“Modern science is the greatest achievement since sliced bread. And in fact, scientific advancement gave us that too, both the subject and the predicate.” Such a statement captures a prevailing sentiment of our time and it is certainly not with basis. Nevertheless, neither is it without bias. In singling out material welfare as the only criterion of progress, it fails to provide a comprehensive perspective. It’s true that scientific progress leaves technological advancement in its wake, but all too often this only enables our basic tendency to spiritual inertia while we seek new methods to bend nature to our advantage, measured by utility and bodily comfort.
Perhaps Philosophy as an ACT can compliment the FACTS of scientific advancement by continually evaluating and bringing them into relation with total human flourishing. Metaphysical relativity (which principle Buddhist thinkers identified as the doctrine of pratītyasamutpāda or “dependent origination”) dictates that the being of one thing receives definition from the being of all others. In the spirit of Philosophy and Novalis’ aphorism that “Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by Reason,” I found it useful to enlist Art as a remedy to the deficiencies of unilateral Science. In some sense, Science & Art are antipodes on the extra-spatial sphere of the human spirit. Science abstracts the ideal element from manifest phenomena to discern their archetypal interactions (i.e. “Natural Laws”). Art, by contrast, “in-tracts,” or incarnates the ideal element into manifest phenomena. One is reminded of the lines from the prologue of Goethe’s Faust:
Heavenly forces, rising and descending
Their Golden Urns reciprocally lending
How does Philosophy relate to the “reciprocal lending?” It is like the fulcrum between these two disciplines, the hinge on a swinging door, the body between two wings. Philosophy abstracts archetypal principles from the manifest world, as per Science. It also “intracts” archetypal principles into manifestation, but whereas the sculptor works his craft with a chisel in the medium of stone, the philosopher takes as her medium the stuff of spirit. The philosopher is an artist of ideas and a scientist of human experience.