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Science or Literature?

The Divergent Cultures of Discovery and Creation

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Donald R. Maxwell

Donald R. Maxwell discusses the differences and similarities in the cultures and disciplines of literature and science, the origin of this dichotomy, the distinction in the use of language, and the differences in the practice of the two cultures. As distinct from literature, the physical sciences are empirical and concern truths that cannot be deduced intuitively. Science, not literature, is cumulative, predictive, and reproducible and its language is transparent and unambiguous. Literature attempts to give utterance to the ineffable and uses ambiguity, metaphor, and the evocation of memory to create new and wonderful worlds. Science discovers that which already exists while literature creates that which might never exist. These differences are illustrated by the writings of Marcel Proust, Henri Bergson, and others.