THE ORIGINS OF ART AND PRELUDE TO SCIENCE
The problem 'Which comes first, the hypothesis
(H) or the observation (O)', is soluble; as is the problem,
'Which comes first, the hen (H) or the egg (O)'.
In the beginning was my end,…
1. IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE END
In recent decades the consciousness has become increasingly established, that modernism has indeed failed and that in our century art has reached a dead end. Aestheticians, historians and not a few art critics explicitly maintain this, albeit at differing levels of decisiveness, and in the light of analyses at varying levels of sophistication. (Appleyard, 1984; Avital, 1996, 1997a; Belting, 1987; Field, 1970; Fuller, 1982; Gablik, 1984; Habermas, 1985; Lang, 1984; Ripley, 1969; Wolfe, 1975, and others.). On the one hand, it is doubtful whether it can still be denied, that art is in a paradigmatic crisis which is the inevitable result of the fact that in the name of unlimited creative freedom in the twentieth century, the demarcation lines between art and non-art have been completely breached. On the other hand, art theory at all levels has not to this day provided a clear way of distinguishing between art and non-art. From this arises the central idea of this essay, that an attempt has to be made to uncover the sources of art, and to understand what its attributes were at the earliest stages, before it underwent so many transformations, and served so many functions in the course of tens of thousands of years. The uncovering of the basic attributes of art at its very sources can in any case help us today to distinguish art from non-art. This idea indeed seems promising, but on turning to an examination of the known theories of the origins of art, it is found that they contribute nothing to such an understanding. For this reason, an attempt is made in this essay to propose a more adequate theory of the origins of art which both has wide implications regarding culture as a whole, and furthermore places in a new light the profound connection between art and science.
In another paper entitled: The Origins of Art:
An Archaeological or Philosophical Problem?(1999) –
three theories have been examined regarding the
origins of art: Breuil's imitation theory (Breuil, 1981),
Gombrich's projection theory (Gombrich, 1962)
and Davis' mark–thing confusion theory (Davis, 1986a).
These theories differ in their points of departure and in their
degree of elaboration, but equally failed to fulfill the three basic
requirements that must be met by an adequate theory of the origins of art:
Not a few archaeologists and anthropologists have of course noticed the fact that footprints and handprints are among the earliest subjects of prehistoric art, and that it is therefore possible to connect these pictures with the graphical origins of image making. (Breuil, Leroi-Gourhan, Delluc and Delluc, and others.) It must be stressed that these scholars deal exclusively with the graphical aspect of footprints as a possible origin, to one degree or another, of image making; and in this respect the present article makes no claim to innovation. What is new in this essay is firstly, the argument that image making has two kinds of origins: graphical origins, and cognitive origins, between which there is a profound connection. Secondly, an attempt is made here to show that the cognitive mechanisms required for the reading of footprints, which are a much more fundamental stratum than the graphical stratum, are basically the same cognitive mechanisms as those required for image making, and are also the same cognitive mechanisms as those that are identifiable in modern scientific activity. That is to say, there is here an attempt to point out a certain noetic evolution, the manifest beginnings of which can already be clearly identified in footprints literacy. For this reason it is quite certain that this is one of the likeliest and most important (although not the only) origins of image making, not only graphically speaking but also, and mainly, cognitively speaking. The graphical and cognitive components of image making cannot be independent of one another, but it is clear that the cognitive component is the one that conditions the graphical component and in fact makes its existence possible, just as certain cognitive properties condition the very existence and functioning of our language and thinking. This being so, it is of at least as much importance to examine the cognitive properties involved here, as it is to understand the graphical evolution of image making. Art historians and archaeologists either ignore completely the cognitive attributes which must have been a precondition for the emerging of image making, or totally deny the need – or even the existence – of such attributes (Davis, 1986a). However, in the light of the analysis of Davis's theory presented in the above mentioned paper, it is absolutely clear that the fact that scholars do not deal with the cognitive properties required for image making or deny their necessity, does not mean that they do not assume them implicitly. For this reason a cognitive approach, even a speculative one, to the problem of the origins of art is no less legitimate than the empiricist and behaviorist approaches, granted that it provides us with insights that enhance our understanding of the origins of art, its nature and the nature of the intelligence that created it. Art is a phenomenon that is not only too complex for it to have had only a single origin, but it is also too complex for any specific approach to suffice for the understanding of its origins.
The alternative theory to be put forward here regarding the origins of art is actually a considerable broadening and deepening of the projection theory. But the concern here is not with the projection of contents such as fears and desires, as assumed by Gombrich, but the projection of structural or organizational principles of mind. According to Gombrich, whose point of departure is basically cognitive, projection is only another word for classification (Gombrich, 1962, 89). Ironically, it transpires that if we were to make a thoroughgoing examination of what cognitive attributes were required in order to classify, then we would arrive more or less at the same list of attributes as that implicitly assumed by his opponent (Davis, 1986a), who sets out from a behaviorist standpoint. But Gombrich did not ask what cognitive attributes were latent in the image we project, nor did he ask what attributes were required in order that one could classify, just as Davis did not ask what attributes were required in order that one could recognize similarities between things or marks. The attributes assumed implicitly by both are the attributes that I have called "mindprints". These unique attributes, which will be briefly discussed below, seem to be the meta-structures of the complementarity of mind and reality. However, the archaeology of mind is not necessarily an archaeological problem. Before we approach the main discussion, which shows how these mindprints appear at the deepest level of footprints literacy, image making, and most probably in science and all branches of culture, we shall first review several basic aspects of footprints literacy that make this phenomenon the point of departure for the alternative theory.