ReThinking our World (Philosophy in the world)

Street art, specifically graffiti can be seen in almost any city. Graffiti is typically disregarded as a form of vandalization and associated with gangs. However, much like philosophy, there is a lot more to graffiti than mindless disrespect to property. Before I continue I would like to acknowledge I not speaking generalizing all graffitis to be street art but am attempting to acknowledge there is additional meaning to many of the works. Graffiti is defined by Oxfard Dictionary online as “writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place” yet, street art is defined as “Artwork that is created in a public space, typically without official permission”(Oxford Online dictionary). The contrast between the two definitions is that one is defined as art the other a deliberate criminal action. 

The reality about street art and graffiti is there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Similar to philosophy it has a message behind most of the messages these artists draw. Philosophies greatest goal is to provoke thought. Philosophy asks us to look at things and alter or question the way in which we saw common, unquestioned ideals. We see such thought provoking attitudes in the first philosopher we studied, Socrates. Socrates often found himself in trouble for walking around Athens and asking the people questions as to why or how they did things. Although his actions were simplistic the questions he asked were not, this is why he gained such a devoted and large group of young followers. The artists who produce graffiti are very similar to Socrates in this way. One of my favourite street artists’ Banksy is an anonymous artist who pushes the boundaries of political and social issues through his artwork. In parallel to Banksy and Socrates, when Socrates spoke he did not often write down his questions or ideas, this is why those who appreciated his philosophy followed him. Since Banksy’s work is illegal and controversial much of it can often be destroyed within an hour or two, meaning it is important to appreciate what can be seen. Socrates and Banksy use different methods to question matters around them, Socrates did so in a more direct way asking shopkeepers or passerby’s questions where as Banksy uses public property to display thought provoking work, it indirectly asks us a question as to how we view something. Graffiti is a means of resistance similarly to how Socrates resisted stagnant thoughts, he provoked and elicited new thoughts and interpretations that others had not. Banksy and street art do the same questioning and adding something to a flat society. Thus, graffiti done in a similar fashion to Banksy’s work helps us to take a few seconds and question societal issues or the ways in which we allow constructs to rule us.

As a sociology major I am intrinsically fascinated through the ways we function within society and how social constructs are created and followed. An assignment such as this gave me the opportunity to look back on an interesting course which multiple times made me questions the ways in which I regarded myself and my actions within society. Philosophy is not about social movements, yet, it has the potential to change the world when we stop to question why things are the way they’re.