[fil-uh-steen, -stahyn, fi-lis-tin, -teen]

Philistinism is a derogatory term used to describe a particular attitude or set of values. A person called a Philistine (in the relevant sense), is said to despise or undervalue art, beauty, intellectual content, and/or spiritual values. Philistines are also said to be materialistic, to favor conventional social values unthinkingly, and to favor forms of art that have a cheap and easy appeal (e.g. kitsch).

Philistinism affords a contrast to Bohemianism, as the character of a smugly conventional bourgeois social group perceived to lack all the desirably soulful 'bohemian' characteristics, especially an artistic temperament and a broad cultural horizon open to the avant-garde. To the chosen few, the 'Philistines' embodied a smug, anti-intellectual threatening majority, in the 'culture wars' of the 19th century.

Historical Philistines

According to the History Channel's 'Naked Archaeologist' Simcha Jacobovici, the Philistines were an advanced culture relative to their contemporary Canaanite neighbors. The Philistines were not indigenous to the region (possibly proto-Greek), having (according to general, though not fully substantiated theory) been part of a larger group known as the 'Sea Peoples' who made war on Egypt and lost - eventually settling just out of Egypt's sphere of influence. Modern archeology in Israel has shown that Philistine urban structure, commercial complexity and technology (pottery/iron) were all more advanced than that of other contemporary Canaanites. Most telling of all comes from 1 Samuel where the Jews (still a bronze society) describe the resentment of trading-dependence with the Philistines for obtaining & re-sharpening of iron agricultural tools. This command of iron (and unwillingness to trade iron weaponry) allowed the far smaller Philistine culture to survive the perpetual wars with their Jewish neighbors. Their boutique culture could not withstand the Assyrian and later Babylonian expansions into Canaan, however - after which they disappeared as a cohesive cultural group.

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