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Old November 20th, 2012, 04:30 AM   #1
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Were people more intelligent in the past?


Measured on average IQ, were the people of the Renaissance or Middle Ages or the Ancient era more intelligent than todays people?

I am asking because during the renaissance, the music and art was more sophisticated than todays popular music and street art.

It also, not only often, but ALWAYS had a certain secret political or moral message to carry, through the music or the painting. Todays art is so obvious which message it carries, if it carries any message at all.

The only people of the 21st century who can interpret Renaissance paintings are people who have read and studied politics and philosophy. Ordinary people can't do this, unless they themselves have read and understood politics and philosophy. I bet most people looking a renaissance painting would just say "oh, this is a nice painting, look at all the details".

The propper way of looking at any art is to look for straight lines, triangles and the like and see what is highlighted and through this read the politico-theological-philosophical message that it carries.
I can't do this. I, like everybody else, need to learn the history of the past, before I can interpret the message of art and music of the past.

That's why I am asking: Judging from the art of the past, can we say the average man on the street was way more intelligent than todays people?
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Old November 20th, 2012, 04:57 AM   #2

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Well, there was popular music in the Renaissance era that was not all that sophisticated. There were lots of love songs for instance, and some quite rude songs about men seducing women etc. Not unlike today's popular songs in a way.

I agree that the art was much better than today's art though - it could scarcely be worse. They had artists in those days who could actually paint. Where I think the rot set in was when artists ceased to be regarded as craftsmen and began to think they should 'express themselves' regardless of what their patrons wanted. In Renaissance times, artists painted what their patrons wanted them to paint, and no nonsense.
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Old November 20th, 2012, 06:34 AM   #3

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I agree about the artist, but I see the medical field as grossly
stunted and confusing.
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Old November 20th, 2012, 06:57 AM   #4
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The difference is that in the past education was for the rich that could afford private tutors and then the middle class. Public school education for everybody meant larger class size and a more watered down education. But most people were much more educated then before.
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Old November 20th, 2012, 07:17 AM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by philosopher View Post
... Judging from the art of the past, can we say the average man on the street was way more intelligent than todays people?
No, we can't.

To make it at least a little bit fair we should compare our contemporary art which will still be relevant in 3-600 years with the art of our ancestors that is still relevant after 3-600 years today.

But then still we couldn't say anything relevant based on that comparison about the average intelligence of the man in the street.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Louise C View Post
Well, there was popular music in the Renaissance era that was not all that sophisticated. There were lots of love songs for instance, and some quite rude songs about men seducing women etc. Not unlike today's popular songs in a way.

I agree that the art was much better than today's art though - it could scarcely be worse. They had artists in those days who could actually paint. Where I think the rot set in was when artists ceased to be regarded as craftsmen and began to think they should 'express themselves' regardless of what their patrons wanted. In Renaissance times, artists painted what their patrons wanted them to paint, and no nonsense.
I wouldn't put too much blame on the poor artists for not painting what the patron pays for anymore instead of "expressing themselves"... Most demand was always in portraits and photography not only set a whole new standard in "capturing the light" but pushed many a talented portrait maker out of the biz.

Last edited by Zeno; November 20th, 2012 at 07:33 AM.
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Old November 20th, 2012, 08:07 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by philosopher View Post
Measured on average IQ, were the people of the Renaissance or Middle Ages or the Ancient era more intelligent than todays people?

I am asking because during the renaissance, the music and art was more sophisticated than todays popular music and street art.

It also, not only often, but ALWAYS had a certain secret political or moral message to carry, through the music or the painting. Todays art is so obvious which message it carries, if it carries any message at all.

The only people of the 21st century who can interpret Renaissance paintings are people who have read and studied politics and philosophy. Ordinary people can't do this, unless they themselves have read and understood politics and philosophy. I bet most people looking a renaissance painting would just say "oh, this is a nice painting, look at all the details".

The propper way of looking at any art is to look for straight lines, triangles and the like and see what is highlighted and through this read the politico-theological-philosophical message that it carries.
I can't do this. I, like everybody else, need to learn the history of the past, before I can interpret the message of art and music of the past.

That's why I am asking: Judging from the art of the past, can we say the average man on the street was way more intelligent than todays people?
I think human intelligence is a constant. (Wouldn't venture a guess about human stupidity though...)

When things are happening it's easy to miss the bigger picture. I'm sure the big Renaissance names had plenty of scathing critics at the time. I also don't think there is anything called being ahead of one's time. Like I said human intelligence has been very impressive for a very long time, the masses though deceive us into thinking that we haven't made much progress or are regressing. But each era has produced stellar men and women and to that extent the qualities that determine such a character or an intelligence that leads to great innovations have remained the same, only the manifestation of that intelligence has changed.

The advent of cinema and new technology means you should rethink "art". We are also seeing a lot of creativity in technical fields, that's where a lot of current human intelligence is being directed to. Surely the iPhone is an impressive invention?
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Old November 20th, 2012, 10:59 AM   #7

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I dont agree with the OPs idea that the arts in the past were more sophisticated. Whilst there is a lot of noise about nowadays, there is also music with meaning, and music which takes true art and technical ability to get right. Such a judgment about what is sophisticated and what not can easily be influenced by ones bias against modern "arts" they dont like.

Having said that, the historical arts and their complexity convinces me that ye olde people were NOT dumber than we are today!!
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Old November 21st, 2012, 12:47 PM   #8

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I don't believe in IQ figures, not least because I've been tested and have an IQ of 180 something. Because of my "high IQ", I'd have to look up the exact score..........

People in the past most certainly had far greater attention spans and far, far more in-depth knowledge about what they did.

Most people now work as part of a chain, a part of a machine and automation, service industries requiring little practical skills have robbed most of us of the achievement of starting a complex job and finishing it.

Illiterate societies almost always have better memories. It was a case of having to: we can now write it down and then forget it. They couldn't. Although it could be said that they had less to remember on a day to day basis, nevertheless, they had more to remember over a longer time span.

I was reading a deeply depressing article recently about a cartoonist who said that modern readers have zero attention spans: if the cartoon strip is too long or has more than just FOUR speech bubbles, people won't bother reading it.

But the final decider in how stupid people are now? So many of them make a virtue out of being empty headed, shallow, lazy and having a 2 second attention span.

"Life's too short" to learn, for example, how to use a computer properly. Or to play a musical instrument. Or to cook. It begs the question: what do they do with the time they supposedly save by not doing those things? I have no idea.

In the recent past, things were very different. Most working men (in the North of England, at least) had some kind of hobby which they tended to know very well. This was encouraged during the 19th century: Unions and other organisations encouraged working men to learn another craft, or to play musical instruments, or to take up art or engineering.

I don't know more than a handful of people like that now. Most just drift through life, from one ready meal to the next TV programme. Hardly inspiring as a sign of intelligence, is it?
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Old November 21st, 2012, 12:59 PM   #9

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I'm sure that's right, in modern consumer society most people are much more passive than they were in the past. They may not be more inherently stupid, but it does mean that they're less likely to make good use of the abilities that they do have.
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