Art and Morality

Art and Morality

Art and Morality

Art and Morality


Art and Morality is a collection of groundbreaking new papers on the theme of aesthetics and ethics, and the link between the two subjects. A group of distinguished contributors tackle the important questions that arise when one thinks about the moral dimensions of art and the aesthetic dimension of moral life.The volume is a significant contribution to philosophical literature, opening up unexplored questions and shedding new light on more traditional debates in aesthetics. The topics explored include: the relation of aesthetic to ethical judgement; the relation of artistic experience to moral consciousness; the moral status of fiction; the concepts of sentimentality and decadence; the moral dimension of critical practice, pictorial art and music; the moral significance of tragedy; and the connections between artistic and moral issues elaborated in the writings of central figures in modern philosophy, such as Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.The contributors share the view that progress in aesthetics requires detailed study of the practice of criticism. This volume will appeal both to the philosophical community and to researchers in areas such as literary theory, musicology and the theory of art.


The relations between art and morality are manifold and complex, and the contributions to this collection do full justice to the richness of the subject matter. The contributors are all agreed that the realm of the aesthetic cannot, and should not, be divorced from the realm of the moral, but this general idea is worked out in as many ways as there are papers. Our aim in this introduction is to introduce the main themes and problems broached by the individual contributors and to sketch out some features of the more general framework within which the individual papers can be located.

For the purposes of this introduction we will divide the papers into two groups. In the first group are those papers dealing with the more theoretical issues emerging at the intersection of ethics and aesthetics. These will be discussed in the first part of the introduction. The second part of the introduction will deal with those papers exploring the relation between art and morality in more concrete terms, pursuing the theme with reference to particular forms of art, works of art, artistic categories, and historical figures and traditions. This grouping reflects a difference in emphasis, rather than a distinction of principle. The papers in the first part are all informed by reflection on the evaluation of art and the practice of criticism, while theoretical issues about the relation between art and morality are never far below the surface in papers in the second group.


Philosophers concerned with aesthetics have frequently discussed the nature of the judgements that we make about art, the types of reason upon which they rest and the ways in which they might be justified. In considering the role of ethical considerations in thinking about art, a useful place to begin is with the relation between aesthetic judgements and moral judgements. This theme is very much to the fore in the opening essay in the collection, Michael Tanner's 'Ethics and aesthetics are-?'. Tanner explores the suggestion, originally made by Arnold Isenberg and developed in different ways by Frank Sibley, Mary Mothersill and Richard Wollheim, that understanding aesthetic . . .

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