Has there been any progress at all in philosophy since Confucius? Or in literature since Aeschylus? How does contemporary architecture bold, original and impressive as it is compare with the temples of ancient Egypt or Greece or our sculptures with those of the parthenon.
This is a passage from The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant and it got me thinking whether one way to ‘define’ the arts is that they are the areas in which we cannot make any progress in. For example one would certainly not be able to say that our knowledge of the natural numbers is the same as that of Pythagoras or that our understanding of the physical world is the same as Empedocles with his idea of the four natural elements? This is not to play down the insight and imagination of these early thinkers it is just to point out that in the latter examples we seem to unequivocally be able to say we have progressed in ability and understanding whereas in the former ones we don’t seem to be able to. I wonder if this shows that arts are a constantly regenerating phenomenon that must constantly evolve to captivate the minds of those who experience them? It also begs the question as to what areas are much more grey. Maths seems to have made progress, comedy not so much, but what about logic? What are some areas where the distinction between have/haven’t made progress is harder to identify?