JB: I wrote a book called the Identity of Man. I never saw the cover of the English edition until the book reached me in print. And yet the artist had understood exactly what was in my mind, by putting on the cover a drawing of the brain and the Mona Lisa, one on top of the other

Jacob Bronowski - A Sketch of his Natural Philosophy by David Topper

AS I READ BRONOWSKI, there are five major themes that he repeated and developed through his writings, which surface in the essays collected in A Sense of the Future.

First, he believed that the fundamental concepts of science were not too esoteric to be understood by an average person.

Second, he believed that the scientific enterprise, contrary to popular opinion, involves basic human values, that is, that science is not a neutral activity.

Third, Bronowski asserted that, contrary to the logical positivists, the development of science is an open-ended process, with regard to both its past and present and to its future.

Fourth, science is a creative endeavour involving mental processes similar to those usually attributed to artists.

Finally, in the latter decade of his life, he explored the boundary between humans and the other animals in an attempt to discover the uniqueness of humans. this led to his fifth theme or hypothesis: the uniqueness of humans lies in their imagination, a faculty brought into play by both scientists and artists.

That the latter theme dovetails amiably with the former ones indicates how, in fact, his natural philosophy was 'all of one piece.'

Source: Leonardo Vol.18(4) 1985

The Ascent of Jacob Bronowski

Copyright © 1999 by Stephen Moss. All rights reserved.