In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Books 339 Marx' thinking, the considerable evidence with which he supports the thesis and his own resourceful demonstration of specific connections between apparently non-aesthetic facets of Marx' texts and their aesthetic 'realities' retain for the book a continuing, albeit partial, relevance. On Aesthetics in Science. Judith Wechsler, ed. M.LT. Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1978. 180 pp., illus. Reviewed by Gerhard Charles Rump* The idea for this book developed from a course taught by Wechsler at M.LT. between 1972and 1975. It is, however, not a collection of seminar papers or a report of a course, but rather a further development of a set of ideas to encourage awareness of the role of aesthetic judgment in science. Four of the six essays included were lectures given by visiting lecturers during the course. The course itself focused on the role of models and the process of modeling rather than the beauty of artifacts in nature and in science. The book does not deal with superficial juxtapositions of contemporary sculpture with molecular models and of non-figurative or abstract paintings with photographs taken through the electron microscope in order to demonstrate a certain closeness of contemporary visual art and the products of contemporary science or parallels between certain artistic concepts (like Action painting) and those of the sciences (indeterminancy relation, for instance ). It rather concentrates on the important question of how aesthetic judgment actually shapes scientific experience both in theoretical thinking and in devising models of thought. And it tries to make clear that scientific formulae, concepts, theories and models are human creations affected by traditions , styles and sensibilities. In her Introduction, Wechsler cites Heisenberg as an authority : 'You may object that by speaking of simplicity and beauty I am introducing aesthetic criteria of truth, and I frankly admit that I am strongly attracted by the simplicity and beauty of the mathematical schemes which nature presents us.' There seems to be a force of recognition associated with aesthetic experience, and it is clear from the writings of many other scientists, too, who have reflected on their work that aesthetic concepts played a vital part in the formulation of their ideas and in the actual shaping of their research. The book opens, after Wechsler's Introduction, with a very valuable contribution by Cyril Stanley Smith. Smith is concerned with the aesthetics of structural relationships and their metaphorical and analogical associations. Thus, commenting on the ancient problem of parts and wholes, he comes to the conclusion that 'the importance of the cumulative nuance as distinct from a brutally clear and simple statement is what much of art is about'. When, as he also says, styles in art, like the existence of identifiable phases in a chemical system, reside in the extension of a repeated local pattern of association of parts, then the whole formed by them will rest on certain deviations from the rigid rule, if only to enhance recognizability. This is an interesting link with the following comments of Philip Morrison on broken symmetries. Whereas symmetry is a frequently cited aesthetic phenomenon, well-liked by those active in information aesthetics as a simple device to reduce information, broken symmetry is discussed less often, but has equally deep aesthetic properties, and, it may be added, it seems to be more important in the field of visual art than 'pure', unbroken symmetry [see C. G. Gross and M. H. Bornstein, Left and Right in Science and Art, Leonardo 11, 29 (1978ยป). Morrison demonstrates that broken symmetries are crucial to the process of realizing both art and science. The theme is illustrated by examples of broken symmetries in particle physics, studies of patterns of asymmetry in crystal structure and from design architecture. Broken symmetry is the principle of dynamics and change. He concludes that 'what we regard as highly satisfying works of art ... contain broken symmetries. The symmetry is made manifest in some form, yet *Ubierstrasse 135, Bonn-Bad Godesberg, D-5300 Fed. Rep. Ger. it is not carried out to perfection. The contrast, making visible both sides of the act of becoming, demands appreciation.' Next in line is a breathtaking essay by Arthur 1. Miller on Visualization Lost and Regained: The Genesis of the Quantum...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 339-340
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.