Monday, October 06, 2008

The Dangers of Ignorance

I heard a story on either Fresh Air or PRI's The World about the dangers of innumeracy, the lack of awareness about numbers and math. And I've read blog posts on the dangers of being ignorant about science. So it made me wonder: what is the danger of being unpossessing of musical knowledge, or knowledge of the fine arts in general? One could speak of living an enriched life, but is it dangerous to live an unenriched life? It is potentially sad, but are there any studies that show this could lower life expectancy or theories that culturally ignorant people are more likely to act violently towards others? And then what constitutes knowledge. I'm reading a book by Jerrold Levinson, Music in the Moment, that argues against the necessity to have conscious awareness of musical structure in order to "understand" any particular piece. Levinson claims that understanding music is the same as attending to the music as it is being played, no underlying theoretical knowledge need be applied. I haven't finished the book yet, so I don't know if I agree with this (I'm leaning towards "no"), but there are certainly arguments that knowing too much about the arts destroys their magical effect. What say you?

PS. My blog seems to be under some sort of attack not by a troll, but rather by someone who enjoys writing violent, misogynistic, and generally sexually immature comments. Anybody else with problems like this?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I was wandering through various websites on the Internet when I found your blog. This particular post was intriguing to me.

While fine art in terms of history and technique can be forgotten, I suspect the exploration of art itself will simply develop and wane as all things of interest do. While people always seem to argue about the nature of art, I think of it largely as a medium of communication and exploration of ideas. This is something people tend to do no matter what is learned or forgotten. This means forgotten techniques can be rediscovered over time. It also means that current culture is always analyzed and evaluated through someone's artistic lens.

Because of this, I don't know if there would be any physical harm by being ignorant of the history of fine art. The specifics and cultural history would be lost, but the essence or technique would be rediscovered eventually. The big issue is relevancy. Until college (maybe) no one really learns things just to learn them. Most of the time, people need a reason, and it's hard to justify why various art forms need exposure. There aren't a lot of people who see the function such things take in society. As a result, no one will take the time to learn about them unless they're forced to. In fact, when I was in college I heard about a student being kicked out the school theatre just before a show was about to start. She was apparently there on homework assignment and decided she could just kick her feet up on the stage and take a nap while the play was starting. One of the teachers came over and kicked her out on the spot. If people don't see a reason they're just not going to care. And once people stop caring, that's when all this accumulated knowledge gets lost.