Humanism versus Science (1970)
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Humanism versus Science I suppose the usual or conventional thing for me to do would be to define, as succinctly and cogently as possible, the essential characteristics of the humanist mentality and the scientific mentality and then to go on to show in what way, as a musician and composer, I believe the former to be superior to the latter. But this would be a gross oversimplification of the issues involved and would make almost impossible the more difficult task I have imposed on myself, of showing how the alienation of art from human goals has resulted from the uncritical and unquestioning acceptance on virtually all sides of the validity of science and science's own uncritical and unqualified "pursuit of truth"-without regard to the consequences for the values of human existence. If science has been taken at its own word and scientists raised to the status of secular saints in governmental, industrial, intellectual, and popular mass media circles, it is largely, I believe, because the world that science and its technology have made has caught the same virus of rational madness which characterizes scientific mentality today. So long as the appearance of a lofty and impersonal objective rationality is maintained, the madman, like Claggart in Melville's Billy Budd, remains above suspicion and reproach until some accident occurs-and then, according to the ironies that Fate deals out to man, it is simple, honest Billy Budd who must die because he strikes out in a blind rage and kills Claggart. On this issue of accident and Fate let me quote from the epilogue to Friedrich Diirrenmatt's play, The Physicists, wherein the author states his credo of the responsibility of the human spirit to life. The more premeditated man acts the more effectively he can be overtaken by an accident. Premeditating people wish to reach a certain goal. The accident strikes them most effectively, when as a result of it they arrive at the opposite of their goal. The very thing they fear and wish to evade. Oedipus for instance. Such a story is, to be sure, grotesque but not absurd. It is paradoxical. Dramatists are as little able to avoid the paradoxical as logicians. A drama about physicists has to be paradoxical. It cannot have physics as its goal, only the effect thereof. The content of physics concerns the physicists, its effect concerns all people. What concerns all, only all can solve. Every attempt of an individual to solve what concerns all must of necessity fail. Reality appears in the paradox. Whoever faces the paradox exposes himself to reality. The dramatic art 135 1)6 THE AESTHETICS OF SURVNAL can trick the audience to expose itself to reality but it cannot force it to withstand it or to conquer it. Like the dramatist, I hope to trick you into exposing yourself to realityat least the reality I have in mind-but I cannot force you "to withstand it or to conquer it." There you are on your own, and not without the danger of becoming Billy Budds-whether out of heretical passion or moral fervor on behalf of man. Claggart cloaked himself, as does science, in a subtle form of selfrighteousness . Billy Budd's fist was the unwilling instrument of a more open, naive species of morality. Whether or not the "accident" which overcame them was preventable is one of the great hidden fascinations of Melville's classic confrontation of good and evil. Whether the ultimate accidents inherent in the unchecked hubris of modern science are preventable at this late date poses to my mind an even more fascinating (because the frame of reference is actual existence, not a story) study of the moral catastrophes which have gradually overtaken man and have alienated him from his own basic needs and values. Originally I wanted to tell you a story, a piece of science fiction of my own devising. It was not modesty which prevented me in the end, but the sheer difficulty of producing a piece of writing which, as writing, would have a certain value in itself. (This sense of the limits of one's own powers is part of the humanistic tradition and cast of mind, based as it is on the respect for the material to be worked with and the idea or vision to be projected through it. The production of art and the craft of art imply-or have implied, at least until our own day-that a wedding, not a rape...