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14 October 2013

From Science to Arts, an Inevitable Decision?

Estimated reading time Time 2 to read

In most programs included in regulated studies, we find a more or less strict separation between science and arts. Many people, however, experience changes for various reasons regarding their preferences and dedication over the course of their lives. Below, I am going to address one of the changes which in my opinion warrants special attention.

When preparing for his university studies, the writer José Pla began the preparatory course for medicine, but he soon gave it up to study law, although in fact he did not work as a lawyer but was instead a journalist and a writer. A similar case is Camilo José Cela, who began a degree in medicine, only to change to law, which he also gave up, and ended up dedicating himself to the arts. Pio Baroja studied medicine, finished his degree, in fact he even became a doctor; but his life was largely given over to the arts. Gabriel Celaya started off studying industrial engineering, and later switched to looking after the family business, but his life soon took a dramatic turn and he gave up everything to focus only on writing. Another two case studies are Anton Chejov and Fyodor Dostoyevsky: the former studied medicine and the latter took up military engineering, but they ended up devoting themselves to the arts with a passion.

Is it merely a coincidence? Why is it so unusual to find examples where it has happened the other way round? What is so special about literature that it leads certain particular people to turn their backs on laboratories, formulas, equations, etc, for it?

I am sure that these questions will prompt a good deal of debate. However, here I would like to consider certain statements made by Henri Bergson about art. In the third part of his book Laughter, the author makes a series of assertions about art which I believe are very original and thus warrant analysis. What Bergson says, in short, is that by accident, nature creates individuals who have an original way of perceiving things, so that they achieve a more in-depth vision of reality, and that this is different from nature’s usual procedure, which is to create beings who perceive the things around them in accordance with what they can get out of it. According to Bergson, this is how the artist —and the writer— is born. Through their works, writers offer readers a way to explore their feelings and ideas.

So, then, judging by what we have said in the preceding paragraph, can we really be surprised that people who discover what they can achieve through literature give up their former scientific activity?

Lastly, I would like to stress that these individuals who turn over to the art of writing do not subsequently feel any aversion whatsoever towards science, in fact writers as important as Jules Laforgue, Marcel Proust and Edgar Allan Poe expressed interest in scientific matters. Indeed Poe wrote a work entitled Eureka, a curious poetic approach to astronomy.

Roberto Benavent

Degree in Statistic Sciences and Techniques


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