The role of the arts in society

The Eighteenth Weimar Classicists’ (e.g., Goethe, Shiller) conception of art expanded past the arts themselves, but also embraced all elements of society.  John Armstrong states:

The aim of art is to ennoble us, to make us whole and balanced; then we can engage maturely and sensibly  in political processes.  The aim of their “classical art” is to promote a kind of lucid inner stillness and equilibrium: it aims to heal us, to soothe our agitation and focus our strength.  Their approach was “classical” not so much because its sometimes drew upon Greek or Roman prototypes – as does Goethe’s Iphigenia in Tauris – but rather in the sense of “classical” meaning centred and calm, vital but poised: like an ideal Greek athletic.  The ambition of art should be directed to spreading energetic sanity – and the more of that there is around the better the body politic is likely to perform.  What is crass and destructive is agitating people and spurring immature zeal.  Politics, however important, is a secondary activity – the mark of the good state is that it nurtures and multiplies the virtues of its citizens; but it is classic art which is the true home of these qualities.

John Armstrong (2007) Love, Life, Goethe.  London: Penguin Books, pp.255-256.