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May 20th, 2004, 12:25 AM
Can literature be treated slightingly? My friend relegated literature to the position of pastime and considered it with no more value. This was done by him in contrast to the great material sciences, which alone are held by him in high esteem as products of intellect and objects worthy of man’s pursuit.

I have to think that this mistake arises out of an erroneous attitude towards literature or failure to have come across correct and ideal forms of literature or not having sufficiently exercised his mind in the matter of proper appreciation of its purposes and functions.

Looked at from the corr4ct perspective, literature has a high place in the general scheme of human knowledge. It can only be ranked with the great, sciences, because-all the various sciences explain so many species of living and non-living matter or so many stages of evolution as for instance, inorganic matter is explained by inorganic chemistry, plants explained by botany, Animals by biology and finally man by physiologist and so on and so forth.
After creation reached the stage of man, a new chapter has opened and an unprecedented course rose in the line of creation. That is, as seen never before in nature, man began to change environment to suit this life unlike his preceding species, which changed themselves to suit the changing environment and life. So after the augury of the new chapter, the latest species, namely man, undergoing physical change by any environmental change, and thereby perpetuate the line of evolution in such terms, was elated once for all. However it is difficult to say as to how long this history of man will continue without evolution of a new and more advanced species of life higher than man from the physical point of view. Nevertheless it is now possible to presage on the available data of historical, archaeological, and scientific material than man’s evolution, or to be more correct, the furtherance of evolution of creation is not hereafter going to be towards the formation of new physical forms but it could be only towards the attainment of new intellectual and spiritual heights.
But what does this new stage of evolution consist of? In fact we are now witnessing, the ever expanding horizons of mind and its immense potentialities. In the wake of this development pursuit of human knowledge has finally culminated in the endeavour to understand the inscrutable and mysterious behaviour and phenomenon of human mind. To unravel the tangled fabric of mental process, its reaction, its effects, its vagaries etc,, and to delve deep into the dark recesses of its abysmal bowels and cull out its treasured secrets, has become the final and most interesting enterprise of man. In the wake of this glorious enterprise arose the phantoms of psychology, occult sciences, yoga, philosophy, literature and ever so many activities of superb inexactitude.

Literature explains the emotional and the intellectual stage of the evolving man. For a more precise expression, I should say it endeavours to explain the latest stage of man’s evolution or creation’s evolution, for that matter. The extent of knowledge so far mankind acquired, of the internal and external universes, only indicates the history of our mind and its evolution. But literature particularly that form of it, dealing with the intricate fibres of human feelings and sentiments, explains to us, of what the mind has come to be, that is, its ways, its capacities and caprices.
The role has not been played by any science or any branch or form of human pursuit except literature.

My friend of course raises the contention that psychology I exactly the department of knowledge which fulfils this purpose: but I feel it is only as much as to say that organic chemistry reveals the secret of sugar’s taste. The said science, at best, can only explain the composition and the texture of the chemical compound sugar, but by no means it can pretend to explain its effect on human tongue, similarly psychology can evolve certain principles and indicate by certain symbols, the broad outlines of the forces at work behind the mental processes, as for instance the principles underlying its behaviour in the case of the ‘Oedipus’ complex. So this aspect of mind is best explained only by literature and never adequately by psychology because this part of human personality or being can never be clearly grappled by a system of knowledge, which tends to postulate and reduce itself into mere symbols and principles, which are called science. This aspect of mind that our very language fails very often to hold it in its grip. How then, can a narrow symbolical and inflexible system achieve the purpose? It needs a very comprehensive and elusive subject in an extensive and grand sweep: and that is done by literature alone. Psychology is the dynamics of mind; we can say literature is its science of properties of matter. That appears to be broadly speaking, their relationship to each other.

Yet another comparison may be given, if psychology is the grammar of mind literature is its prosody. Finally I would even go to the extent of saying, that the place of literature cannot be taken by any science-form to achieve the same purpose. The system, with which you have to understand this particular aspect of man’s mind, has got to be only an art form. Thus literature may be said to be performing the role of science though not in its exact garb. So literature demands to be elevated to a revered and indispensable position in the grand gallery of human knowledge.

-Seshendra Sharma

May 20th, 2004, 04:51 AM
I have studied both Literature and Psychology formally, and as far as I know Lit gave me far more insights into humanity than Psycho.

Apart from that, I'd say that the practise of literature is something that is as important as science - it is art. The study of literature on the other hand, is an attempt to scientifically approach the body of work produced by this art.

May 20th, 2004, 12:17 PM
I would say that while Literature is not a Science, that doesn't make it bad or useless or anything. Literature is an Art, and Art and Science, while totally different, are both incredibly valuable to understanding ourselves and the world around us.

Science tells us the why and how of a sunset (objectively), art imbues it with meaning and beauty (subjectively). Both wonderful things! :)

May 21st, 2004, 08:17 AM
Science tells us the why and how of a sunset (objectively), art imbues it with meaning and beauty (subjectively). Both wonderful things! :)

Well said!

Also when we consider literature in a broader meaning to represent "the written word", science and all other subjects wouldn't exist without it.
If books about science, history, geography, philosophy etc didn't exist, it would be very hard for ideas to progress over the centuries.
So I would say that;
No literature is not science, but without it, science would not exist as every great scientist eventually has to put his ideas down on paper so they may be judged and considered by the rest of the community etc.

ironchef texmex
May 21st, 2004, 05:50 PM
In the wake of this glorious enterprise arose the phantoms of psychology, occult sciences, yoga, philosophy, literature and ever so many activities of superb inexactitude.

Very thought provoking, Seshendra. I thought you left out one area of inexactitude, though. Science.

Don't believe me? Example - Dark matter. Dark matter is currently attributed as the cause for the expansion of the universe. The stars are moving away from each other, you see, and we can't explain why. Can't explain, I say. Silly me. Of course we can explain. We'll take a substance that's typically responsible for that sort of thing (ie: matter) stick the word 'dark' in front of it, and whalah, instant scientific breakthrough (See: dark energy). And it's not just astronomy. They do that in all sorts of sciences. Take biology, according to the fossil record evolution comes in spurts. Nothing happens for aaaaaaaaages then poof, suddenly (in evolutionary terms) fish grow legs and start chasing each other around the forest (or something like that :) ). The explanation for this one is called punctuated equilibrium - periods of increased radiation causing dramatic species changes. That's the theory (it's also on the list of sci/fi cliches found in that link over on the sci/fi forum :rolleyes: ).

So I agree with the other posts, literature will never be a science. But if you start using words like 'exactitude' I'm not really sure that science is a science either.

So, Seshendra, the next time your friend starts into you about literature, write him/her a poem (I read your poem by the way. It's really good). Then title it "Dark Matter". :D

May 25th, 2004, 01:38 PM
Science is the study of things using the scientific method. Literature is the expression of words. While writing can express scientific methods, theories and ideas, I don't really see putting down literature (assuming we define literature as both fiction and non-fiction,) as a sub-field of science. It's why we put literature in the Arts and Humanities section.

Your friend expresses a common view -- that Science and Technology are the important things, and that Arts and Humanities -- philosophy, history, fine arts -- are nice, but of lesser value. Certainly, you can object to this view, which I agree is short-sighted, but I don't think you can then turn literature into science.