What are Arts and Sciences?

By H.L. Hucbald ap Urp

Sciences Deputy, Tir Righ,
Champion Arts and Sciences, The Barony of Seagirt,
Apprentice to Master Cathal Sean O'Conlin,
In service to the people
September 11, 2007 (A.S. 42)

What are Arts and Sciences?

One of the areas that has been hotly discussed for some time now is that of "What is and Art and what is a Science?" This discussion has been going on for sometime and I even have early memories of people trying to figure out if something was an Art or a Science. Often these discussions are never resolved as much of this topic is subjective and based on opinion.

When I took up the Sciences Deputy of Tir Righ, one of the tasks laid at my feet was to come up with a definition of "What is a Science?" You'd have thought that being recognized for Sciences involvement would make this an easy task. It hasn't been.

I began with some simple research. What does the Society for Creative Anachronism think Arts and Sciences are? Hereís what the Society thinks:

From the Corpora:
E. Minister of Arts and Sciences
The Minister of Arts and Sciences is responsible for fostering the study of period culture and technology, and of methods for producing historically accurate artifacts and performances. Duties include coordinating the efforts of kingdom officers in the field (regardless of whether or not the functions related to "Arts" and "Sciences" are combined in one job or kept separate); promoting the dissemination of accurate information about the fields under study; and assisting the Chronicler of the Society and the editors of the corporate publications in confirming the validity of research presented to the membership.

From the Society Minister of Arts and Sciences webpage:
What are the Arts & Sciences?
The Arts & Sciences are all the crafts, skills, and technologies practiced in the time period and cultures that the SCA covers. Arts & Sciences range from the recipes used for a feast to the armor used in combat, the clothes and costumes we wear to the bardic arts of singing, storytelling, poetry and instrumental pieces. All kingdom and local Ministers of Arts & Sciences are there to help you find the answers you need, be it finding you a source or introducing you to an expert in the field.

This is good information but if you look at it carefully you will not see a division between Arts and Sciences. This may mean that the term "Arts and Sciences" is just a title and not two separate items. If this is a single term then either this fails to define what an Art is and what a Science is as components or it assumes the two canít be separated. The purpose behind this might be revealed by looking at the Kingdom of An Tirís definition of Arts and Sciences.

From An Tir Kingdom Law:
(4) The Minister of Arts and Sciences:

(a) The Minister of Arts and Sciences is the chief artistic and scientific officer of the Kingdom.
(b) The Minister of Arts and Sciences shall:
(i) Encourage the research and development of historically accurate period art forms, technologies, and philosophies.
(ii) Organize the Kingdom Arts and Sciences Tournament, with the assistance of the current Arts and Sciences Champion.
(iii) Serve on the Royal Regalia Commission.
* This section continues to list deputy officers of Arts and Sciences as Games and Bardic.

A close look at what Kingdom defines Arts and Sciences shows that there are three areas that fall under Arts and Sciences. These areas are, "historically accurate period art forms, technologies, and philosophies." So now there are three areas under Arts and Sciences.

At first, these lead me to develop a simple structure that starts at the beginning of a development process. What I saw was all projects, historically or Society-wise beginning with an idea. "Wouldnít it be nice if we had ...." To me this seemed to be where the Philosophy fell. This was the desire and ideas formed by a culture to develop an idea into something useful. This was then followed by the Sciences or the creation of the tools necessary to create with. This was the "technologies" that Kingdom describes. The use of those tools to create beauty was the creation of "art forms". Now I had a linear progression through all three areas described by Kingdom and Arts and Sciences was a title for these areas.

This worked for a while until I realized that one question could not be answered by this diagram and description. How can something be "Raised to the level of an Art?" Itís here that I realized that I had left something out of my diagram. I hadnít labeled the flow arrows and they played an important part in this cycle.

Now I had the joins and this allowed Arts to be described as an "end product". These joins are the transitions between the defined areas. What this also allowed was for something through the excellence of technique to be "raised to an Art".

There was one benefit to this diagram that came when trying to explain how someone could do nothing but create tools. Did this stop at being a science? No, the end product is an art therefore the tool is an art. Someone could make tools and this would be an "art form".

So then what happens when another person comes along and uses the tools that another person has created? The whole process begins again. This second person has an idea and rather than make the tools they purchase them. Now through the use of those tools they create a new "end product" or "artistic form".

So, letís see if we can sum this up in a simple paragraph.

Arts and Sciences are the formation of an idea, desire or need that causes the construction or procurement of tools to create an end product that may cause a reoccurring cycle of ideas. The Arts are the end product, getting to the end product is the philosophy and the science.

Note how Philosophy is very culture related. Different cultures solve problems based on their culture. The Mongols preferred no cities being a nomadic culture so even when they built a city for their captured learned slaves the Mongols preferred to live outside the walls.

Also, you will notice that the transitions are action words. For something to move ahead it needs to change and that is an action. Each action will lend itself to its previous state rather than the state it becomes. This means that pattern design and buying garb is based on the philosophy, and stitch choice and embellishment will be based on the tools at hand.

The next time you sit down to work on any project, take a moment and ask yourself which part of what you are doing is an Art and which part is a Science. Donít forget the Philosophy either. I think you will find you do more Arts or Sciences than you had previously thought.

More thought needs to be given to technique as a Science. This should bring about more Science courses and lessons as courses can focus on either the end product or the technique.

Excellence in the Sciences is about how accurate or reproducible something can be.
Excellence in the Arts is how beautiful or enjoyable something is.
Excellence in Philosophy is debatable.