Monday, March 04, 2013

sympathy, power, art and science fused

What is required is a blending, a fusing of the sympathetic tendencies with all the other impulses and habitual traits of the self. When interest in power is permeated with an affectionate impulse, it is protected from being a tendency to dominate and tyrannize; it becomes an interest in effectiveness of regard for common ends. When an interest in artistic or scientific objects is similarly fused, it loses the indifferent and coldly impersonal character which marks the specialist as such, and becomes an interest in the adequate aesthetic and intellectual development of the conditions of a common life. Sympathy does not merely associate one of these tendencies with another; still less does it make one a means to the other’s ends. It so intimately permeates them as to transform both into a new and moral interest.
- John Dewey. Ethics. 1908
In quoting Dewey, Hilary Putnam argues (in Ethics without Ontology), pp 8-9, that it is impossible to understand him without understanding the profound links he makes between aesthetics, ethics (moral philosophy) and epistemology (the nature of knowledge)

How does this fusion (of sympathy, power, art and science) work in practice? As distinct from the compartmentalisation that uses science to tackle one problem, power to tackle another problem, sympathy to address a third problem and aesthetics to solve yet another problem. Dewey and Putnam provide some overarching guidelines here which distinguish good leadership and practice from just following a formulae or algorithm. It is the fusion that makes the difference.

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