quinta-feira, 27 de outubro de 2016

“Strangers and brothers”: Revisiting the question of the two cultures

Resumo da minha intervenção hoje na Universidade do Porto no Congresso sobre o "Futuro da Universidade" (na imagem cartaz da peça "Strangers and Brothers" de C.P. Snow):

I will discuss the relationship between science and the humanities, in particular science and literature. The need to build strong bridges between scientific culture and artistic culture will be pointed out. They grew apart in spite of the regular contact between them which have always led to mutual enrichment. 

I compare the claims of two famous public intellectuals, C. P. Snow and Jacob Bronowski (the first was the author of the famous “Two Culture” conference in  1959, where the knowledge of Shakespeare and the second law of thermodynamics were contrasted), in the fifties with those of the Portuguese António Lobo Vilela, a mathematician which made his degree at the University of Oporto in 1931 and was later banned by the “Estado Novo”. Very attentive to scientific culture he wrote a book entitled "Science and Poetry" (Portugália, 1955). 

Later, a teacher with a degree in Physics and Chemistry at the University of Oporto, Rómulo de Carvalho, with the “nom de plume” António Gedeão, found an original way to bring science and poetry together. 

Bearing in mind the history of the debate between science and art, I propose the deepening of the bridges as indicated by Lobo Vilela and Gedeão in order to materialize not a “third culture”, but the further contact of scientific and artistic cultures, in the framework of the vast and rich human culture. 

It is interesting to point out that the two referred Portuguese authors played their cultural roles outside the University. Today a challenge for the University is precisely a better integration of the two cultures in academia, with transforming effects in the outside world.

Perhaps the best title for the desirable approach of the “two cultures” would be that of a series of novels by C.P. Snow: “Strangers and Brothers” (1940). The scientific and literary cultures may still be strangers to each another, but they are irrefutably brothers. 

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