What is the highest form of art?
Imagine if you will an ancient Greek city-state where once a year there is a week long festival celebrating the ingenuity of the human mind and creative spirit. During this month, all of the self proclaimed artists from the surrounding area come to this place for the purposes of mingling with other artists, and of course lauding their own particular works.
However, over the years the size of festival has outgrown the size of the city and the artists who once mingled freely have become to grow unmanageable, unable to decide how much of the city should be devoted each particular medium, each one of course believing theirs should have more than all the rest. Being the wise, benevolent dictator that you are, you decide to have a hearing so that you may choose which art and artists best deserve the right to come this festival, however it has already been made clear only one form of art (and in the case of some, one subset of a form) can be allowed to come to the festival, no more. Small groups representing each of the respective mediums shuffle into your courtyard and stand, waiting to be heard.
Fittingly, the philosophers begin the discourse. They argue (and would have had more to say had they not argued among themselves so much) that they impart direct truth to humankind and produce not only the most important art, but reasons for all art itself.
The poets argue that that’s nonsense. Philosophers deliver truth sure, but blunt truth. The poets say that they are responsible for giving the world beautiful truth, though they disagree with one another about the precise source of their art. However, the poets do agree that their works are the oldest of all human art, and the kind that will likely survive the longest, in some form or another, via oral traditions or underlying themes.
Here, the painters, sculptors, and architects all contend that that’s false and that mankind has been creating visual art from the very beginning, not poetry. They say that every culture that is known of has left some trace of themselves behind in the form of the visual arts, but here the painters and architects break off into their own argument, painters stating that theirs is the more common and personal art, architects that theirs is the grandest and most impressive, sculptors being ignored as they contend that statues are the best compromise between the two extremes.
The playwrights and actors have been bickering over who is more important, the one who creates the work or those who perform it, but do not hesitate to take this opportunity and begin explaining that while all of the other arts mentioned so far are dead, theater is alive because each new performance is a rebirth. It adapts to the time and place according to the actors and audience, and is both literature and visual, surely the highest art of all.
The philosophers take a break from talking among themselves and vehemently protest the assertion that all other arts are dead. The audience, the perceiver, is the one responsible for new life, and as long as any of the mediums have an audience, they will be alive.
The musicians have been silent up until now, only considered to be at the festival for entertainment purposes, but several stand up and say that surely music is the most important art, able to be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of their language, literacy, or nationality. It is the purest expression of creativity, and able to be shared by anyone who can play an instrument or sing.
The visual artists are cohesive again and they argue that their works can do the same and are much less subject to change or the winds of time the way a particular melody might be, and don’t rely on the performance. Music as an art can be ruined by just one person involved- as can theater -while they need only rely on the eyes on their audience.
Physical art is subject to the weatherings of time! someone shouts out.
And philosophers are a bunch of boy-loving faggots! yells another.
A riot breaks out among the representatives and your soldiers repress them, then kick them outside. You say you’ll make your announcement tomorrow and retire for the night. You get up next morning, get dressed, and walk out to give your decision.
What do you say?