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A Definition Of Civilization
All Human inventions are first thoughts before they become things. So the creations of communities, cities, governments, armies, achievements - everything that goes up to make a civilization, must spring from a community's thoughts. Hence:

Civilization is the tangible expression of a communal understanding.

Communal Understanding is that single perception allowed by the set of values common to each member of a community. It is generated and molded by the conversation of citizens associated with everyday events, and given action by the institutions of the society.

Conversation is the daily expression and exchange of individual opinions; a mechanism that can only echo and promote popular, while suppressing unpopular, notions. That is, all those ideas which match common feelings of right and wrong, will be repeated and magnified into reasons to act, while those which receive little or no support will inevitably be ignored; which makes conversation the ideas filter, or the mind, of the community.

A Community being that group of people who share the same language, customs, tradition and law.
A Communal Mind is similar in operation to an individual mind, except that in the latter case audible conversation is replaced by silent thoughts, but the mechanism of understanding is the same and consists of ideas, expressed in words, which are filtered by a code of values to determine which should become reasons for action. This does not mean that everyone believes what is popular, but unpopular concepts are ignored. Consequently:-
1. By sharing the same process of thought as individuals, communal minds are subject to the same shortcomings of understanding as individuals:
- Understanding appears only after the formation of a basic set of values (morality), which become an essential and immutable part of the creature. With the actual values adopted determining the character of that perception (culture ).
- Resolve depends upon their nature ; if they are selfish they will be impotent and deluded but if unselfish, they will have vitality and understanding .
- Sanity may be lost, a graphic example being the Nazi phenomenon, when a whole nation behaved like a lunatic.
- Age eventually renders them weak and insensible.

2. As words are the currency of thought, the use of language is critical to both private and public understanding, with the particular choice of words revealing the nature of an author's understanding. So the nature of the literature published by a community must reflect the nature of that community's understanding.
3. As the nature and concerns of communal conversation are echoed by the media, the media can be considered the mirror of the mind of our society, with the character displayed by the media being the character of our civilization.
4. All intelligence has a memory, and communal memory is made up of the traditions, manners, and ceremonies which retain the wisdom taught by experience through succeeding generations.

Further on Civilization
The great mystery is not that we should have been thrown down here at random between the profusion of matter and that of the stars; it is that from our very prison we should draw, from our own selves, images powerful enough to deny our nothingness.
André Malraux, Man's Fate (1933).

Up to about the year 1860, man's history had been conveniently divided into three distinct epochs: Ancient, Medieval and Modern.
After 1860, however, a new expression came into general use to describe the cultures of the distant past. Pre-history was the name given to that period of man's history before written documents appeared. We can now study man's pre-history through the field of archeology. Archeological remains can illuminate how and where early cultures lived, stored food and produced tools. We can learn of their religious practices, political organization and what type of relationships may have existed between man and woman, husband and wife, parent and child. Human artifacts uncovered by archeologists also reveal the existence of kings, plagues, famine, good harvests, wars and class structure. Of course, the history we obtain from archeological digs is by no means complete, especially when compared with man's more recent history (the past 500 years or so). For example, in 1945, the U.S. First Army captured 485 tons of records of the German Foreign Office just as these records were about to be burned on orders from Berlin. 485 tons of written records! And these records pertained only to the German Foreign Office. The point is that since the 15th century (and the development of movable type) the sheer number of written records has drastically increased and so too has the work of the historian become more complicated as a result.
When we think of the ancient world, we may perhaps think of the Hebrews, Greeks and Romans. The Hebrews gave us faith and morality; Greece gave us reason, philosophy and science; and Rome gave us law and government. This is, of course, a crude oversimplification, and the reason is obvious.
Western civilization developed before Greece or Rome. For instance, 3000 years before the greatest era of Greek history, civilizations flourished in Mesopotamia and in Egypt. These civilizations were urban, productive, religious and law abiding and in all meanings of the word, civilized. A solid working definition of civilization is difficult and depends upon your own judgment. Here are a few textbook definitions:
Civilization is a form of human culture in which many people live in urban centers, have mastered the art of smelting metals, and have developed a method of writing.
The first civilizations began in cities, which were larger, more populated, and more complex in their political, economic and social structure than Neolithic villages.
One definition of civilization requires that a civilized people have a sense of history - meaning that the past counts in the present.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines civilization as "the action or process of civilizing or of being civilized; a developed or advanced state of human society." Such a definition is fraught with difficulties. For instance, how might we correctly identify a "developed or advanced state of human society"? Developed or advanced compared to what? The OED defines the verb "to civilize" in the following way: "to make civil; to bring out of a state of barbarism; to instruct in the arts of life; to enlighten; to refine and polish." Are we any closer to a working definition?
In 1936, the archeologist V. Gordon Childe published his book Man Makes Himself. Childe identified several elements which he believed were essential for a civilization to exist. He included: the plow, wheeled cart and draft animals, sailing ships, the smelting of copper and bronze, a solar calendar, writing, standards of measurement, irrigation ditches, specialized craftsmen, urban centers and a surplus of food necessary to support non-agricultural workers who lived within the walls of the city. Childe's list concerns human achievements and pays less attention to human organization.

A Baseline Definition of Culture
People learn culture. That, we suggest, is culture's essential feature. Many qualities of human life are transmitted genetically -- an infant's desire for food, for example, is triggered by physiological characteristics determined within the human genetic code. An adult's specific desire for milk and cereal in the morning, on the other hand, cannot be explained genetically; rather, it is a learned (cultural) response to morning hunger.
Culture, as a body of learned behaviors common to a given human society, acts rather like a template (i.e. it has predictable form and content), shaping behavior and consciousness within a human society from generation to generation. So culture resides in all learned behavior and in some shaping template or consciousness prior to behavior as well (that is, a "cultural template" can be in place prior to the birth of an individual person).
This primary concept of a shaping template and body of learned behaviors might be further broken down into the following categories, each of which is an important element of cultural systems:
• Systems of meaning, of which language is primary
• Ways of organizing society, from kinship groups to states and multi-national corporations
• The distinctive techniques of a group and their characteristic products
Several important principles follow from this definition of culture:
• If the process of learning is an essential characteristic of culture, then teaching also is a crucial characteristic. The way culture is taught and reproduced is in itself an important component of culture.
• Because the relationship between what is taught and what is learned is not absolute (some of what is taught is lost, while new discoveries are constantly being made), culture exists in a constant state of change.
• Meaning systems consist of negotiated agreements - members of a human society must agree to relationships between a word, behavior, or other symbol and its corresponding significance or meaning. To the extent that culture consists of systems of meaning, it also consists of negotiated agreements and processes of negotiation.
• Because meaning systems involve relationships which are not essential and universal (the word "door" has no essential connection to the physical object - we simply agree that it shall have that meaning when we speak or write in English), different human societies will inevitably agree upon different relationships and meanings; this a relativistic way of describing culture.
If you have read through other discussions/definitions of culture on these pages, you probably already have the sense that there is much disagreement about the word and concept "culture" and you probably already realize that any definition, this one included, is part of an ongoing conversation (and negotiation) about what we should take "culture" to mean. For a very brief history of this debate, see the glossary entry for "culture"; for interpretive discussions and explorations of culture, visit the "Exploring Culture".

The "essence" of something is that part or property from which the thing's identity is derived. In other words, if you take away the essence of a thing, it loses its identity. The essence of a bicycle, for example, might be that it rides primarily on two wheels; devices which rely on one wheel aren't called bicycles, but rather "unicycles and those with more than two are identified as "tricycles," wagons, cars, etc. Similarly, when we talk about the "essential component" of something, we are speaking of that component which is most basic to its identity. (Note: "Essential" can also mean "necessary" - as in, Camilla's expertise is essential to the success of our efforts.)

A society is any group of people (or, less commonly, plants or animals) living together in a group and constituting a single related, interdependent community. This word is frequently taken to include entire national communities; we might, for instance, comment upon some aspect of U.S. society. Society can also be used to refer to smaller groups of people, as when we refer to "rural societies" or "academic society," etc. Society is distinguished from culture in that society generally refers to the community of people while culture generally refers to the systems of meaning -- what Greets calls "webs of significance" which govern the conduct and understanding of people's lives. Nevertheless, because of the close conceptual relationship between the community and its culture, the distinction between these words is often unclear in common use of "society" or its derivative words; for example, when we refer to "societal problems," we are referring to conflicts which have as much to do with culture as they do with society.

System of meaning
A system of meaning is a set of relationships between one group of variables (like words, behaviors, physical symbols, etc.) and the meanings which are attached to them. Relationships in meaning systems are arbitrary: there is no particular reason why the word "cat" should refer to a furry four-legged animal, for example. However, when a society agrees upon certain relationships between a certain class of variable (like words or behaviors) and their meanings, a system of meaning is established. Language is perhaps the most formal of human meaning systems. At the same time, we all know what it means to wink at someone or to give someone "the finger"; this suggests that human behavior, like language, can be a part of a complex and established system of meaning.

"Reproduction," as it is applied to culture, is the process by which aspects of culture are passed on from person to person or from society to society. There are a number of different ways in which this can happen.
The most common form of cultural reproduction is "enculturation," which one anthropologist describes as "a partly conscious and partly unconscious learning experience whereby the older generation invites, induces, and compels the younger generation to adopt traditional ways of thinking and behaving”.
Does enculturation work like a photocopy machine, reproducing everything mostly as it was? Of course not. Your hairstyles and music and diction are different in many ways from those of your parents; cultures are organic, growing and changing with the passing of time. However, enculturation is a powerful tool, and enculturation is the reason why, for example, people born in the U.S. drive on the right side of the road while people in Europe drive on the left. Parents and educators are two of the most influential enculturation forces; the Muslim studying the Qumran (or Koran) outside their teacher's house in the Old Quarter of Kino, Nigeria, are involved in a variety of enculturation processes.
Another important pattern of cultural reproduction is called "diffusion." Diffusion (which means "a spreading out") happens when patterns of cultural behavior or meaning are passed from one society to another. For example, when international leaders meet at a conference or summit, it is quite normal for all of the males to be wearing Western-style business suits -- even though such garb is hardly part of a cultural tradition in most parts of the world. This type of clothing, and its symbolic association with formality and professionalism, has spread out to many different cultures. Diffusion is also the reason why many U.S. citizens cherish sushi (a Japanese delicacy), live in "Santa Fe style" houses (incorporating Spanish and Native American architectural styles), and make everyday use of words like "boutique" (a French loan-word).

Anything that is taken to mean something beyond what it is can be said to be symbolic. The St.Paul’s ruins, for example, is often taken as a symbol for Macau; when it appears on a postcard or a sweatshirt, the picture represents -- symbolizes -- the entire city. The sound or written appearance of a word is always a symbol when someone hears or reads it and comprehends its meaning. On a larger cultural scale, a storm can symbolize troubled times in some cultures whereas in other cultures it can symbolize the blessing of the gods. For comparison, see "sign."
A sign is a variable - like a word, for example - which stands for another variable or meaning. The word "door" is a sign; the actual physical object indicated by the word "door" is called the "signified." The difference between a sign and a symbol is that a sign and its signified enjoy a more specific relationship than that between a symbol and what it symbolizes. For example, the word door stands for a more narrow range of meanings than a symbol like the St. Paul’s ruins in Macau, which, as a symbol of the city, can be called upon to have a much broader range of associations.
A recent etymology of the word "culture":
Look in an old dictionary such as Webster's we will likely find a definition of culture that looks something like this:
1. The cultivation of soil.
2. The raising, improvement, or development of some plant, animal or product" (Friend and Guralnik 1958). This use of the word has its roots in the ancient Latin word cultura, "cultivation" or "tending," and its entrance into the English language had begun by the year 1430 (Oxford English Dictionary). By the time the Webster's definition above was written, another definition had begun to take precedence over the old Latin denotation; culture was coming to mean "the training, development, and refinement of mind, tastes, and manners" (Oxford English Dictionary). The OED traces this definition, which today we associate with the phrase " high culture " back as far as 1805; by the middle of the 20th century, it was fast becoming the word's primary definition.
However, if you try a more modern source, like the American Heritage English Dictionary, you'll find a primary definition of culture which is substantially different than either of the two given above: "The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought." Why such a difference, and in such a (relatively) short period of time? Well, in the past 40 years, the use of the word "culture" has been heavily influenced by the academic fields of sociology and cultural anthropology. These fields have gradually brought what was once a minor definition of culture (the last of eight definitions given in the old 1958 Webster's quoted above) into the mainstream.
It is easy to imagine, as an example, how the American society was so focused on "socially transmitted behavior patterns" in the sixties would come to need a word to describe the object of its interest. The civil rights movement during this era brought everyone's attention to bear on cultural differences within U.S. society, while the Vietnam War served to emphasize the position of the U.S. culture in relation to other world cultures.
Over time, these new uses for the word culture have eclipsed its older meanings, those associated with cultivation of the land and the production of crops. One might say that an aspect of U.S. culture over the past 40 years is its fascination with the issue of culture itself -- a fascination which has brought about many changes in the way English is spoken by the different ethnical groups and the meanings of words that are commonly used.

Quotes on Culture
Culture is properly described as the love of perfection; it is a study of perfection.
Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, I, 1869

Cutlure looks beyond machinery, culture hates hatred; culture has one great passion, -- the passion for sweetness and light.
Matthew Arnold, Literature and Dogma, pref., 1873

Culture is to "know the best that has been said and thought in the world."
Matthew Arnold, Literature and Dogma, pref., 1873

That is true culture which helps us to work for the social betterment of all.
Henry Ward Beecher

A man should be just cultured enough to be able to look with suspicion upon culture.
Samuel Butler
Culture is everything. Culture is the way we dress, the way we carry our heads, the way we walk, the way we tie our ties -- it is not only the fact of writing books or building houses.
Aime Cesair, Martiniquen writer, speaking to the World Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris

Culture, with us, ends in headache.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Experience, 1841 [source: Esar]

No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.
Mahatma Gandhi

Culture of the mind must be subservient to the heart.
Mahatma Gandhi

Men are so inclined to content themselves with what is commonest; the spirit and the senses so easily grow dead to the impressions of the beautiful and perfect, that every one should study, by all methods, to nourish in his mind the faculty of feeling these things. ...For this reason, one ought every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship. Bk. v, ch. 1 (Carlyle, tr.) [source: Stevenson]

Rather than by your culture spoiled,
Desist, and give us nature wild.
Matthew Green, The Spleen, l. 248

Culture is like the sum of special knowledge that accumulates in any large united family and is the common property of all its members. When we of the great Culture Family meet, we exchange reminiscences about Grandfather Homer, and that awful old Dr. Johnson, and Aunt Sappho, and poor Johnny Keats.
Aldous Huxley

Culture is but the fine flowering of real education, and it is the training of the feeling the tastes and the manners that makes it so.
Minnie Kellogg, Iroquois leader

The poor have no business with culture and should beware of it. They cannot eat it; they cannot sell it; they can only pass it on to others and that is why the world is full of hungry people ready to teach us anything under the sun.
Aubrey Menen

A cultivated mind is one to which the fountains of knowledge have been opened, and which has been taught, in any tolerable degree, to exercise its faculties.
John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, II, 1863.

Culture is what your butcher would have if he were a surgeon.
Mary Pettibone Poole, A Glass Eye at a Keyhole (1938).

The primary indication, to my thinking, of a well-ordered mind is a man's ability to remain in one place and linger in his own company.
Seneca, Epistulae ad Lucilium. Epis. ii, sec. 1.

Culture is the habit of being pleased with the best and knowing why.
Henry van Dyke

Culture is an instrument wielded by professors to manufacture professors, who when their turn comes will manufacture professors.
Simone Weil, The Need for Roots (1949)

Are not the processes of culture rapidly creating a class of supercilious infidels, who believe in nothing? Shall a man lose himself in countless masses of adjustments, and be so shaped with reference to this, that, and the other, that the simply good and healthy and brave parts of him are reduced and clipp'd away, like the bordering of a box in a garden?
Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 1870


Any simple definition would be profoundly pretentious and tendentious, but we can say that all the definitions offered over the centuries include some notion of human agency, whether through manual skills (as in the art of sailing or painting or photography), intellectual manipulation (as in the art of politics), or public or personal expression (as in the art of conversation). As such, the word is etymologically related to artificial -- i.e., produced by human beings. Since this embraces many types of production that are not conventionally deemed to be art, perhaps a better term would be culture . This would explain why certain pre-industrial cultures produce objects which Eurocentric interests characterize as art, even though the producing culture has no linguistic term to differentiate these objects from utilitarian artifacts. For an interesting list of the various definitions that have preoccupied writers over the years, see definitions of art.
Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism [Summer 1980]), tries to avoid partisanship by simply listing the various ways art has been understood through history: (in no particular order) the product of conscious intention, self rewarding activity, a tendency to unite dissimilar things, a concern with change and variety, aesthetic exploitation of familiarity and surprise or tension and release, the imposition of order on disorder, the creation of illusions, indulgence in sensuousness, the exhibition of skill, a desire to convey meanings, indulgence in fantasy aggrandizement of self or others, illustration, the heightening of existence, revelation, personal adornment or embellishment, and so on.
In a brief review of new cave paintings discovered in France in 1995, critic Robert Hughes wrote: "art - communication by visual images - ... is, at its root, association - the power to make one thing stand for and symbolize another, and to create the agreements by which some marks on a surface denote, say, an animal, not just to the mark maker but to others" ("Behold the Stone Age," Time February 1995

ART has not always been what we think it is today. An object regarded as Art today may not have been perceived as such when it was first made, nor was the person who made it necessarily regarded as an artist. Both the notion of "art" and the idea of the "artist" are relatively modern terms.
Many of the objects we identify as art today -- Greek painted pottery, medieval manuscript illuminations, and so on -- were made in times and places when people had no concept of "art" as we understand the term. These objects may have been appreciated in various ways and often admired, but not as "art" in the current sense.
ART lacks a satisfactory definition. It is easier to describe it as the way something is done - "the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others" - rather than what it is.
The idea of an object being a "work of art" emerges, together with the concept of the Artist, in the 15th and 16th centuries in Italy.
During the Renaissance, the word Art emerges as a collective term encompassing Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, a grouping given currency by the Italian artist and biographer Giorgio Vasari in the 16th century. Subsequently, this grouping was expanded to include Music and Poetry which became known in the 18th century as the 'Fine Arts'. These five Arts have formed an irreducible nucleus from which have been generally excluded the 'decorative arts' and 'crafts', such as pottery, weaving, metalworking, and furniture making, all of which have utility as an end.
But how did Art become distinguished from the decorative arts and crafts? How and why is an artist different from a craftsperson?
In the Ancient World and Middle Ages the word we would translate as 'art' today was applied to any activity governed by rules. Painting and sculpture were included among a number of human activities, such as shoemaking and weaving, which today we would call crafts.

The term for ART in Greek (tekhne) and Latin (ars) does not specifically denote the 'fine arts' in the modern sense, but was applied to all kinds of human activities.
Art was characterized by Aristotle as a kind of activity based on knowledge and governed by rules. An individual became a painter or a sculptor, or a shoemaker, by learning the rules of the trade.
The Greeks applied rules as a means of bringing order to the perceived chaos of nature and the world around them. They consciously sought order, clarity, balance, and harmony in their works. Rules provided a measure of control, and through control a form of comprehension. To maintain order it is necessary to apply rules, and the tradition that supports them. This is the nature of the "classical" which is perforce traditional and conservative.
In this situation, painters and sculptors differed merely in their competence or capability in applying the rules of their trade. They were admired for how well they mastered the rules, for their technique and skills.
Neither the painter nor the sculptor, however, could be "inspired" or work according instinct or follow intuition. In Ancient Greece, painting and sculpture were distinguished from Poetry and Music, which were the products of divine inspiration and stood outside the rules governing mundane activity. Poetry and Music were both highly respected in the Ancient World. It is indicative of their relative status that Poetry and Music are assigned Muses, but not painting and sculpture.
The Greek word for a painter of a sculptor was banausos, meaning literally a mechanic. The term reflects the low social standing of the painter and sculptor in ancient society, which was based on the ancient contempt for manual work. This ancient Greek prejudice against those who work with their hands and who serve utilitarian interests still informs to some degree the distinction between the Fine Arts and the crafts.
The system of the so-called liberal arts was organized in the late antique period, after the time of Plato and Aristotle. Its early development is unclear, but a Martianus Capella seems to have been the first to list the seven liberal arts that later gained recognition: Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and Music. Of the Fine Arts, only Music is included.
Although attempts were made at one time or another to include painting and architecture among the liberal arts (by Pliny, Galen, Vitruvius, and Varro), the visual arts were generally ignored. Seneca explicitly denies a place for painting among the liberal arts.
The Greeks and the Romans recognized no system for the "fine arts", and regarded placed the visual arts among the manual crafts.
The early Middle Ages inherited from late antiquity the view of art as a "teachable" activity. It was during this time that the term artista was coined but which indicated not an "artist" in the modern sense, but either a craftsman or a student of the liberal arts.
Throughout the Middle Ages, painters and sculptors were afforded little status and remained largely anonymous. As in antiquity, delight was taken in their work, but it was admired in terms of workmanship, or for the use of colour or precious materials (gold, gems). Painters and sculptors were judged on their skill and technique.
The Middle Ages also inherited from antiquity the scheme of the seven liberal arts which served not only for a comprehensive classification of human knowledge, but also for the curriculum of monastic schools down to the 12th century. The liberal arts were by then divided into the Trivium (Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectic) and the Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and Music).
By the 12th and 13th centuries, the liberal arts had become an inadequate system for classifying knowledge, and with the rise of the universities other subject areas were established such as philosophy, medicine, jurisprudence, and theology.
At this time was formulated the seven mechanical arts (corresponding to the seven liberal arts): lanificium, armatura, navigatio, agricultura, venatio, medicina, and theatrica.
However, even within this scheme, painting and sculpture are listed in the company of several other crafts as subdivisions of armatura, and thus continued to occupy a subordinate position even among the mechanical arts.
The visual arts were confined to the artisans' guilds. Because they ground their colours, and had the same patron saint (St. Luke), painters belonged to the guild of apothecaries and physicians. Sculptors joined the goldsmiths' guild, while architects were associated with masons and carpenters.
During the Renaissance, there emerged a more exalted perception of art, and a concomitant rise in the social status of the artist. The painter and the sculptor were now seen to be subject to inspiration and their activities equated with those of the poet and the musician.
The period of the Renaissance (14th and 16th centuries) brought with it many important changes in the social and cultural position of the artist. Over the course of the period there is a steady rise in the status of the painter, sculptor, and architect and a growing sympathy expressed for the visual arts.
Painters and sculptors made a concerted effort to extricate themselves from their medieval heritage and to distinguish themselves from mere craftsmen.
At the beginning of the Renaissance, painters and sculptors were still regarded as members of the artisan class, and occupied a low rung on the social ladder. A shift begins to occur in the 14th century when painting, sculpture, and architecture began to form a group separate from the mechanical arts. In the 15th century, the training of a painter was expected to include knowledge of mathematical perspective, optics, geometry, and anatomy.
A major development in the Renaissance is the new emphasis on the realistic description of figures and objects in painting and sculpture. The call to "imitate nature" involved an almost scientific examination of optical phenomena. In order to make figures and objects appear three-dimensional, forms were "modeled" employing the optical principles of light and shade. These correctly rendered three-dimensional figures and objects were placed in a three-dimensional illusionistic space created through the newly developed device of linear perspective.
The knowledge and use of scientific methods placed painting and sculpture on a new basis that was intellectual, theoretical, literary, and scientific. Painters and sculptors could now claim that their profession required intellectual ability and knowledge. This permitted the claim that they were superior to mere craftsmen, and that painting and sculpture should be recognized as liberal arts.
Painters and sculptors also argued that they stood equal to poets; poetry and rhetoric, of course, were accepted as liberal arts. Part of the basis for this claim was the notion that painting and poetry were "sister arts", a concept the Renaissance developed from Horace's dictum Ut pictura poesis ("as a painting, so a poem"), and Simonides' description of painting as muta poesis ("silent poetry") and poetry as pictura loquens ("painting that speaks").
It is through this association with the poets that the concept of the "artist" as we know it begins to emerge.
During the Renaissance the revival of Plato and Platonism helped spread the notion of the divine inspiration of the poet, which Plato compared with that of the religious prophet. According to Plato, poets and musicians, prophets, were divinely inspired (a term originally meaning to breathe or blow into, and now understood as meaning to be filled with supernatural power or energy) and infused with enthusiasm ("en-theism" meaning possessed by a god, supernatural inspiration, prophetic or poetic frenzy).
In effect, the gods inspired, or spoke through, poets and musicians in same way god also spoke through prophets: to prophesy is to utter with divine inspiration.
The ancients believed that poets and prophets were inspired by a tutelary deity or attendant spirit, which the Romans called genius, that communicated to the world through chosen individuals. In the Renaissance, the source of inspiration became identified not with some pagan god or antique muse but with God himself.
It was at this time that artists such as Michelangelo began to be described by their contemporaries as "divine". At the same time there emerged the important of the artist as creator, a word formerly reserved for God alone.
This link with the divine immeasurable enhanced the status of the artist.
In the 16th century the new image emerges of the artist as genius, giving to eccentric behavior, or even slightly mad. The artist also appears as an intellectual given to abnormal modes of thought, and regarded as an inspired and special individual.
At the same time, the artist's work was regarded as unique and imbued with the artist's divinely-inspired creativity; in certain cases, an artist's work became the object the object of special pilgrimage and reverence. This attitude has perhaps grown over the centuries.
In the latter half of the 16th century the first academies of art were founded, first in Italy, then in France, and later elsewhere. Academies took on the task of educating the artist through a course of instruction that included such subjects as geometry and anatomy. Out of the academies emerged the term "Fine Arts" which held to a very narrow definition of what constituted art.

The institutionalizing of art in the academies eventually provoked a reaction to its strictures and definitions in the 19th century at which time new claims were made about the nature of painting and sculpture. By the middle of the century, "modernist" approaches were introduced which adopted new subject matter and new painterly values. In large measure, the modern artists rejected, or contradicted, the standards and principles of the academies and the Renaissance tradition. By the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, artists began to formulate the notion of truth to one's materials, recognizing that paint is pigment and the canvas a two-dimensional surface. At this time the call also went up for "Art for Art's Sake."

The Twentieth Century
In the early 20th century all traditional notions of the identity of the artist and of art were thrown into disarray by Marcel Duchamp and his Dada associates. In ironic mockery of the Renaissance tradition which had placed the artist in an exalted authoritative position, Duchamp, as an artist, declared that anything the artist produces is art. For the duration of the 20th century, this position has complicated and undermined how art is perceived but at the same time it has fostered a broader, more inclusive assessment of art.

Today the questions What is Art? and What is an Artist? are not easily answered, therefore should not be randomly applied.
According to William Rubin, director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, "there is no single definition of art." The art historian Robert Rosenblum believes that "the idea of defining art is so remote today" that he doesn't think "anyone would dare to do it."
Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, states that there is "no consensus about anything today," and the art historian Thomas McEvilley agrees that today "more or less anything can be designated as art."
Arthur Danto, professor of philosophy at Columbia University and art critic of The Nation, believes that today "you can't say something's art or not art anymore. That's all finished." In his book, After the End of Art, Danto argues that after Andy Warhol exhibited simulacra of shipping cartons for Brillo boxes in 1964, anything could be art. Warhol made it no longer possible to distinguish something that is art from something that is not.
What has finished, however, is not artistic production, but a certain way of talking about art. Artists, whoever they are, continue to produce, but we, non-artists, are no longer able to say whether it is art or not. But at the same time, we are no longer comfortable with dismissing it as art because it fails to fit what we think art should be (whatever that is).
We struggle with this because we have been taught that art is important and we're unwilling to face up to the recently revealed insight that art in fact has no "essence." When all is said and done, "art" remains significant to human beings and the idea that now anything can be art, and that no form of art is truer than any other, strikes us as unacceptable, yet it is everywhere.

The Functions of Art
• Religious
• Political
• Social
• Intellectual

Other Important aspects
• Cities as birthplaces for Culture.
• Art as seen in Eastern and Western Cultures.
• Daoism and Humanism
• Religion and the main concept of Time as an equation for Cultural and Artistic development.
• Technology as part of the art expression.

These are some of the foundations that can lead to a discussion on Art.




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