Philosophy 71 (276):255-273 (1996)

James O. Young
University of Victoria
In his 1836 lectures to the Royal Institute, the great landscape painter John Constable stated that ‘Painting is a science, and should be pursued as an inquiry into the laws of nature.’ Landscape, he went on to say, should ‘be considered a branch of natural philosophy, of which pictures are but the experiments.’ 1 Constable makes two claims in this striking passage. The first is that painting is a form of inquiry. This is, by itself, a bold claim, but Constable goes on to state that painters and scientists inquire in the same way. As controversial as these views are, both of them have been sympathetically entertained in recent years by several philosophers. In particular, Nelson Goodman and Catherine Elgin have maintained that painting, and the other arts, are forms of inquiry, and that they are akin to the sciences in important respects. 2 I think, however, that Constable is only half right. Although I agree that the arts are forms of inquiry, I will argue that the arts and the sciences employ radically different methods. That the arts and the sciences are very different forms of inquiry might seem to be a point so obvious as to be scarcely worth making. We can, however, appreciate more clearly how the arts can contribute to our knowledge by contrasting its methods with those of science
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DOI 10.1017/S0031819100041474
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