Friedrich Nietzsche was most famously concerned with the problem of nihilism. All societies, in his view, rely on implicit value judgments. If the foundations of these are lost, he predicts terrible consequences: widespread apathy or violent, fanatical attempts to reclaim a sense of purpose, or perhaps both.
What is art for? “L’art pour l’art” wrote Théophile Gautier as a slogan in 1835. And today’s bohemians continue to repeat the creed “Art for art’s sake.” It’s a catchy slogan, still what most people unreflectively tell themselves when confronted with the question: “What is the purpose of art?”