Friday, October 23, 2009

Science, imagination, art

I wrote here that "scientific and technological possibilites...lay the path and large human imagination and politics follow."

Some writers and artists appear to be sensitive to the very frontiers of scientific understanding in their time. Walter Benjamin wrote of Franz Kafka that he was a contemporary of modern physics. "When you read a passage from Eddington's Nature of the Physical World, it's almost as if you're listening to Kafka."

A photo by Eddington of the 1919 eclipse

[1] Letter to Gershom Scholem (1938). "Kafka lives in a complementary world," writes Benjamin, alluding to Niels Bohr's principle of complementarity. Kafka also anticipated political trends. Benjamin continues:
...the reality that now presents itself as ours -- theoretically in modern physics and in practice by military technology now almost beyond the individual's capacity to experience, and...Kafka's world, often so serene and pervaded by angels, is the exact complement of his age, which is preparing to do away with considerable segments of this planet's population. In all likelihood, the public experience corresponding to this private one of Kafka's will be available to the masses only on the occasion of their extermination.

No comments: