Art Science Philosophy

Art, Science, Philosophy

Considering different ideas together means that these ideas have something in common, hence differing from all the other ideas in a particular respect. The corresponding categories will form a logical scheme (for instance, but not necessarily, a triad) expressing their difference and integrity in a consistent manner.

The commonality of art, science and philosophy starts from the observation that all the three belong to the sphere of reflexive activity (which, in the context of this section, will be often referred to as simply reflection). Since any conscious activity at all involves communication and self-communication, there is always a kind of built in reflexivity; however, the product of activity is primarily to satisfy people's material needs, and the participants do not pay much attention to accompanying subjective changes. However, according to the triad


which is the most general scheme of any activity, the product of activity must reflect some features of the subject along with the reflection of the object. In historical development, this subjective aspect becomes more prominent in some products, thus making them the representatives of the subject. Involved in further activities as objects, such products enable conscious reflection of one's own acts. Eventually, this self-reflection becomes a separate activity, aimed at reproducing the organization of all kinds of people's activities in very special products whose only purpose is to represent anything else. Such reflexive activities shape the inner organization of the subject, giving way to conscious self-reconstruction and the overall growth of spirituality as the subjective side of the culture.

In its turn, reflexive activity is hierarchically organized, and this organization reflects the history of spiritual development. The triad


refers to some level of this hierarchy.

According to the general principles of the hierarchical approach, any hierarchy can be unfolded in many ways, producing quite different hierarchical structures. Considering art, science and philosophy as the formations of the same level selects a definite class of the possible representations of the hierarchy as a whole. There other representations that may differently incorporate the forms of reflexive activity; in such hierarchical structures the direct comparison of art, science and philosophy may be irrelevant.

In a couple of words, one could express the specificity of reflexive activity on the level of art, science and philosophy as analytical reflection. On the lower levels of hierarchy, the product of reflection is syncretic, that is, it merged with the products of other activities, whose subjective aspect is more or less stressed, while retaining the overall tint of material culture. Such reflexive activities would evolve from mere ornamentation to all kinds of imitation, and then to full-fledged rites; this hierarchy reflexively grows to more complex forms of syncretic reflection like folklore, traditions and mythology. In its socialized form, as a part of the culture, syncretic reflection may produce various regulatory mechanisms, such as communal order, common sense, moral prejudice, or religions.

As usual for all hierarchies, the highest levels of syncretic reflection may involve many analytical elements, intertwining them in a syncretic way. But the true analytical reflection starts with consciously detaching the product of activity from any material interests, thus making it essentially spiritual. That is, the product of art, science, or philosophy does not exist as an immediately observable thing; any material formations produced on the level of analytical reflection do not mean anything on themselves, they merely represent some social relations. Such representatives are of no use outside their embedding culture, but they are essentially saturated with it; that is why, by the traces of analytical reflection, we can learn about the mentality and behavior of people that lived in a distant epoch, just like we guess about the usage of the tools or the purpose of buildings. This also means that our ability to appreciate the esthetical, scientific or philosophical value of any artifact of the past is closely related to the preservation of certain aspects of the early culture in the present. In a wider context, cultural commonality is the basis of mutual understanding for the different social layers; this is especially so with analytical reflection. A beautiful painting will be of no value where there is nobody to appreciate its beauty. A scientific theory will mean nothing to those who have no concern for the phenomena it describes. And no philosophizing can produce a slightest response in the public without a publicly felt social demand.

Logically, art, science and philosophy are to be superseded, in some manner, with reflexive activities of a higher level, which, in respect to the syncretic and analytical reflection, could be called synthetic. In synthetic reflection, the product is both immediately usable and representing some aspects of subjectivity, as well as the roles of the object and the subject within an integral activity. Such forms of reflection are to be discussed elsewhere.

The hierarchy of analytical reflection

Once we have outlined the difference of art, science and philosophy from the other kinds of reflection, their mutual differences and complementarity can be comprehended. Comparing analytical reflection to its opposites and complements in different ways, one comes to the corresponding inner interrelations. Thus, formally considering the triad artsciencephilosophy as the middle element in the hierarchy of syncretic, analytical and synthetic reflection, we conclude that art should be apparently syncretic, while philosophy tends to synthetic forms; science, by its form, is essentially analytical. Of course, this relative prevalence keeps within the same analytical level, and the difference of the product from what it represents is of primary importance.

To form a general impression of how this dimension of distinction could characterize art, science and philosophy, one could construct a number of parallel triads, loosely sorting out the typical features of reflection according to the formal scheme:


This is not a true categorization, as it does not assume any meaningful order of the triads, and the development of each triad from the primary scheme has not been traced. Still, this might be taken for an at least metaphorical illustration, and possibly a hint for a deeper investigator. In general, every level of analytical reflection will present its own hierarchy of related categories; however, belonging to the same level of a wider hierarchy, art, science and philosophy will be mutually reflected, and their inner organization is to exhibit many formal similarities. Moreover, being a necessary part of any activity, reflection will induced analogous structures everywhere, and the components of an arbitrarily taken activity may well fit into the same triadic pattern. This structural similarity does not play any significant role within the individual activity, but it is important to allow scheme transfer from activity to another. The analytical nature of reflection simplifies detaching the modes of operation from operations themselves, to arrange another act in a similar manner.

As usual, the categories in a scheme are not mere words denoting some special concepts. An idea behind a philosophical category cannot be fully expressed in words, in however universal language. Ideas are the objective forms of cultural organization reflecting (and reflected in) the inner organization of the subject. The same words may have an entirely different (and even the opposite) meaning in another context. That is why it's no use to ponder on terminology in the above table; it is not meant for that, taking each term in its specific connotation of an objective phenomenon that could as well be named otherwise.

An alternative approach in unfolding the hierarchy of reflection is to take it in its historical development.

Originally, analytical reflection is born as an integral whole, without any inner distinctions. It enjoys the very ability to oppose spirituality to everyday occupations, and the form of the abstract product is of no importance. Later, art has become a separate activity, a socially established cultural phenomenon. For some time, art played the leading role in cultural development, all the other kinds of reflection being treated as subordinate to art as the highest form of spirituality. The beginning of the XIX century was marked by science breaking its way to the top of the hierarchy of reflection and gaining an independent cultural existence. Knowledge has been declared to be of the highest and absolute value, and all the rest was to submit to science in a vain aspiration to achieve some of its rigor. After the first excitement about the power of science has receded, the social conditions for the self-determination of philosophy have developed. In the future, when the era of the social division of labor will be left behind, the levels of analytical reflection will grow into a new unity, remaining distinct but mutually reflected within the whole.

In their fully developed form, art, science and philosophy can culturally manifest themselves in different ways. Thus, they can be mere aspects of some other activity, which incorporates them all in some order, while pursuing its own purpose. One's activity can be more or less artistic, potentially scientific, and somewhat philosophical, while remaining practical in other respects. However, the components of any activity can, under certain conditions, become separate activities; in particular, analytical reflection will manifest itself in three distinct kinds of reflexive activity: artistic creativity, scientific research, and philosophizing. This does not mean any absolute separation; as in any activity at all, the three levels are always present, and it is only their relative significance that change, the inner organization and apparent accents. Art may express scientific knowledge or be concerned with philosophical matters. Science will always assume a certain degree of art, as well as a general world view, a kind of operational philosophy. Similarly, philosophy is impossible without integrating both art and science in the same categorical framework, it grows from the artistic and scientific experience, augmenting them with an ethical dimension.

When the levels of analytical reflection become opposed to each other as separate activities, each level gradually develops inner distinctions reflecting the modes of external comparison. The implicit presence of art, science and philosophy in each other becomes an explicit subdivision of art in general into "creative", "conceptual" and "critical" arts; in science, experimenting becomes opposed to theory and methodology; in philosophy, one finds such disciplines as aesthetics, logic and ethics. Of course, this classification is complemented with unfolding the formal structure in other dimensions, related to the relations of art, science and philosophy to other aspects of culture.

In further cultural development, the activities of art, science and philosophy become permanent occupations, and then professions. The professional attitude shifts the stress from reflection to maintenance, to preservation of distinctions; it lifts reflection in a job. As a result, professions are not immediately related to their reflective core, the formal aspects being more important than any content. Being a professional does not imply professionalism. Thus, some artists would produce anything but art; a professional scientist may have nothing to do with science; being a philosopher does not make one any wiser that the rest. However, this fully objectified existence of art, science and philosophy offers them to further reflection, and this is how analytical reflection becomes self-aware.


The characteristic feature (and the principal function) of art is to "translate" the objective experience into a spiritual form. This representation implies suppressing any irrelevant detail thus refining the universal content of a thing, or an event; that is, art is essentially abstraction, it cannot and should not perfectly imitate nature. The product of art (an artistic image) is different from the object thus reflected, and this difference is obvious and deliberate. However hyper-realistic, art does not produce natural forms, it reproduces them in an entirely new material, in a way that would make the product utterly unusable for anything but reflection. Art is essentially impractical; otherwise, it would not be art.

As a kind of abstraction, art serves for primary generalization; the artistic image does not picture any particular thing, it expresses something that is in common for many things, or rather, for certain aspects of human activity about things. Due to the universality of conscious reflection, art can also reflect reflexive activities, thus developing a hierarchy of abstractions.

However, opposing itself to immediate experience, art takes its forms from that very experience. That is, the principal method of abstraction in the arts is to superpose the shape of one activity onto another; this would effectively detach the shapes from activities, transforming them into abstract ideas. There are no restrictions for the choice of the source and target activities, and consequently, no specifically artistic activities; any activity at all can implement artistic reflexivity. In particular, any activity can reflexively alter its purpose and organization just going beyond the ordinary skill. An excessive degree of proficiency shifts the focus from the usable product to activity itself; in this sense, perfection is the initial and primary source of art, which lies in the basis of any advanced forms. As soon as there is some perfection, there is a kind of art; and no art is possible without striving for perfection. This, once again, stresses the abstract nature of art: since real life cannot be perfect, a perfect experience demands "refining" a regular activity to reveal its universal core. A perfect product is no longer a consumption value; it becomes an elementary construction block of any art, an artistic image.

Since art grows from within experience, every artist has to seek for one's individual way to perfection; art cannot be taught and learned. A certain level of general erudition can be helpful; but it can also be an impediment. Studying the history of arts, the techniques of the talented artists, the traditional patterns of work will never make one an artist. Perfection is only born in experience, which can be extended by aesthetic education but never enhanced. There are no recipes of extracting the eternal from the transient.

An artistic image is essentially unique, since a perfect thing is out of any comparison. Repetition kills art, reducing it to mere technology. That is why the articles of art cannot retain their artistic quality forever; when ideas they express come to common awareness and lose their novelty, we appreciate the mastery without being personally touched. Uniqueness then becomes a commercial rather than artistic value.

Elementary artistic images can be built into a hierarchy of images, a higher-level image. Such hierarchies can develop within a single art as well as cross the family boundaries. In the latter case, art take the form of an artistic movement (like romanticism, symbolism or impressionism) that unites the representatives of quite different arts on the basis of a common idea. As with any artistic image, such complex modes of reflection cannot last long; they are bound to dissipate and give way to other trends. Still, since no universal idea can ever be expressed in full, the traits of the old artistic movements remain in modern art as the elements of individual styles.


The primary abstractions implanted in numerous articles of art can become an object for a new level of analytical reflection detaching reflexive activity from the common occupations and establishing reflection as a universal activity. The products of this activity are no longer arbitrary, they take the form that can be equally used to express ideas of any kind. Such are scientific notions.

A notion is a kind of very general image, the common core of many artistic images cleared from their individual shapes. Therefore, a notion is designed to be shared by many individuals and transferred from one person to another. Basically, science is all about knowledge, something that can be learnt.

Since the products of science are deliberately devoid of individuality, they may seem to be entirely objective, referring to the world as it is, regardless of the presence of the subject. In a way, this is true, and science is indeed objective, but this is the objective side of our practical experience rather than the indifferent objectivity of the world on its own. This is our knowledge, and we cannot know anything that did not yet enter the sphere of our experience and practical interests. We cannot act in the world contrary to its natural organization; but the world becomes nature (and not just something existing on its own) only in respect to the subject, and consequently, as a product. The universality of the subject means that there is nothing in the world that cannot (at least in principle) be included in our experience and scientifically studied, revealing its objective laws.

Just like images of art form a hierarchy of creative forms, scientific notions develop a hierarchy of knowledge that can unfold itself in different directions, like the level of abstraction (reflexivity), formal complexity, the modes of usage etc. For instance, there is a triad of observation, theory and experiment, manifesting itself in various research cycles in science.

While art is free to choose any expressive form to reflect specific aspects of the culture, science is more formal in that it tries to use the same form for all kinds of reflection. Since language plays the role of a universal mediator in human communication, science naturally starts with adapting language to the needs of analytical reflection, transforming it into various terminological systems. Abstracted from the common usage (and hence missing expressiveness and universality), such formal languages need to be augmented by numerous artificial constructs like formulas and schemes. Accordingly, the active side of the ordinary language is reduced in science to a number of operational standards, prescriptions rather than patterns.

By its origin, every notion refers to a standard way of operation adopted in the culture; this limits the applicability of the notion by a certain class of activities. The ubiquitous presence of applicability domains is a characteristic feature of science. There is no science of everything; each science studies its specific object, and the diversity of our operation with real things is directly reflected in the multitude of sciences. This means, in particular, that there are no eternal truths in science; however fundamental, scientific theory exists within the limits of its applicability and it is bound to give way to another theory as soon as the culture assimilates yet another aspect of reality. Scientific revolutions have much in common with the drastic shifts of artistic vision; the both reflect the same processes in the history of the culture in general.

As the quality of science is linked to the generality (that is, portability) of the notions, scientific reflection can never be as exact as the images of art; however, it is much more precise, since the context for the usage of notions is no longer arbitrary and often consciously controlled. While the perception of art requires co-creation as a kind of social resonance, the product of science can be transferred from one person to another as it is, requiring almost no adaptation (and sometimes even discouraging it). The restricted usability of scientific notions, limiting the exactitude of description, allows formal manipulation with abstractions, with the results being as impersonal as the premises. This feature makes science a powerful tool for generating hypotheses, the new options of behavior that may (when practically justified) significantly enhance its efficiency and versatility. Of course, the very possibility of combining abstractions into other abstractions is due to the objective presence of such generalized levels of operation in the hierarchy of the culture, and specifically in reflexive activity. On the other hand, scientific predictions, being based on inherent inexactitude of description and methodology, are mere attempts to guess the most probable order of things; the trustfulness of such guesses depends on many factors. In any case, it is only after practical validation that scientific results can be generally accepted and included in the factual basis of science for further propagation.


In respect to the general triad of activity, objectsubjectproduct, art and science correspond to its objective and subjective levels. Indeed, the product of art essentially depends on its material, it is object-bound. On the contrary, science aims at uniformly representing any kind of reflection in the same material form. In this way, the objective aspect of knowledge becomes irrelevant, and hence scientific reflection can be said to reproduce the subjective core of any activity. Superficially, art may seem to be an entirely subjective play of forms, while science could produce an impression of utter objectivity. In fact, the picture is exactly the inverse, since the very adherence to some standards of rigor makes science highly conventional, and hence subjective. Representing the universal aspects of any activity, the complementary kinds of abstraction, art and science are equally necessary for the integrity of reflection, but establishing this integrity requires yet another, synthetic level. Here is where philosophy enters on the scene. In the universal triad of activity, philosophy corresponds to the productive aspect of reflection, that is, to the production of the ways of reflection.

On this level, reflection becomes abstracted of its own form, and hence philosophy is closely related to practical activity. This negation of abstraction makes philosophy concrete. Art is on the occasion of something, scientific knowledge is about something, but philosophy is always philosophy of something, it takes things in their integrity and suggests the ways for restoring integrity if it has occasionally been broken. Thus reality becomes reflected in philosophical categories.

Categories in philosophy combine the features of both the images of art and scientific notions. Thus, like in art, categories can be expressed in any material form (including the objective forms of human activity, and the forms of reflection); however, this expression is not arbitrary, it must follow the nature of the corresponding ideas, and the very choice of a form of expression is meaningful in philosophy. Similarly, the history of philosophy can no longer be considered as outer to philosophy itself, and the ways of producing categories are as important as the categories thus produced.

Philosophizing is a rather common variety of philosophy, but it is in no way unique, or otherwise distinguished. This science-like behavior bears the same mark of impersonality, which makes it well suited for passing philosophical ideas from one person to another in a universal way, through space and time. Still, it also brings in the same illusion of absolute objectivity, of the supreme power of thought that does not require the very ability of thought. It may seem that mere verbiage is enough, and a glib tongue can make one a philosopher. That is why it is important to always keep philosophizing within a practical domain, as well as within a personal perspective that would compensate the imperfection of rigid terminology. In other words, a philosopher will never discuss the world as it is (like scientists do); we must firmly express our attitude to any problem and the preferable direction of solution. However, the exaggeration of feeling and judgement is as disastrous for philosophy as the prevalence of cognition. The idea of integrity is in the core of philosophy, and all the aspects of activity are to be kept in mind in any instance of philosophy.

The impersonal style of science is often used to disguise the real interests of various social groups. When news starts with "Scientists have found that..." or "Experts believe that..." it may seem to convey an objective statement of the matter of facts. A philosopher will always ask who those "scientists" and "experts" are; please give the names and tell us who pays. Without that information one can hardly assess the validity of results. The personality means as much in philosophy as a natural law; here, we explicitly state what is diffidently concealed on the other levels of analytical reflection, namely, that any word view is somebody's view, and it serves somebody's interests. However philosophical statements differ from mere opinions in that they are culturally determined and never arbitrary. An artist may pretend to express a personal impression free from any social obligations. A philosopher must belong to a definite cultural trend, to actively support this and oppose that. The arbitrariness of art and the rigor of science are synthesized in philosophical determinism.

Philosophy could be considered as a synthesis of art and science in yet another way. Scientific constructs are void unless they can be somehow pictured, brought together and viewed as a whole. Even within science, an abstract idea will first take the form of an intuitive principle, an overall stand, or a basic approach, before it could become really applicable to anything. On the other hand, an artistic image can never be perceived as such without a preliminary training, which associates the image with many others producing a hierarchy of associations similar to a scientific notion. Reflexively repeating this development, we come to ideas that are no longer scientific, not artistic. Art and science annihilate each other in a philosophical category, remaining its necessary reflective background.

Yet another aspect of the same: science penetrates art to provide the technical background of artistic creativity, and art penetrates science as scientific intuition. Artists can learn the basics of their trade; and this is the scientific part of art. Erudition and skill do not make an artist, but few artists can develop from scratch, rediscovering their art on their own. Similarly, the talent of feeling the answer before it could be scientifically justified is an important component of science; however mere intuition is not enough in scientific research. Philosophy becomes a universal mediator for this kind of mutual enrichment. It is neither art, nor science. It cannot be imitated, nor learned. One has to find one's own way to wisdom, and this is why philosophy is so difficult to comprehend.

Philosophy can express itself in the forms of art, or science, as well as in any other forms. However, while it is expressed in a borrowed form, philosophy remains a mere aspect of some other activity, and one can only speak about the level of philosophical thought within the hierarchy of a certain reflective activity, but never about philosophy as a self-contained cultural phenomenon. The language of philosophy will certainly include the elements of the artistic or scientific origin, but philosophy must eventually develop its own forms of reflection, to become fully adequate and consistent, clearly distinct from both art and science. It is only on that stage that art and science will be able, in their turn, borrow forms from philosophy, thus adopting philosophical views and methodology.

While art sorts out our impression, and science trains our ability of manipulation, philosophy is application-driven. There is a distinction of empirical, theoretical and applied science. Nothing like that is possible in philosophy, which is always empirical, theoretical and applied in the same time, in the same act of reflection. The main function of philosophy (as long as it can be treated in a functional way) is to seek for practical consequences of any abstraction, to make abstractions concrete. However, philosophical reflection remains analytical, as its product, philosophical categories and schemes, is distinct from the other aspects of culture. This inherent analyticity results in numerous kinds and branches of philosophy, in a hierarchy of philosophical disciplines. In practical activity, we need to lift this multiplicity in a deliberate decision, thus abstracting from the philosophical abstraction of application. This how we can leave the level of analytical reflection and grow to the sphere of praxis.

[Philosophy] [Unism]