Consider these pairs:

τέχνη και ἐπιστήμη (?)
ars et scientia (?)
art and science
Kunst und Wissenschaft

  1. Did Antiquity have this opposition or division between art and science? If not, when did it emerge?

  2. When it did, how was it expressed in Latin and Greek? (I rounded up random words for the first two pairs above.)


I suspect that the contrast may be of a recent origin because

  • if art includes skills such as medicine and animal husbandry it has little reason to be opposed to knowledge and
  • science, as we know it, was born about the time of the Scientific Revolution?

If so, perhaps no one had reason to speak of 'art vs. science' in Greek or Latin?

  • 2
    Unsourced partial answer sketch: ars -> craft, scientia -> knowledge. The modern meanings are somewhat particular cases. Physica -> natural sciences but also nat'l philosophy. Medicine was a craft before becoming a science. I want to write something as soon as I have time. Anyone feel free to answer before that
    – Rafael
    Jul 18, 2018 at 12:51
  • plato.stanford.edu/entries/episteme-techne has a lot of useful information.
    – brianpck
    Jul 19, 2018 at 13:50

1 Answer 1


As you can see in https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science, the use of scientia in its modern sense dates from the Enlightenment (and episteme is a mere calque). The opposition did exist in antiquity, but it was articulated as a contrast between techne/ars (art, technology, engineering) and philosophia. Science was still called Natural Philosophy right up until the Enlightenment.

While the distinction was made in antiquity, the boundaries have clearly changed. Amusingly, the same Wikipedia article claims Hippocrates for science, but his most famous dictum is "art is a long, life is short", which means that he considered medicine to be engineering, not science.

  • Can you clarify how technē and philosophia were contrasted in antiquity? For Aristotle, for instance, the division was between productive, practical, and theoretical intellectual excellences, and (at least in that context) contrasting these with philosphia would be a category mistake.
    – brianpck
    Jul 19, 2018 at 13:52
  • 1
    Thanks. Episteme being a calque was exactly the sort of answer I was looking for.
    – Catomic
    Jul 21, 2018 at 6:37

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