Aesthetics and the foundations of science: Insights from Indian metallurgical traditions

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Book Chapters


Foundations of Scinces, Pearson, Volume XIII Part 5, Delhi, p.209–254 (2014)



This essay attempts to explore insights into the foundations of science from a study of Indian metallurgical traditions, especially concerning the role of aesthetics versus functionality in scientific innovation. This essay does not restrict itself to questions related to the foundations of Indian metallurgical traditions per se, but tries to explore the broader picture of what Indian metallurgical traditions may tell us about the foundational aspects of science at large.These aspects range from diverse issues such as the 'Needham paradox' in the Indian context-whereby certain eastern transfers of technology from India to the west spurred eighteenth century innovations in Western science despite stagnation in Indian itself (for e.g. wootz steel and isolation of zinc)-to the possible relevance of Indian metallurgical heritage for modern science as exemplified by a world-famous neuroscientists's attempt to explain a new discipline of 'neuro-aesthetics': through studies on a tenth century Chola bronze goddess.