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What is art? And why should we care what it is?

An old debate with new relevance. At a time when the value of an idea is paramount, creative programs are being marginalized or eliminated in our education system. Is this a paradox or a symptom of our disassociation from independent thinking because we have reached the saturation point of knowledge?

If our base level of knowledge has out stripped our ability to assimilate it, does creative thinking decrease in the general population (like a glass that has been filled to the brim)?


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    Feb 2 2014: New knowledge owes its existence to art and creativity. What can be imagined is the precursor of what will eventually be enshrined in knowledge.

    I don't think there will ever be a saturation point of knowledge. It would only ever seem that way because of the apparent devaluing of the imagination that feeds it, from education upwards. I think that's happening right now, and will only lead to a stagnation of knowledge, rooted in the past.

    I say this because of my observations of what seems to be of value, and what gets rewarded. We reward The Enlightenment values of logic, knowledge, memory and mechanism. All else gets dubbed as "romanticism", "superstition", "pseudoscience", "fairy stories", "mythology", "metaphysics"... These cheap, conversation-stopping terms only serve to disable a vital thought process that could substantially hasten our quest for knowledge, if only given free-rein. Such thought processes begin in art.
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      Feb 2 2014: Do you truly believe that creativity and imagination, discovery and innovation are not widely valued, sought, often regarded with awe, and rewarded?
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        Feb 3 2014: The end results - the point at which knowledge is established - are rewarded, though I truly believe that the creative processes leading up to that end result, are very much devalued. And the further away from science it gets, the lesser the value.

        Reductive research programmes are regarded in our secular culture as sacrosanct, on the grounds that anything else would not be science. Reductionist science gets rewarded, even though it deals primarily with the parts rather than the whole.

        My view is that the whole needs to be understood first before analysing the parts. The arts are good at revealing 'the whole' to us by stimulating imagination, yet appears to be marginalised and unrewarded - increasingly so in our education systems.
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          Feb 3 2014: That's interesting, as my observation has been that creative thinkers across fields and those who break through normal ways of doing things are both sought after in the professional workplace and quite often held in awe by the general public.

          I am not well informed about the atmosphere in schools in the UK where you are. Arts specifically are a big, visible part of education in the States, with drama productions and music ensembles being very central in the life of the school, whether public or private. But also outside of the arts per se, creative work is highly valued, encouraged, and acknowledged both at school and as a factor in college admissions.
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        Feb 3 2014: I think that must be where the US and the UK differ Fritzie.

        The arts seem to be the poor relation to the sciences in terms of vocational eligibility and as acceptable ways of thinking generally. The mantra from successive UK government education agendas is "Reading, Writing and Arithmetic" (no mention of art), all wrapped up in a "top down" style of governance where teachers are very much undervalued and even demonised - especially by our current Education Secretary.

        I guess if the education system was run "bottom up" with teachers having a lot more say in what is taught, and to whom, the arts might then have remained safe within the curricula. I'd value your thoughts on that.

        Education sounds a lot more enlightened in the States from how you describe it.
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          Feb 4 2014: The quality of education varies across the country, as curriculum and funding are both decentralized. Literacy is, of course, an objective everywhere, but problem-solving is as well.

          In terms of career, only certain artistic avenues tend to connect to "jobs" in the United States as elsewhere. But creativity, flexibility, and the skills to draw ones own conclusions rather than believing what one happens to be told are understood to be dispositions that need to be cultivated to prepare young people for a future full of change.

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