Arts Course Vs Science Course
Arts and Science are modern terms, and the distinction between the two is a merely formal one. In point of matter, arts and science are the same, the contents of both being knowledge. As the field of knowledge became wider and wider, there was more and more differentiation among its branches, until in course of time the manifold subjects of knowledge came to be classed into two bread groups, called Arts and Science. The basis of the division seems to have been that subjects in the study of which we have to carry on the processes of observation and experiment were classed as Science subjects, the rest as Arts. As a matter of fact this basis of division is not a very accurate one, since there is hardly a subject in the higher branches of which we do not need the aid of the scientific processes of observation and experiment.
Among the subjects generally taught in Indian universities, the Arts course comprises English Literature, the Classical Languages, History, Economics, Philosophy, and their allied subjects. The Science course comprises Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Botany and Zoology. The recognized difference between an art and a science is that a science teaches us to know, an art, to do. According to this distinction, the grouping of subjects into Arts and Science classes,is just the reverse of what it should have been, for if any subjects teach us to do anything, it is generally one of the science subjects. Chemistry, for example, teaches us to do many things—to make dyes for our cloths, to prepare medicines with which to cure diseases, and various other things of a practical and useful nature. Physics teaches us to set up the electric telegraph, to send wireless messages, and so on. Every practical art is based on some or other of the physical sciences. History, on the other hand, teaches us little of a practical nature; it tells us neither how to manufacture kings nor how to win battles. Economics, similarly, though dealing primarily with wealth, does not tell us how to grow wealthy. It seems therefore that the distinction between ‘Arts’ and ‘Sciences’ is a mere arbitrary distinction.
In so far as both Arts and Science comprise subjects of human knowledge, they both stand on an equal footing. The devotees of each are, however, in the habit of indulging in a little harmless rivalry at the expense of the other; but this fact only tends to prove the zeal with which the votaries of a subject pursue their special studies. Each claims for his subject a distinct superiority over the other; and each is right so far as his remarks are confined to praising his own subject. Now the Arts people claim that the study of arts subjects promotes culture and refinement, that Literature, Philosophy, and such like subjects afford to the mind a degree of cultivation which makes one eminently fitted to lead the life of a “gentleman.” Indeed, it has been for many centuries believed that of the two ancient universities of England, Cambridge is the one that gives the best scientific training, and Oxford the best liberal education. What is now called an ‘Arts’ education used to be called ‘liberal’ education in the old days, and the aims and objects of a liberal education have never been better described than by Cardinal Newman in the following words :—”to open the mind, to correct, to refine it, to enable it to know, and to digest, master, rule, and use its knowledge, to give it power over its own faculties, application, flexibility, method, critical exactness, sagacity, resources, address, eloquence, expression.” No one can of course assert that these aims and objects are fulfilled by arts subjects alone, and not by science subjects, or that it is only scientific training that gives real culture.
There is one marked difference, however, between the Arts and the Science course. The former aims at universality of learning; the latter aims at specialization. The former tries to teach something of everything ; the latter everything of something. Neither of these ideals is, however, realizable; it is as vain for one man to aspire after universal knowledge as it is for another to know everything that can be known with regard to any one particular branch of knowledge.
However that be, specialization in knowledge is the greatest rage of the day; and this specialization is carried to such an extreme that every subject is now cut up into a thousand bits, and each bit is in the hand of a specialist who makes researches into it and tries to know not only everything that has been hitherto known, but also everything that can be possibly known in relation to the subject.
One strange effect which scientific studies produce on some minds is that they incline some people towards scepticism and irreligion. Science proves the wonderful power which man has acquired over Nature; it makes him feel that he is indeed the lord of creation; he sees his own hand in the changes he brings about in the conditions of his life; and gradually he begins to feel that he himself is all in all, and that there is no Power above him, or anywhere. He disbelieves the existence of everything he cannot directly perceive by sense or infer by reason. His scientific training has taught him that, and by virtue of it he even disbelieves the existence of God. Fortunately this effect is visible only in the case of those who have received a mere smattering of scientific education; those who have gone deep into their knowledge become equally deep in their piety; every law of nature that they discern is to them a manifestation of the divine will : and in the order and system which they perceive through-the whole they find living evidence of the wonderful design and intelligence of the Creator of the universe.
But who can maintain that this deep piety is exclusively the effect of deep learning in science ? It is not science alone, but every branch of knowledge, which draws the human mind towards Him who created this vast variety of wonderful objects in the universe for man to know, as well as the still more wonderful human mind, which seeks and gathers knowledge from a thousand sources and utilizes it for its own purpose in a thousand ways. ‘Art’ and ‘Science’ are only conventional distinctions; at bottom they are the same. Both lead the mind to the truth; both aim at the acquisition of knowledge; both cultivate the intellectual faculties; both lift the heart from Nature up to Nature’s God.