What Scientists and Philosophers Get Wrong about Art

Whether it's bacteria or consciousness itself, science and philosophy examine a specific object that stands apart from the observer. Art is more collaborative, says Alva Noë. It changes us as we change it.

The construction of sophisticated tools has long distinguished the human species from those still content with sticks and rock — or nothing at all. We are creators of things in our essence, says UC Berkeley philosophy professor Alva Noë. But artists are a category of creator apart. They do not make tools useful in the sense that a hammer is useful; nor are their works subject to scientific investigation — insofar as science, and philosophy, strictly distinguish between the observer and that which is observed. Noë says that to create art is to create a "strange tool" — one that actively collaborates with us as we create and examine it. Art unveils who we are as people alive at this moment in history, not merely as objective observers standing outside time.

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