Can the Poet and the Scientist Be Friends?


Literary critic–and occasional Reason contributor and subject–Paul Cantor shows that the supposedly anti-tech Romantics understood exactly why science and art need each other like peanut butter needs jelly. We should all be so wise.

When [Percy] Shelley writes ?our calculations have outrun our conception; we have eaten more than we can digest,? it is hard to believe that he was writing early in the nineteenth century and not early in the twenty-first. For when he claims ?man, having enslaved the elements, remains himself a slave,? he seems to have captured perfectly the great threat of modern technology in our day. Shelley leaves us with a sobering sense of the dangers of a scientific wisdom completely severed from poetic wisdom. As his wife?s portrait of Victor Frankenstein suggests, such a liberated science may lead to a new kind of slavery, as human beings lose control of the products of their technological imagination, and perhaps end up serving the very forces that were meant to serve them.

Whole thing here.

[Link via Arts & Letters Daily]