Art and Emergent Thought

Tacit powers of knowing are integral to both art and life.  The artist, no different than the scientist or innovator, follows his or her hunches, guided by intuition, and utilizes skills rehearsed to innate perfection.  Michael Polanyi claims in The Tacit Dimension “the structure of perceptions throws light on all the rest.” 

 

All knowledge derived from the perceptions is embodied, as the body defines how we take in the data of sense perception.  We live in a shared but also uniquely individual world that we have grown to interpret by the particulars of reality that we interiorize in order to cognify and for which there is a comprehensible mental order and explanation.

 

In art history, the most famous example of one such individual was Cézanne.  In his numerous paintings of Château Noir or Mont Sainte-Victoire, you see the way he scrutinized over his observations and how his technique was embodied.  From one painting to the next, you can also see how his physical proximity to his subject factors into the composition.  There is no scientific perspective in his paintings.  The visage of reality is both near and far, a phenomenon of sensory experience determined both by his environment and his own subjectivity.  In fact, you feel as though the only thing that is keeping him anchored in his paintings is that reflexive starting point in the “eye.” 

Just as “the rise of man” was an evolutionary miracle, so too is the gift of perception itself a phenomenon of emergence, an ability perfected in man’s evolutionary path. The intensification of this innate behavior found Cézanne’s motivation to narrow down on the relations between an object and himself. In particular, human evolution has sided on the subjective. The “conviviality” of biology “rises to emotional concern,” a point at which we find ourselves immersed in a world of “sentience,” “intelligence,” and “emotional relations to ourselves.” Interestingly enough, it’s not only Cezanne’s landscapes that are so personal and subjective, but people claim that he painted the subjects of his portraits no differently than the apples in his still life paintings.    In short, a scientist of any kind, just like an artist, contemplates reality as a lived experience. Our brains do not operate like machines. The capacity for emergent thought, as embodied knowledge derived through the senses, happens when we are able to open new windows of experience through insight and this inner, tacit awareness of things.    There are ways to achieve this effect in the everyday and not just in art, or even music. When a person is developing web-based technology, or conducting a scientific experiment, solving a physics or engineering problem, those people all do the following, just like an artist:    1.) They meticulously observe the object like you are trying to get inside its mind  2.) They dwell upon and analyze the effects rather than the causes  3.) They articulate in words and actions their indwelling of the phenomena of observation    The minds of those who experiment with reality are like discoverers on a search. It is a quest of sorts for meanings and explanations they comprehend to take shape in a comprehensible entity. With all tacit knowing stemming from sensory awareness, we see our integral part in the universe, and the control we have to determine and manifest realities, as well as to demolish them, at what Polanyi described as the height of human evolution.

Just as “the rise of man” was an evolutionary miracle, so too is the gift of perception itself a phenomenon of emergence, an ability perfected in man’s evolutionary path. The intensification of this innate behavior found Cézanne’s motivation to narrow down on the relations between an object and himself. In particular, human evolution has sided on the subjective. The “conviviality” of biology “rises to emotional concern,” a point at which we find ourselves immersed in a world of “sentience,” “intelligence,” and “emotional relations to ourselves.” Interestingly enough, it’s not only Cezanne’s landscapes that are so personal and subjective, but people claim that he painted the subjects of his portraits no differently than the apples in his still life paintings.

In short, a scientist of any kind, just like an artist, contemplates reality as a lived experience. Our brains do not operate like machines. The capacity for emergent thought, as embodied knowledge derived through the senses, happens when we are able to open new windows of experience through insight and this inner, tacit awareness of things.

There are ways to achieve this effect in the everyday and not just in art, or even music. When a person is developing web-based technology, or conducting a scientific experiment, solving a physics or engineering problem, those people all do the following, just like an artist:

1.) They meticulously observe the object like you are trying to get inside its mind

2.) They dwell upon and analyze the effects rather than the causes

3.) They articulate in words and actions their indwelling of the phenomena of observation

The minds of those who experiment with reality are like discoverers on a search. It is a quest of sorts for meanings and explanations they comprehend to take shape in a comprehensible entity. With all tacit knowing stemming from sensory awareness, we see our integral part in the universe, and the control we have to determine and manifest realities, as well as to demolish them, at what Polanyi described as the height of human evolution.