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The Urgency of Art

Sam McAuliffe thinks that art offers another way of thinking.

Today science is widely regarded as the bastion of truth and knowledge. Technology daily demonstrates the truth of science to the person in the street, religion is ever trying to align scientific insight with its doctrines, and we largely expect our politicians to consider and abide by scientific evidence. No matter how rigorous or robust the science is, however, it fails to incite the social change it spotlights as needed, climate change being the obvious example. Moreover, some very influential philosophers equate science and technology with thoughtlessness. Could they be right? And if so, could art offer an antidote?

The political theorist Hannah Arendt summarised the problem best in The Human Condition (1958), when she wrote:

“The reason why it may be wise to distrust the political judgment of scientists qua scientists is not primarily their lack of ‘character’ – that they did not refuse to develop atomic weapons – or their naïvete – that they did not understand that once these weapons were developed they would be the last to be consulted about their use – but precisely the fact that they move in a world where speech has lost its power” (p.