhelmed.

As a result, I believe that art does have a purpose in our everyday lives. However this purpose is only ever truly realised if the audience is able to understand and interpret the art piece themselves, if they can not, then the art piece loses value and simply becomes in all intents and purposes simply something that takes up space.

Competing Theories in Natural Science

In TOK we discussed the claim: “With claims in science, there is always a trade-off between accuracy and simplicity.”. Personally, I agree that the more simplistic something is in science, the less accurate it will be. For example if I simply describe my apartment to be 1135 square feet, than you do not gain any accurate image of what my apartment looks like other than it’s dimensions. However if I said that my apartment has 3 bedrooms, a bathroom between two of them, a kitchen, a living room with all sorts of furniture, then you will have a more accurate image of what my apartment looks like.

Another simple but real and applicable example is induction in science. If we test for whether metals will expand when heated, and we test, and see that Metal A, Metal B and Metal C all expand when heated. We usually then conclude that since metals A,B and C all expand when heated, that all metals will expand when heated. The only problem with this is that we do not know this to be a universal fact, because we actually have not observed that all metals will expand when heated. Therefore while our conclusion that all metals will expand when heated is simple, it is not 100% accurate since we have not tested whether all metals will expand when heated. 

This is a good example of “Occam’s Razor”, which is a problem solving principle that states when there are competing theories, the one with fewer assumptions is the best. “Occam’s Razor” also shows the preference for simplicity in the scientific method

However the trade-off between accuracy and simplicity may not always happen. For example we take Newton’s second law (F=ma), where mass and acceleration is constant. It is both simplistic to use and accurate in finding the force of something if you know it’s mass and acceleration and that these stay constant.

Facts and Theories in Natural Science

Claim: Science is objective and descriptive, while the arts are creative and interpretive.

In my personal opinion, I believe that the above claim about the arts being creative and interpretive is pretty spot-on. The entire goal of the arts is to allow individuals or groups to express their ideas creatively, even though some other people may misinterpret the artists intentions. A good example of this is the Mona Lisa, a famous piece of art created by Leonardo da Vinci where the purpose of some of the paintings aspects are a mystery and up for interpretation.

However the claim about science being objective and descriptive may not necessarily be true in all instances. In our TOK class, we participated in a activity where we were aspiring “archaeologists digging up a new fossil”. When piecing together the bones of the unknown creature, we called upon prior knowledge of animal fossils, we looked at other groups arrangements of the bones and discussed with them about possibilities regarding the creatures identity and we searched through a booklet of other animal bones in order to find similarities to help us identify the creature. However this is not objective science because throughout the process, we were hindering the production of knowledge through our own personal confirmation bias. None of us knew whether our fossil was a previously undiscovered species or not, but we did not consider it in our investigation and thus was blinded to the possibility. This may also be done with professionals in the actual field, who because of confirmation bias may arrange the bones so that they fit the description of the bones of previously discovered species instead.

In conclusion, art and science are not that different in this aspect. Both may require the artist or scientist to draw upon past experiences, past knowledge or pre-established knowledge in order to fill in the uncertainties that they face in their respective fields.

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