Importance of Liberal Arts

importance of art

Throughout history, in most societies, bitter feuds have broken out between two rival camps, ‘business’ on the one hand and ‘the arts’ on the other.

In the business camp, have been the traders, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, financiers and the more commercially-minded politicians and scientists. And in the arts camp have been not only painters and sculptors, but also philosophers, poets, playwrights, photographers, novelists, gardeners, psychotherapists, preachers and theologians.  

Business might be necessary, but it was a shameful life in comparison with that of learning and writing. In 18th-century Prussia, under the rule of Frederick the Great, aristocrats were forbidden by law from engaging in mercantile careers – which were thought to lack the revered military virtues of courage and honour. For the Romantic poets and artists of the 19th century, business seemed wholeheartedly uncouth and tedious.

Amidst all the criticism of business by the arts, perhaps one stands out above all: business people have, it has been alleged, been deformed by their love of money; greed has withered their souls.

The world has not been enriched by this trench warfare between the arts and business. The two sides would have so much to teach one another if only they could overcome their mutual suspicions.

Recently Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison Raised the Fees of Arts Degree by 113% and reduced STEM degrees fees by almost 60% by calling Arts as Useless Degree which does not contribute in job generation and GDP growth , the step is a major discouragement towards Humanities and Art subjects which are equally crucial and important for a healthy society and culture.

The stress on business greed has missed the point. The sort of business people who come in for criticism are not in fact primarily greedy. The more revealing word to use when trying to understand them is pessimistic. Despite being on the side of money, many business people have been surprisingly pessimistic about how money can be made, which is what ultimately underpins the activities that have led artists to their denunciations.

It can seem like a strange assertion to make. But this sadness shows itself in Four big assumptions that operate beneath the workings of business:  

1. Customers won’t give a damn about Workers

A great many businesses employ the very cheapest labour they can find on the planet. They negotiate contracts which mean people will have to work in dangerous or uncomfortable factories and warehouses.

It’s tempting to look at this from the outside and think that it is pure nastiness driving these decisions: employers screw their workers, because they are greedy, but really, it is because they are pessimistic about their customers.

After all, the acceptability of price is all in the hands of the audience. It’s not a personal longing on the part of businesses to have people work for as little as possible. The low salaries just stem from a rather pessimistic assumption that unless businesses stick to rock-bottom wages, customers will just go elsewhere and their enterprises will fail.

Many businesses have internalised this idea very profoundly; the customer is essentially selfish.

2. Customers have low appetites that can’t be improved

Guilty pleasures: Swiss unashamed of their growing appetite for US ...

There’s a deep fear in many areas of business that high-mindedness, earnestness, and complexity are fatal to sales and that any attempt to ‘raise’ the aspirations of consumers in these directions is guaranteed to lose money. For example, there’s a pessimism around what would happen if you tried buck the trend and promoted something healthy at the fast-food counter, or made certain magazines a bit more thoughtful or didn’t use a particular celebrity to promote your product. It wouldn’t be greed holding back corporate strategists from undertaking such initiatives. It would be a view of human nature. As the business mantra goes: no one ever failed to make money underestimating the tastes of the public.

Three: The only way to sell is through deception

There’s a painful background belief that in order to thrive, a business must use advertising to make enormous claims for its rather modest products, and ideally connect them up with semi-conscious, exaggerated promises around success and sex.

The only way to sell is through deception

The people behind this advert don’t themselves believe that buying a music player is closely connected to the experience of physical intimacy with a gamine beauty or gentle hipster in San Francisco. But they are confronted with some gloomy facts about human nature: that people will as a matter of fact buy music machines if you present them with such images and suggestions.

Four: You can only make big money from the bottom of the pyramid

It is a striking fact. Most of the big and most profitable corporations on the planet address needs grouped at the lower levels of Maslow’s famous pyramid of needs.

Maslow Need Hierarchy theory

These businesses are efficiently targeting basic needs: food, shelter, security, communication  and energy. They are engaged in real estate, mining, oil, insurance or transport. The oil company doesn’t care much what your journey is about, so long as you travel a lot; the real estate corporation isn’t concerned with the kind of life you live in your apartment, so long as you pay the rent.

It’s not that people in business simply don’t care about meaning, creativity and the pursuit of self-knowledge. It’s just that they have a pessimistic conviction that it is extremely hard (and almost impossible) to make money from these more elusive and private concerns

It is these pessimistic ideas about commerce and work that lead many companies – and the people who run them – to appear greedy. But I believe that the decisive factor here isn’t actually greed. It’s a pained vision of life in which any higher aspiration seems at once condemned to failure. A business has no option but to try to turn a profit, and that means it has no option but to operate by certain notions of the demands and psychology of its clients and workers. And this, the argument goes, requires the kind of capitalism we currently have.

If this antidote has never been explored, it’s no coincidence. It’s because business has some deep suspicions of its own when it comes to the arts. The whole field seems simply utterly useless. When you look round at what really counts in the world, none of it seems to have anything very much to do with the arts. The big corporations are concerned about millions of things – drilling rights, exchange rates, employment laws, tax credits, regional instability, technological advances. But the arts appear to be entirely marginal to all this. They are just an upmarket area of entertainment, a hobby. You might know of a CEO who paints watercolours to relax; or a wealthy family who subsidise the opera. This isn’t a problem at all.

art museum

But it shows you where the arts fit in – you might get involved in the arts, once you have made money. The arts use up money, they don’t make it. Furthermore, though in theory we live in a post-gender era, the arts retain markedly and negatively ‘feminine’ connotations. Business inevitably involves tough choices; it sets a premium on the idea of being strong and masculine. So anything that hints at softness is suspect – as rendering a person unfit for the key tasks.

In essence, for business, the arts look like something you might get interested once you have succeeded. But they can’t help you succeed.


But both sides have, in this arena, been too pessimistic. There’s a way of considering the arts which brings out a hitherto unexplored and highly intriguing degree of value for business.

With the right mindset, we can go through the six pessimistic assumptions, one by one, and see alternative – more optimistic – attitudes that are systematically available through the history and practice of the arts.

1.The skill of exciting Sympathy

Art refuses to believe that humans don’t care about one another. It is extremely ambitious about the possibility of emotional connections between strangers. The whole basis of many artistic works has been the desire to create sympathy where none initially existed.

A primary skill of a good artist is the art of teaching us to see a common humanity beneath the surface anonymity and otherness. In the 19th century, George Eliot saw her primary task as a writer as that of helping us appreciate ‘all that is ordinary in human life’ and attuning us to the minor joys and sorrows of others, down to ‘the squirrel’s heart beat …’

Her technique didn’t involve telling her readers they ought to care. She didn’t scold. Instead she described people’s lives carefully, feeling that the more we know about how other people are and feel, the more we will care. She was deeply against overt didacticism and lecturing about the plight of the poor.

Eliot’s style was ‘psychological realism’, she gave her readers a sense of what it was to be other people, and then let readers come to their own conclusions – which they have been doing successfully for over a hundred years.

2.The skill of raising taste

Raising taste, means helping people come to a new appreciation of qualities and things that they hadn’t been much interested in before.

The history of culture shows some extraordinary possibilities for getting people to care about new things. For example, up until around 1919 no one had really thought that you could like a painting even though it was completely abstract – and didn’t try to represent anything.

Then along came Piet Mondrian who created a revolution in taste. He avoided painting trees or sunsets or mothers and babies so as to focus our attention more clearly on some distinctive abstract qualities: harmony, balance, purity. Mondrian was shaping and raising taste: he was assisting his audience to see the attraction and value of things of which they would otherwise have been sceptical. And he was amazingly successful. A painting by Mondrian now costs the price of a small jet aircraft.

Three: You can advertise good things

Business is familiar with the idea of seduction, but it takes a limited view of where seduction can be usefully deployed.  The arts however, have often taken a very positive and ambitious use of seduction. They have used charm to try to ‘sell’ difficult and higher things.

The ancient Greeks, for instance, often presented rationality (the potentially austere demand that we think carefully and logically) via the god Apollo. But they made sure that Apollo was a hugely attractive character. He looked like a cross between a model and a football player. His hair was always a tumble of locks. His forearms were strong.

The underlying idea is that enthusiasm for good things isn’t just the result of purely rational considerations. We get swayed by beauty, by sexual associations and by charm. We should understand and respond to these facts. Of course they can be abused. But they can also be put to very constructive use.

Four: The skill of commodifying higher needs

The arts address the top level of Maslow’s pyramid of needs: they are concerned with the pursuit of meaning and the exploration of individuality and freedom. At certain key moments, the arts have succeeded in commodifying experiences in these areas and turning them into very profitable commercial operations.

So the pessimistic idea that big profits cluster around lower needs isn’t justified. A useful way of looking at the arts is as a set of businesses directed at our elevated needs. There are enormous commercial possibilities at the top of the pyramid.

Five: The skill of motivating a workforce

The cynical and pessimistic idea is that at heart people only really work for money. The fact is though, across history, people have regularly been touched by other big motivating ambitions.

The Medieval monks who designed and constructed the buildings on the Scottish island of Iona didn’t have competitive salary packages. They worked because they were motivated by an idea that had been compellingly presented to them: that their labour would be pleasing to God.

The arts are our best mechanism for transmitting ideas of purpose and ambition and closed thing to relgion and god

6. How to care about staff psychology

It can seem hard-nosed, efficient and ‘grown up’ to give little attention to what’s going on inside the minds of employees. They are there to do a job. There’s been a tendency in business to give prestige to an attitude of indifference to emotional complications.

It’s not that there’s a big conviction that staff psychology is actually irrelevant to corporate success. Clearly there are ways in which an employee’s psychological hang-ups or difficulties can compromise a project: someone who is too much of a people pleaser will hold back on raising a difficult issue and thus be dangerously slow to let others know about a brewing problem; problems around rivalry mean good ideas will get rejected because of who came up with them.

Rhetorical Triangle

Real though these issues are, dealing with them has low prestige. They might, in fact be the gateway to greater profitability than cutting a new deal, but the dealmaker will get the limelight.

What we’ve been seeing via the arts, is a set of reasons to be less pessimistic about business.

An incidental skill of the arts has been to correct the pessimistic account of how money can be made. Specifically the arts do this by identifying a range of skills and ideas around inner life, communication, how to change people’s minds and what you can be ambitious about.

Because we meet these things in the arts, it’s a ready assumption to think that they naturally belong in the arts. But really the arts are only a rather modest outlet for big capacities that exist far more widely. It’s more important that these abilities get used in our major industries than they are used for making things that sit in art galleries and on poetry bookshelves.

Art programs within education has its importance in not only expanding the mind but keeping kids off the streets and out of the correctional system. Studies show that students with art programs are three times more likely to graduate than those who don’t. Art programs give kids somewhere to express themselves if they don’t have the support to do that at home, it also gets kid to think creatively and innovatively, expanding a kids way of thinking in general. Kids that had access to art programs or afterschool programs had better grades, it allowed them to improve their overall skills in school. All of these things are ways that kids keep from getting “bored” in school and getting in with the wrong crowd. Keeping art programs in schools is an important way to keep our kids safe and smart.

Philosophy is the foundation of critical thinking.

While society is very different today from when the founding figures of Western philosophy were making their mark, the questions we face today are just as challenging. Enter modern philosophy, which puts critical thinking and problem-solving at the forefront in order to make sense of these weighty problems.

In a recent WEF Future of Jobs and Skills Report 2020 clearly say

Five years from now, over one-third of skills (35%) that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed.

WEF Future of Jobs and Skills report 2020

These developments will transform the way we live, and the way we work. Some jobs will disappear, others will grow and jobs that don’t even exist today will become commonplace. What is certain is that the future workforce will need to align its skillset to keep pace.

future of jobs and skills

The top 10 skills needed to survive doesn’t have any Technical skills at all – Critical thinking,Creativity,Emotional intelligence,Judgment and Decision making,Diplomacy etc all of these skills are taught in depth in art/humanities subjects.

2. Philosophy has particular meaning in the business world.

At first pass, a “soft” science like philosophy may not seem especially relevant to business. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Frankfurt School of Finance & Management professor of philosophy Christine Tiefensee explains that anyone who wants to succeed in a challenging, leading position in business, public administration, politics, or the wider society needs a crucial set of skills.

“You will need to see quickly through complex issues, put together convincing arguments for or against given proposals, filter relevant from irrelevant information, check the consistency and soundness of policy papers, decide which problems are crucial and identify the issues that are still badly understood. These skills of rigorous analysis, sound argument and critical examination are the bread-and-butter of philosophy: no subject trains our ability for consistent, systematic thought better than philosophy.”

Christine Tiefensee,Professor of Philosophy

These skills aren’t limited to the business world, however. They can be applied in virtually any context — both professional and personal.

Students who learn philosophy get a great many benefits from doing so.  The tools taught by philosophy are of great use in further education, and in employment. Despite the seemingly abstract nature of the questions philosophers ask, the tools philosophy teaches tend to be highly sought-after by employers.  Philosophy students learn how to write clearly, and to read closely, with a critical eye; they are taught to spot bad reasoning, and how to avoid it in their writing and in their work.

Persuasive Powers:


 Philosophy provides training in the construction of clear formulations, good arguments, and appropriate examples. It, thereby, helps us to develop our ability to be convincing. We learn to build and defend our own views, to appreciate competing positions, and to indicate forcefully why we consider our own views preferable to alternatives. These capacities can be developed not only through reading and writing in philosophy, but also through the philosophical dialogue, both within and outside the classroom, that is so much a part of a thorough philosophical education.

Writing Skills: 

Writing is taught intensively in many philosophy courses, and many regularly assigned philosophical texts are also excellent as literary essays. Philosophy teaches interpretive writing through its examination of challenging texts, comparative writing through emphasis on fairness to alternative positions, argumentative writing through developing students’ ability to establish their own views, and descriptive writing through detailed portrayal of concrete examples. Concrete examples serve as the anchors to which generalizations must be tied. Structure and technique, then, are emphasized in philosophical writing. Originality is also encouraged, and students are generally urged to use their imagination to develop their own ideas.

In conclusion , we need both science and Arts to live a fulfilling and meaningful life which is deeply satisfying. While Science feeds our bodily and physical needs to survive in world , Arts and Philosophy is equally important for us to feed our soul and mind through creativity and self knowledge to attain our higher spiritual needs of it teaches us how to live and die, if science helps us to answer physical world objective answers, arts can help us to know the answers of subjective questions of our inner world which science cannot answer.

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