Art is more than the sum of its parts — it is a symbol of what it means to be human, expressed through physical form for others to see and interpret. It breaks cultural, social and economic barriers and allows people to communicate with each other. Art is a vehicle for ideas that are bigger than the individual artist and can be used to convey universal concepts such as peace, love, freedom and justice.
Art has a pedigree that far predates philosophy (3,000 years) and science (500 years). It is the oldest of human activities, a practice that continues to this day. For this reason, it is a vital part of civilization and deserves more attention from philosophers than it has been given.
Historically, the term “art” has meant something done with skill – a craft that could be learned through practice and hard work. However, with the rise of Romanticism and the emergence of Modernism, this meaning began to change. Individualism and the desire to be original led some artists to re-examine what art could do and how it might represent the artist’s personality. In the end, the answer was to express one’s emotions through art and create a piece that was uniquely “yours.”
A more recent shift in thinking is that art should depict life as it is rather than idealize the world. The goal is to capture the world on canvas or sculpture as it really exists, thus making a truthful statement about society, culture and the human experience. This approach was exemplified by painters Gustave Courbet and Henri Fantin-Latour who became known as realistic painters.
Some thinkers, such as Martin Heidegger, have interpreted art to be the medium by which a culture expresses itself. For Heidegger, art is a tool that leads to a deeper understanding of the world and our place within it.
In contrast, philosopher Arthur Danto suggests that art consists of a certain set of practices, namely observing, selecting and presenting real objects in a way that creates new connections between those objects. He says that this is what makes art different from mere realism, which would be simply an objective representation of real life. He also claims that there are strands of resemblance linking different pieces of art as the same type of activity.
As an active participant in a global society, art is a crucial means of communication that transcends language and time to connect disparate cultures. It can be an instrument for promoting tolerance and mutual respect by allowing people to connect with each other through common experiences and emotions. It is not the answer to solving poverty or fostering social justice, but it can provide an avenue for debate and communication that is free of societal, cultural and political boundaries. This is why it is so important to keep the arts alive and make sure that we continue to preserve it for future generations to enjoy. After all, the most valuable thing that art does is inspire the imagination.