Arete

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Arete

From Brian K. Yoder

Published before 2005


Khaimraj wrote:
Interesting position. In the course of my day, I get to see all kinds of things. I agree that lots of interesting things are being done in sequential art and video game environment design. I often wonder what Leonardo would have done had he been born into this day and age. Certainly he'd be at the cutting edge of technology.

But I still think we've lost something vital from the past, something Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio, and on and on, something they all knew intimately, and that is the danger of a power-focus. Most popular "art" today from anime to the modernists and post-modernists in the galleries are focused, driven and centered on the issue of power at the expense of wisdom, character and beauty.

I think there's something to what you say there (assuming you are talking about power like Nietzsche rather than like Edison). I think that part of that shift has been as a result in the complete loss of belief in certain traditional (medieval) concepts that have been considered "Wisdom". In essence, they have thrown the baby out with the bath water. They have thrown away wisdom as such rather than just the bad bits of medieval Christian dogma that clearly aren't workable or good. As long as virtue and wisdom are seen as synonymous with suffering and disregard for this world we are going to see a lot of people rejecting wisdom and virtue. In earlier ages those who rejected those bad ideas were still nominally Christian (how could they have survived otherwise?) but today many people (artists especially) have abandoned religion entirely, and everything else they associate it with too.

I consider THIS loss to be the great tragedy of our age, and the heart of what must be remembered and regained from the masters of the past. Arete' is more than excellence in skill, it is excellence in character more than anything else.

I have always liked that word. I find it fascinating that we have to go all the way back to ancient Greek to find a word to express such an obviously useful concept. It's definitely one that needs to be re-grafted onto the tree of western culture.

-- Brian