What are the differences between art and science?
There are innumerable differences as well as similarities, so any answer (especially if kept short, as
here) is bound to commit an injustice to one or the other. In other words, this is an issue one could
not possibly address exhaustively in less than a few hundred pages. If therefore I frame an answer for
you in terms of what our general intuitions would tell us anyway, this is merely to be understood as a
beginning, as a kind of 'demarcation of competences'.
Fundamentally, then, science is concerned with knowledge.As a branch of philosophy (if I may push
this antiquated barrel!) it occupies the branch called 'epistemology'. It is concerned, to the degree
possible to us, with exactknowledge, and by extension with prediction on the basis of this knowledge
of future trends among the objects studied. Thus the twig of physics on this branch seeks to
ascertain, as exactly as possible, theoretical models of the interactions among atoms, electrons and
other particles in order to acquire a pattern of understanding that relates to (say) the creation,
movement and ultimately dissolution of galaxies, nebulae, stars, planets and (oh yes) things like atom
bombs and similar benefits to mankind. The science of statistics is concerned with modelling
large-scale trends, for example the incidence of motor car accidents in cities (this is of help to
insurance companies), yet while such knowledge may be deficient in detail, there is a surprising
agreement of its findings over the long run: so accurate in fact, that it is in its own way an exact
science capable of making accurate predictions.
Art, on the other hand, is concerned with intuitiveknowledge, most of which is of the kind that 'exact'
science has no ready methodology to investigate. On this account it falls under the branch of
'aesthetics', a term which bears the meaning of 'what our senses communicate'. For example, human
relations: love is indubitably a form of knowledge on a deeply intimate level between two persons, but
it is not the kind that can be encoded in a scientific theory. But through the medium of art, we can
become acquainted with it as a spiritual phenomenon (e.g. through music). This is perhaps an
extreme example, but simpler ones merely reinforce the same point on their own different levels.
Painting, poetry, drama are to an overwhelming extent concerned with exploring the meaning of the
human estate, whether by way of private contemplation or public celebration. Now one big difference
between art and science is, of course, in the 'objects' that are the outcome of their activities. In
science it is a theory, a method, a technology; in art it is a 'work' which embodies some fragment of
our intuitive knowledge and gives access to that knowledge by recourse to our aesthetic sensibilities.
But there is another difference, equally important: scientific knowledge is about given and largely
impartial conditions and features of the world; whereas aesthetic knowledge is largely about
'meanings', which are creations of the human mindand superimposed on 'reality'. This means that an
artist, whose vision or personal experience motivates him/her to make an effort to communicate it, will
do so in a form and using such materials as are capable of carrying a such 'message', which is
therefore inevitably an artefact to which we are sensitively and/or sensually responsive on an intuitive
level. So this kind of knowledge is not only inexact, but also 'created' (cf. 'poesis', the Greek for
creating); it is not found objectively in the world, but is added to the world as knowledge specifically
human, by humans and for humans. We can see this impulse stirring in children when they 'pretend'
that a piece of string is Mum; and anthropological researches would confirm that this search for
knowledge of humans by humans and for humans is a predilection that long preceded any impulse to
extend the 'exact' knowledge by means of which we survive in and control the shape of our habitat.
Here is something to ponder: not a definitive answer (which can't be given anyway), but some
thoughts that may lead you on to your own path of discovery. I'll conclude with an observation that
may or may not have occurred to you, when you asked your question: namely that pursued in
earnest, you might have posed a problem for yourself that could easily occupy you for the rest of your