The Arts and Truth

by 043067 on February 17, 2017

“The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth: The Merits of Art versus Science”, by Martine Powers

Art, like literature or visual art, is equally able to portray candid truth. The comparison of the arts versus science (human and natural sciences) in portraying the truth is dependent upon the definition of truth within this context. To the author, truth is more than facts without emotion — it is also a “conveyance of the honest tendencies and experience of the human condition”, in that truth is also reflective of the human psyche or the human condition. The arts and the sciences are also inextricably linked, such as in the explanation behind the appreciation of art (aesthetics), or the conveyance of scientific knowledge through another channel.

“Art and Truth”

Truth can be conveyed through countless channels other than art. When saying that art can convey truth, we must question what sort of truth we are referring to. It may not be the purpose of art to tell the truth, thus we should not count on art to do so; this diminishes art. There is also inherent bias in the creation of art pieces.

My opinion

The question is not whether or not art must convey truth, it is whether or not art can convey truth. In terms of this discussion, I believe that the second article misses the point. It makes several valid observations in that art is most likely inherently biased, and is only one of the countless ways in which truth can be conveyed. That is indisputable.

However, what I take issue with is firstly, how the article puts art on a pedestal by saying that its worth is diminished when people demand to extract truth from it. If that is the case, why should art have any meaning or convey any sort of message at all? Would all artists not be Dadaists then? A work of art can take on any purpose that the artist wills, thus the purpose of conveying truth is a possible purpose. In the context of determining the worth of art though, with the overwhelming judgement against “meaningless” art nowadays, the article does make a good point about not basing our judgement of art on whether it conveys some kind of message.

Second, although I agree that bias in art is likely to be inevitable, given that art (or certain types) allows us to understand the perspective of the creator/artist, bias also exists in science. We see how results can be cherry-picked, samples skewed, or methods manipulated to prove certain perspectives. It’s not as if everything from the realm of science will automatically be free of bias, an aversion to bias is simply more of a principle in science.

The concept of truth must first be defined if we are to debate whether or not truth can be portrayed through the arts — do we speak of personal truths, or universal (empirical?) truths? Even so, though, it can still be argued that the arts, as a highly versatile medium (this description does not give credit to the arts, since there are so many arts and so many media within each category of art belonging to this entire area), is capable of conveying truth in whatever form or definition it may come in.


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