I'm reading Anna Karenina right now. It's enjoyable. I think many people would get something out of it if they read it. But most people never did. The majority has never been "well-read". And so, if we can make the majority well-equipped with information (by destroying impenetrable silos and distributing their grain), who cares if that doesn't have any other effect? The person who is well-informed will not necessarily be the same person who has received an excellent liberal arts education any more, but at least ze'll be well-informed.
Edit: clarity. I never intended to say anything about the classics' value, only their past and future popularity.
(in hindsight, the former could easily have been an interpretation of the post)
I absolutely agree that reading some classics would be valuable for anyone, but I think it would be hard to learn anything concrete from a lot of what is considered "art".
My argument was that we aren't destroying the silos because we hate the information, we're destroying them because we hate the silos. And if that's beneficial, who cares if most people, who wouldn't have otherwise read Russian literature or listened to Mozart, still don't?
Who cares if other people, who most likely wouldn't have read the manual for their computer, still don't?
I mean, Google is obviously supplanting the manual for a lot of things, but the point is much the same. If people read the fucking manual, they'll have a lot fewer problems. And a lot of the classics are pretty damn good manuals for life.
I'd venture that someone could spend a lifetime attempting to read/listen to the 'classics' and still not fully accomplish that goal. So does this mean that we should all dwell in the past and eschew the future? Or that we should eschew the past and focus on the future?
I said often, not always. Also, it tends to be an amalgam of different pasts. Like right now what the US is doing in the Middle East looks a whole lot like Athens during the Peloponnesian War, and what we're doing financially looks like what Japan did.
So, I do think it is an accurate phrase, but misunderstood.
Quite true, but classics focus on distilling principles. If the authors' thinking was valid then, there isn't any reason it shouldn't be valid now, as I've been arguing that at least parts of the past repeat.
I think that in a lot of cases, if you're looking to learn something "concrete" from a piece of art, or art in general, you might be looking at it the wrong way. A lot of the best art is instructive in some way, but not the same way that a wikipedia article or a technical how-to is.