It would be useful to sketch out here a tentative view of the territories-a cluster of ideas about art and aspects of social life-I aim to explore in this chapter. To think of these areas-artistic quality, the uniqueness of individual artworks, the ethical significance of art, the social value of individuality-as somehow related is not new, but the context in which these notions now appear is. Many old convictions, some of which have sustained more than a century of often brilliant modernist experiment, have been questioned and eroded to an extent that would have been difficult to comprehend even 20 years ago. To many theorists and practitioners ideas about quality, uniqueness, ethics and individuality now mean very little. In this critical climate revisiting these ideas and values may be not only interesting but also problematic.
Another impulse behind the chapter has been a strong feeling, especially vivid in the context of my studio teaching of fine art, that artistic practice and ethical issues of a certain kind are related. More specifically, it seems very difficult, impossible perhaps, to discuss with students how one might go about producing, or putting oneself in a position to produce, a good painting or sculpture without making reference to certain virtues-for example honesty, integrity, self-discipline, attentiveness. There is also the old conviction, again for me inseparable from not only teaching but also looking at, responding to and trying to understand art, that there is something ethically valuable about the successful work. This intuition seems to be about something other than the question of whether works of art contain virtuous messages, whether their creators were or are themselves virtuous, or whether they have moral effects. Yet what does this leave? Just the belief that somehow artistic quality is connected to the good. This 'somehow' is not of course very satisfactory as an explanation. It is also vulnerable to widespread contemporary scepticism about many aspects of art, that such views are the last, dying vestige of a nineteenth-century cult of art connecting its elevated position in a hierarchy of cultural practices to its