What Is Art?

Art is something that plays a part in everybody’s life. Anyone, from any walk of life, can make or appreciate art. But what, exactly, is it?

There are several ways of thinking about art.

For example, it is that stuff that you go to see at a museum. From the paintings hanging on the walls to the sculptures on pedestals, you can go and look at Art, with a capital “A”.

But it is more than that, of course. At the museum gift shop, you can buy a print of some of the pieces, and hang them on your wall at home. Surely, a reproduction of a work of art is still art, right?

You might buy a painting from an artist who is not a household name. Or you might even paint something yourself. All those are examples of artwork. So it would seem that the pedigree of the person producing the work is not what determines if it is art.

Does intention matter? If I sit down at an easel, with a paint brush, I can produce a painting. The finished product might not be very good, but it is an effort of creation.

However, let’s say I find an elaborate spider-web in the morning, glistening with dew. Is that art? The spider that spun the web did so as an act of creation, but didn’t intend to make artwork — it was just following a biological imperative. Maybe I’m so impressed, I take a picture. Does the act of photography make it more or less artistic?

Perhaps only the appreciation matters. If someone appreciates something as being aesthetically pleasing, is that thing automatically a work of art? But doesn’t that mean that anything can be so classified? And if that is true, does that devalue what the word “art” even means?

Related questions: How important is the artist to art? Art: create or consume? When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone?

What Is Patriotic Behavior?

Patriotism means loving your country. But what, exactly, does that mean, and what patriotic behavior is acceptable? Are there some traditions of celebrating your country that are better than others?

Let’s take, for example, the national anthem being played prior to sporting events. The traditional patriotic behavior would be to stand, remove your hat, and look at a flag while the anthem plays.

There was some controversy recently, when some players chose to kneel, rather than to stand. That would seem to be disrespectful. But was it?

Let’s say you love your house. If you notice the roof is leaking, which is the greater act of love: ignoring the leak, or fixing the roof?


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What makes a tradition?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What are you optimistic about?’


If you wear a t-shirt made out of your country’s flag, some would see that a showing your love of country. Others, however, might see it as desecrating a symbol of your country. Is one right and the other wrong?

Are there some acts of patriotism that veer toward nationalism? If so, who decides what they are?

Similarly, are there some parts of your country’s history that one person may celebrate, while another is ashamed? How can you reconcile these two views?

Ultimately, can we agree on certain actions or behaviors that show love of country? Or is it, by definition, a subjective issue? What is patriotic behavior?

Related questions: What does it mean to be patriotic? How can you love someone who does something you hate? What role should government play in our lives? What are the most proud of?

What Is Your Definition Of Evil?

Someone might be misguided, bad, or even horrible. But what must they do to be called evil?

Do you have a definition of “evil”, whether that includes an action, a person, or a group?

Related questions: Why are bad words bad? How important is the artist to art? What does it mean to be a good person? Why do we hate?

Where Are You From?

The question ‘Where are you from?’ might seem pretty simple. After all, everyone knows where they are from, right?

However, the real trick to this question is how you define the word ‘from’. It can mean many things, and how you choose to define it will influence your answer to the question. It also may reveal something about you.

One way to interpret this is to think about where you were born. But even that has some ambiguity. For instance, you might answer with the country you were born in. Or the state, or the city. Or even the hospital.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘What makes you you?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What gives a person value?’


Of course, where you are ‘from’ might not have anything to do with where you were born. It might mean where you lived the longest. Or where you spent your formative years. It could even mean where you live right now.

It might be the case that the person asking the question can further refine the question. They may be trying to get a specific piece of information, like country of your citizenship.

However, in the absence of any such clues, this becomes a question that is really about identity. How do you identify yourself? With whom do you align yourself? Perhaps you consider yourself an inhabitant of a particular region, like the Midwest or the Northeast. Maybe you are from Seattle or Atlanta, or some other metro area. Or your nationality is your defining point of origin.

However you choose to answer, what do you have in common with the other people who hail from the same place as you? How are you like the others in your town, your state, your country?

Where are you from?

Related questions: If you could live anywhere, where would it be? Why do you live where you live? How would you define yourself in ten words or less?

What Is Laziness?

Laziness is one of the seven deadly sins. At one time or another, we have all felt lazy. But what, exactly, does laziness even mean?

The classic conception of a lazy person is someone who sits around all day, doing nothing. But even a “lazy” person is doing something, right? They are not in a vegetative state.

For as example, let’s pretend that the lazy person in question sits around all day playing video games. They contribute nothing, just hours and hours of Xbox.

But isn’t that video game play, in itself, something they are working quite hard at? They are advancing in the game, learning playing techniques, maybe even reading about cheat codes or Easter eggs. A decent amount of time and effort might go in to learning how to play. Can that really be considered lazy?


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What is the value of inefficiency?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How can we encourage debate?’


Admittedly, playing video games doesn’t really improve life in any way. Or does it? There are people who upload videos of themselves playing video games to YouTube, and make hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars in doing so. Are they lazy?

The difference there may be one person is earning a paycheck, and the other is not. Is laziness tied to money? One person doing something is lazy, someone else doing the exact same thing for pay is not lazy? Does that make any sense?

It may be that our classical definition of “lazy” merely means “disinterested”. Perhaps someone who is late for work, doesn’t try very hard, makes a lot of easily-fixed mistakes, is simply not interested in doing that job. That same person might be totally invested in playing video games, or managing their fantasy football team, or even working at a more engaging job.

In that case, a different definition of “laziness” may be in order. Can you think of one?

Related questions: Pride or humility? When do you need inspiration? What gives you purpose? What is the worst job you’ve ever had?