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philistine


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A person devoted narrow-mindedly to material prosperity at the expense of intellectual and artistic awareness; or (as an adjective) ignorantly uninterested in culture and ideas. This sense of the term comes from the insulting label Philister applied by German students to their non-academic neighbours in university towns, likening them to the enemies of the chosen people in the Hebrew scriptures; it was given wide currency in English by the poet and critic Matthew Arnold in his book Culture and Anarchy (1869), which attacks the philistinism of the British middle class. Arnold usually applied the term ‘the Philistines’ to the prosperous bourgeoisie, especially to its nonconformist Liberal representatives.

Subjects: Literature.


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