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What is the point of art?

Philosophers have given wildly different answers over the centuries

By Naomi Goulder  

Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), in a fresco by Raphael

The Tate has among its explicit priorities “to develop people” and “to inspire learning.” But how exactly does art develop and inspire us? And what is its special advantage over science? The answer, with roots in Aristotle and developed by Freud, turns on the complex interplay between belief and desire.

In perhaps the most famous intellectual assault on art, Plato (c. 429—347 BC) proposes…

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