Thursday, September 6, 2018

What Is the Purpose of Art?

There are many people out there who believe art to be useless. And, on the surface, it is. However, in truth, it is one of the most important forces driving individuals and whole societies to become better versions of themselves ...

Art may not save lives in a biological sense, but it does save souls.

There are professions people respect more than others. There are people who save human lives, and there are people who just shove piles of paper across their desks. There are people who help other people to live a happy life, and there are people who work solely for the goal of making money.

And there also are artists. What do they do?

Does Art Have Any Value?

I often see artists accused of not producing any value. Many people think that expressing oneself and creating pretty things doesn't help anybody.

And, on the surface, they seem to be right.

Books or songs can't cure diseases. A painting can't create a place for homeless people. One's talent to play piano doesn't create jobs. And sculpting certainly doesn't help with technological progress.

So is art worthless then?

Saving Souls

Well, I bet most of us can name at least one artwork that has changed our life significantly. For example, I don't think I would like a version of myself that hasn't read The Lord of the Rings, Crime and Punishment and All Quiet on the Western Front. These are books that have instigated important developments in my life, that have helped me to develop certain interests and skills and that overall have made me a better person.

Moreover, while a book may not be able to save a person from imminent danger, it can still save a life nonetheless. There are quite many people who feel that good stories, amazing paintings and/or touching songs have helped them through depression and suicidal thoughts.

Art may not save lives in a biological sense, but it does save souls. And thus also lives - indirectly.

Creating Community

When art saves souls it often works through creating communities. It brings together people with a similar taste and interests, maybe even people facing the same or similar issues in life. Even just enjoying art passively creates friendships. It creates a bond between an artist and his audience, and it creates a bond between fans of one and the same artist or genre.

Art brings people together and thus makes them happier.

On a Large Scale

Now let's take a look at the next step: Saving the souls of individuals and then bringing them together creates a significant impact on the whole society. When a society internalizes certain ideals it can lead to a general shift in the way people feel, think and act.

And in the end, art indirectly impacts humanity as a whole.

Art Is Everything

A society without art is doomed. It is devoid of any progress, since (even technological) progress always happens first in the mind. Art is what makes humanity what it is, and it is one of the forces of everlasting improvement. Even though the impact of art on our world is usually invisible, it is still crucial.


  1. I simplify people into two broad categories: builders and destroyers. Artists fall into the builders category, they produce things useful to others. I tend to believe that each individual is born to fulfill a role. Among those are healer, thinker, leader, follower, enforcer, and so on. These character assignments provide us with the possibility of some sort of satisfaction on a day to day basis but don't mean that one is better than another.

    1. This is an interesting worldview. But it makes me wonder: What about artists who destroy outdated ideas? Because sometimes you have to destroy something old in order to build something new. Or is this destroying-for-building a subcategory of building?


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