© Chris Port, 11th July 2011
See also #299. An Atheist Call To Art
With reference to another discussion thread on a possible 'Golden Rule' for atheists...
I've been brooding over what my 'Golden Guideline' might be (as you may have guessed, I'm suspicious of rules - especially golden ones).
In essence, science is reductionism and art is expansionism. Science reduces everything to data. Art expands everything into meanings.
The problem with science is that, on its own, it loses touch with meanings.
The problem with art is that, on its own, it loses touch with reality.
Most people are neither scientists nor artists. They want certainty and security in which to raise families, but they also need escapism and fantasy to preserve their individuality and save their sanity.
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.” ~ Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
Therefore, any popular 'guidelines' need to incorporate both scientific AND aesthetic principles. (Art also has the useful side effect of gently nudging religion out of the picture. It essentially fulfils the same emotional function as 'God' in the form of a conscious delusion - the willing suspension of DISbelief to enjoy a fantasy, rather than the erroneous belief that an imaginary character actually exists outside of people's minds).
So, as an aphorism: "The Golden Rule is the Golden Mean." Aristotle got a lot wrong (scientifically) but he was spot on about human happiness (and tragedy).
Those of a logical disposition should be wary of reducing the wonders of creation to facts. Facts have no meaning, and human beings are not human beings unless they can find meanings. They should seek to cultivate their aesthetic 'souls'.
Those who have an artistic nature should be wary of living in the clouds all the time. Fantasy keeps the mind sane, but it doesn't feed the body or pay the bills (unless you're lucky enough to get other people paying to watch your fantasies - see Hollywood's 'Dream Machine'). A good artist sees the 'real world' as useful material for fantasies. For this reason, they keep a close watch on reality (while not believing a word of it - artists are the ultimate sceptics sometimes).
"Neither a reductionist nor an expansionist be, but both". We live in the 'Goldilocks Zone' in more senses than one...