Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/459

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.






A PERSON traveling for the first time in a foreign land is often puzzled by its customs and institutions. He can not understand why people lay so much stress on forms which seem to him trivial, and, with good intentions, habitually do so many things which he considers immoral and vicious. These will remain incomprehensible to him as long as he attempts to judge them by the laws and habits of his own land—the common mistake of travelers.

In like manner, an inhabitant of the realm of science, entering the domain of art, misconceives its character, because he does not understand its language, methods nor traditions. The scientist carries with him into the field of art the mental habits and standards peculiar to his native soil, and whatever can not be measured by scientific methods escapes his notice.

We know that the botanist, the housewife and the farmer see a different set of properties in the common dandelion, and would classify it respectively as composite, food or weed. In the same way, one sees in each object what one looks for, and this is determined by one's mental habits. It is but logical that the scientists should seek in environment the leading characteristics of science, and should expect to arrive at truth by analysis and generalization.

Scientific ideas rule not only the scientists—they dominate also our science-trained age. Evidence of this confronts us whichever way we turn.

We see nearly every field of human effort controlled by specialization. It is no less clear that the aim of the manufacturer, as of the investigator, is to set forth 'the latest thing out.' Every province of human interest has been brought under scientific classification, so that nearly all thought is now cast in 'general ideas.' This mode of thinking ignores individuality and sees in men and things only units of a class. For this reason, man is content with countless repetitions of the same form because his class idea is realized if it find in each object the few characteristics common to the group. Therefore, in general many of man's needs are satisfied with mere form, and if he sees objects possessing these formal features sitting in art's accustomed seats, he does not call in question their titles, but allows articles of furniture, forms