The Aesthetic Dimension of Education and Learning
Science and art, as dimensions of creative thought, are universal in nature and develop to the full in freedom. Science stimulates the cognitive processes of the individual involved and art the emotions, but the cognitive and emotional elements coexist in both. Through science it is possible to experience aesthetic enjoyment, and with art it is possible to develop knowledge unfettered. As a scientist myself, I consider essential for my research to combine a multidiscipline approach in consonance with the interrelation between scientific knowledge, ethics and aesthetics. It is at some extend, to be able to dream for achieving facts. It is combining the utopia with the reality. Never one can be at the expense of the other.
Let us not forget, as Octavio Paz points out, that poets nearly always reach the truth before others do. Neither should we forget the integrated knowledge of the cultured Renaissance person, where no clear line could be drawn between where the artist ended and the scientist began. Leonardo da Vinci illustrates this admirably. The great human being of science have been dominated by the world of aesthetics and many of them contributed enormously to that sphere of human activity. Cognitive, ethical and aesthetic considerations are an essential part of symbolic thought and they must be reflected in all their intensity in the educational mission of the university.
However, the aesthetic mission has been displaced, if not eliminated, from the position which it ought to occupy in the university curriculum and other levels of education as well. It is wrongly regarded as an ornamental extra, both in teaching and in the scientific and technology creative process. To educate for the aesthetic sense is to educate for sensitivity, imagination, global perception, gestalt thinking, compassion, a sense of harmony and beauty and an understanding of the diversity of modes, forms and cultures which distinguish humanity throughout the universe. Aesthetics, as an element incorporated into and transmitted through every branch of university learning, also contributes to the struggle against indifference, lack of solidarity and intolerance and is an excellent learning strategy to contribute to the right balance between reason and feeling, between the social and the intimate, between order and chaos, and the real and the imaginary world. Philosophy provides notable examples of the link between aesthetics, creativity and human well-being. In the literary and scholarly field, Aristotle, who said that fiction is of greater philosophical importance than history, formulated the most essential principle of aesthetics. «History reflects things as they are, whilst fiction reflects them, as they ought to be».
Aesthetic education stimulates the development of fantasy, which is the basis of all creativity, whether artistic or scientific, the development of an overall view and the anticipation of an outcome, the use of logic and the various forms of human communication. We know in neuroscience that cognitive processes as well as love sentiments are housed in our brains, never in our hearts. The university must promote a policy of creativity in the arts and the sciences, in the humanities and technical studies which will stimulate the development of both areas of thought, as an integral form of cognitive and affective growth of the individual. The university institution cannot be satisfied with a few units for artistic learning or a tiny shop window of «cultural activities». The aesthetic and the scientific dimensions must go hand in hand, if the aim is to mold members of a society capable of continuing to learn in harmony with one another and developing their creative potential to the full.
©2012 Miguel Angel Escotet. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint with appropriate citing.