Greatest Britons: Results

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skalpel
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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by skalpel » Fri Mar 13, 2015 11:51 pm

The arts are what actually shape the entire cultural identity of a country though. If you extract painting, music, literature, architecture etc. out of any country then you're left with a sterile shell of people who might as well have lived anywhere of similar intellectual substance. France wouldn't be France without Monet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Zola, Hugo, Verlaine, Debussy, Satie, Ravel, Cohl, Gill, Méliès etc. As H.L. Mencken put it, the man who creates a thing of beauty creates something that lasts.

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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by Mifune » Sat Mar 14, 2015 12:22 am

skalpel wrote:The arts are what actually shape the entire cultural identity of a country though. If you extract painting, music, literature, architecture etc. out of any country then you're left with a sterile shell of people who might as well have lived anywhere of similar intellectual substance. France wouldn't be France without Monet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Zola, Hugo, Verlaine, Debussy, Satie, Ravel, Cohl, Gill, Méliès etc. As H.L. Mencken put it, the man who creates a thing of beauty creates something that lasts.
I agree, but has Britain's identity ever really been one centered around the arts? That's not to say we have not had our fill of truly great authors, painters, composers, etc, because we have; but throughout history our identity has mostly been that of science, engineering, exploring etc. Whereas if you look at countries such as France or Germany their identities have mostly revolved around things such as literature, philosophy, music and painting. I guess the art we have most closely identified with is literature with the likes of Orwell, Shakespeare, Dickens, etc.

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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by skalpel » Sat Mar 14, 2015 1:17 am

The beef that Britain has lacked in the rest of the arts it definitely has made up for in literature. Britain's literary tradition is utterly immense in size and quality and is inseparable from the national heritage. To take a short few examples; Shakespeare, Hobbes, Milton, Locke, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Tennyson, Hardy, Wittgenstein, Auden and Orwell have each of them carved something huge onto the British character and spirit. Have changed the way Britain sees itself and the world, the way the world sees Britain, and the way the world sees itself. Have swept in new ways of thinking, new ways of communicating; contributed at least as much to civilisation as the great bridge-builders, disease-curers or flag-planters.

Totally aware of the irony of me only having voted in two of the above examples after that lofty panegyric.

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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by Colback's Orange Tufts » Sat Mar 14, 2015 11:36 am

How 'great' a contribution to arts is highly subjective because people dislike certain art (Shakespeare plays bore me). Whereas inventions, or campaigns or science less so. So it's easier to get a consensus on the latter.

Thatcher is a little like the arts. Some would say she's one of the greatest cos they liked her politics. Others would say one of the worst. Either way she was a trailblazer a first female PM and the country did change a lot under her. That reminds me, has anyone put Aneurin Bevan?
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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by skalpel » Sat Mar 14, 2015 11:48 am

I see what you're getting at. But the impact that Shakespeare has had on language and drama goes beyond whether or not you think Hamlet is boring. We're not just talking about some pop band which one may or may not like. I picked my little list there specifically for this reason: they aren't people who have merely contributed something special to the art world, but something special to the world.

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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by Colback's Orange Tufts » Sat Mar 14, 2015 11:54 am

skalpel wrote:I see what you're getting at. But the impact that Shakespeare has had on language and drama goes beyond whether or not you think Hamlet is boring. We're not just talking about some pop band which one may or may not like. I picked my little list there specifically for this reason: they aren't people who have merely contributed something special to the art world, but something special to the world.
Ok, Shakespeare was a poor choice of example, but it applies to other art. Also I don't think inventing words means much <roll>
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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by skalpel » Sat Mar 14, 2015 12:09 pm

Subjectivity in taste is certainly an indisputable thing (and one of the most interesting things about art generally). But (without wanting to get too far into this topic, because I can and probably unfortunately will), there is a sort of separate platform upon which certain works of art sit, having had a clearly profound and even measurable impact on human civilisation, regardless of personal preference. Beethoven is better than Britney Spears, and we all know this in spite of our taste for music.

Oh, and Aneurin Bevan has one vote so far already. Are you casting it as one of yours too? Your earlier post isn't particularly clear as to who it is you're nominating.

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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by Dr. Bishop » Sat Mar 14, 2015 5:00 pm

As you say, the arts has helped shape our cultural identity and has undoubtedly had a measurable impact on the world, but how do you truly measure one artists contribution to that? That is the difficulty in my opinion.

It is quite clear to see the effect of a single mathematician, scientist, engineer, economist, politician etc has had on society because it usually occurs from one significant piece of work or one significant idea. But an artists effect on society is unlikely to come from one significant piece of work, which I think makes it much more difficult to determine the effect that they have had.
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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by Colback's Orange Tufts » Sat Mar 14, 2015 5:16 pm

skalpel wrote:Subjectivity in taste is certainly an indisputable thing (and one of the most interesting things about art generally). But (without wanting to get too far into this topic, because I can and probably unfortunately will), there is a sort of separate platform upon which certain works of art sit, having had a clearly profound and even measurable impact on human civilisation, regardless of personal preference. Beethoven is better than Britney Spears, and we all know this in spite of our taste for music.

Oh, and Aneurin Bevan has one vote so far already. Are you casting it as one of yours too? Your earlier post isn't particularly clear as to who it is you're nominating.
Yeah sorry I kinda forgot the ten people things and just posted a stream of names for discussion, here they are (Bacon is a late addition for his work on the scientific method. I'm guessing we are all leaving Shola off the list because we know he's still got loads to contribute to society yet?

Roger Bacon, Dame Bell, Florence Nightingale, Olaudah Equiano, William Wilberforce, Trevor Baylis, Aneurin Bevan, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Charles Grey, Rosalind Franklin
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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by PTAO? » Sat Mar 14, 2015 5:51 pm

I want soutzoukakia smyrneika too wrote:
Pull the Arfa One wrote:

<fist>

But I was beginning to wonder if anyone would comment on my inclusion of Rosalind Franklin. <awe>
I guess you'd have to justify why you wanted to include him? For work on DNA, I certainly view Franklin and her groups work to be more important, although you can't doubt he also played an important part. Personally I consider him a thief, and an all-round arsehole, views I've had backed up by what people who've met and worked with him tell me.
Oh, I didn't even notice you'd written Franklin. I suggested him for what he (and Watson) are widely credited for, but obviously a lot of that is controversial. I didn't know much about the specifics of the case so you've basically just confirmed what I suspected, that he isn't deserving of being up there.
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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by skalpel » Sat Mar 14, 2015 7:12 pm

Dr. Bishop wrote:As you say, the arts has helped shape our cultural identity and has undoubtedly had a measurable impact on the world, but how do you truly measure one artists contribution to that? That is the difficulty in my opinion.

It is quite clear to see the effect of a single mathematician, scientist, engineer, economist, politician etc has had on society because it usually occurs from one significant piece of work or one significant idea. But an artists effect on society is unlikely to come from one significant piece of work, which I think makes it much more difficult to determine the effect that they have had.
Yeah I'm not sure there needs to be one single idea or work to make a person's contribution clear <scratch>. Da Vinci? Bach? Palladio? Their impact is no less palpable than the invention of the steam engine.

But even supposing that there does need to be an individual idea, the thing about literature is its omnipresence. "Paradise Lost" is as much a work of literature as it is moral philosophy and theology. "Wealth of Nations" is as much a work of literature as it is a work of moral philosophy and economics. "The Age of Reason" is as much a work of literature as it is theology and politics. And in fact I'd say they're all of them achievements of the written word first because without a lucid, brave, and elegant mastery of language, they'd never have been understood or perhaps even conceived in the first place.

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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by skalpel » Sat Mar 14, 2015 7:14 pm

The top ten as it stands. Once the thread dies down, we can take the resultant top ten and have a final poll (possibly giving each entry a head start of its preliminary vote score).

Charles Darwin 7
George Stephenson 6
Isaac Newton 6
Tim Berners-Lee 6
Isambard Kingdom Brunel 6
Adam Smith 4
William Wilberforce 4
Alfred the Great 3
Winston Churchill 3
William Shakespeare 3

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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by Colback's Orange Tufts » Sun Mar 15, 2015 1:16 am

No women on the list...
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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by skalpel » Sun Mar 15, 2015 1:54 pm

They should pull their f***ing fingers out, really.

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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by Colback's Orange Tufts » Sun Mar 15, 2015 1:58 pm

Out of the ten, only two are after women got the vote the rise of feminism/female empowerment in the 60s. If we are going to pick people from more than 100 years ago, they'll be men cos women weren't able to be publicly great as much as men. Surprised more people didn't go for Nightingale
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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by skalpel » Sun Mar 15, 2015 2:13 pm

The truth is that there's only one 20th-Century born male on that list, and all ten of them were born into at very least comfortable class and finances (and largely they're rich and upper class). It's normal that the list of Great Britons would be set mostly around Pax Britannica because it was the British golden age. So its biases will inevitably shape these lists and, yeah, there's no real point in us battling to shoehorn people in over others if their achievements don't merit it. Mary Anning skirts the top of my ten nominations, though.

Oh, and if Nightingale rakes the votes in, then Mary Seacole ought to fare just as well. And technically ol' Florence wouldn't have done squat without Brunel's flatpack hospitals <whistle>.

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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by PTAO? » Sun Mar 15, 2015 2:23 pm

Cisse's Overheating Torso wrote:Out of the ten, only two are after women got the vote the rise of feminism/female empowerment in the 60s. If we are going to pick people from more than 100 years ago, they'll be men cos women weren't able to be publicly great as much as men. Surprised more people didn't go for Nightingale
So the country has regressed and produced less greats since women got the vote? <scratch>



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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by Speedo » Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:53 pm

Oh I forgot George Orwell.

People saying Adam Smith rather than John Maynard Keynes - Keynes invented supply-side economics in the modern sense, saved Britain from bankruptcy after the second world war and created the environment from which the NHS and the post-war consensus was built. A true hero.
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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by skalpel » Sun Mar 15, 2015 6:48 pm

Bit of a choice fallacy there, no? People have voted for Stephenson and Brunel in the same list; there's no reason why it is Smith rather than Keynes. There are nine other choices as well as Smith in these people's lists.

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Re: Greatest Britons

Post by skalpel » Tue Mar 17, 2015 3:18 pm

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