Vladimir Nabokov associated with philistinism the prudish attitude of accusing works of art to be obscene, and described a philistine as a "full-grown person ... whose essential nature is anti-artistic," and whose mentality is formed of the stock ideas and conventional ideas of his or her group and time", adding that "generally speaking, philistinism presupposes a certain advanced state of civilization where throughout the ages certain traditions have accumulated in a heap and have started to stink".
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, 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).
Goethe had several comments on the type. "The Philistine not only ignores all conditions of life which are not his own but also demands that the rest of mankind should fashion its mode of existence after his own", and "What is a philistine? A hollow gut, full of fear and hope that God will have mercy!"
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. The 'Philistines' embodied a smug, anti-intellectual threatening majority, in the 'culture wars' of the 19th century.