Is Literature A Science?

by SeshendraSharma on Sat Apr 03, 2004 8:34 am

Can literature be treated slightingly? My friend relegated literature to the position of pastime and considered it with no more value. This was done by him in contrast to the great material sciences, which alone are held by him in high esteem as products of intellect and objects worthy of man?s pursuit.

I have to think that this mistake arises out of an erroneous attitude towards literature or failure to have come across correct and ideal forms of literature or not having sufficiently exercised his mind in the matter of proper appreciation of its purposes and functions.

Looked at from the corr4ct perspective, literature has a high place in the general scheme of human knowledge. It can only be ranked with the great, sciences, because-all the various sciences explain so many species of living and non-living matter or so many stages of evolution as for instance, inorganic matter is explained by inorganic chemistry, plants explained by botany, Animals by biology and finally man by physiologist and so on and so forth.
After creation reached the stage of man, a new chapter has opened and an unprecedented course rose in the line of creation. That is, as seen never before in nature, man began to change environment to suit this life unlike his preceding species, which changed themselves to suit the changing environment and life. So after the augury of the new chapter, the latest species, namely man, undergoing physical change by any environmental change, and thereby perpetuate the line of evolution in such terms, was elated once for all. However it is difficult to say as to how long this history of man will continue without evolution of a new and more advanced species of life higher than man from the physical point of view. Nevertheless it is now possible to presage on the available data of historical, archaeological, and scientific material than man?s evolution, or to be more correct, the furtherance of evolution of creation is not hereafter going to be towards the formation of new physical forms but it could be only towards the attainment of new intellectual and spiritual heights.
But what does this new stage of evolution consist of? In fact we are now witnessing, the ever expanding horizons of mind and its immense potentialities. In the wake of this development pursuit of human knowledge has finally culminated in the endeavour to understand the inscrutable and mysterious behaviour and phenomenon of human mind. To unravel the tangled fabric of mental process, its reaction, its effects, its vagaries etc,, and to delve deep into the dark recesses of its abysmal bowels and cull out its treasured secrets, has become the final and most interesting enterprise of man. In the wake of this glorious enterprise arose the phantoms of psychology, occult sciences, yoga, philosophy, literature and ever so many activities of superb inexactitude.

Literature explains the emotional and the intellectual stage of the evolving man. For a more precise expression, I should say it endeavours to explain the latest stage of man?s evolution or creation?s evolution, for that matter. The extent of knowledge so far mankind acquired, of the internal and external universes, only indicates the history of our mind and its evolution. But literature particularly that form of it, dealing with the intricate fibres of human feelings and sentiments, explains to us, of what the mind has come to be, that is, its ways, its capacities and caprices.
The role has not been played by any science or any branch or form of human pursuit except literature.

My friend of course raises the contention that psychology I exactly the department of knowledge which fulfils this purpose: but I feel it is only as much as to say that organic chemistry reveals the secret of sugar?s taste. The said science, at best, can only explain the composition and the texture of the chemical compound sugar, but by no means it can pretend to explain its effect on human tongue, similarly psychology can evolve certain principles and indicate by certain symbols, the broad outlines of the forces at work behind the mental processes, as for instance the principles underlying its behaviour in the case of the ?Oedipus? complex. So this aspect of mind is best explained only by literature and never adequately by psychology because this part of human personality or being can never be clearly grappled by a system of knowledge, which tends to postulate and reduce itself into mere symbols and principles, which are called science. This aspect of mind that our very language fails very often to hold it in its grip. How then, can a narrow symbolical and inflexible system achieve the purpose? It needs a very comprehensive and elusive subject in an extensive and grand sweep: and that is done by literature alone. Psychology is the dynamics of mind; we can say literature is its science of properties of matter. That appears to be broadly speaking, their relationship to each other.

Yet another comparison may be given, if psychology is the grammar of mind literature is its prosody. Finally I would even go to the extent of saying, that the place of literature cannot be taken by any science-form to achieve the same purpose. The system, with which you have to understand this particular aspect of man?s mind, has got to be only an art form. Thus literature may be said to be performing the role of science though not in its exact garb. So literature demands to be elevated to a revered and indispensable position in the grand gallery of human knowledge.

-Seshendra Sharma