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    Re: Celestial arts and crafts
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2013 Mar 26, 13:41 -0700

    Lu, you wrote:
    "M-W's first definitions of "art" are centered around skill, especially that acquired by experience or study. By that measure, a knowledge of celestial and especially being able to apply that knowledge skillfully to obtain one's position is certainly an "art" "

    Would you agree then the statements "celestial navigation is a skill" and "celestial navigation is an art" are identical in meaning (by that definition)? If so, then what is the point of the latter version? What does it add??

    In general, I would add that dictionary definitions are not much use in discussions like this. Modern Engish dictionaries attempt to document usage and nothing more. And different dictionaries disagree. They are not language "rule books". Try this: go to google and type in the question "what is art?". Google responds with its own dictionary-style definition which does not match the M-W definition of choice which you listed. Or you could hit the Wikipedia article "Art" where you will find this useful comment: "Until the 17th century, art referred to any skill or mastery and was not differentiated from crafts or sciences, but in modern usage the fine arts, where aesthetic considerations are paramount, are distinguished from acquired skills in general".

    If folks (Hewitt is hardly the only person who has referred to celestial navigation as an "art") only mean a "skill" when they call celestial navigation an art, then the word "art" in that context would be misleading for most people. As noted in the Wikipedia article, for most modern usage, apart from ironic comments (e.g. "there is an art to drinking beer"), the word no longer refers to a skill.

    -FER


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