A Defense of Aesthetic Moralism

By Joshua S. Heter.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Hypothetically speaking, if a novel or a film presented the idea that 'murder and rape are morally virtuous acts', we may all wish to conclude that there is something untrue or at least, morally wrong with the film. However, should we take this moral wrongness into consideration when we evaluate the aesthetic value of the artwork? This is just to ask, in artworks, do ethical flaws imply, or amount to aesthetic flaws? Likewise, do ethical merits imply, or amount to aesthetic merits? In this paper I argue that the answer to both of these questions is yes. I do so by arguing that the very question implies moral realism; if moral realism is false, then we should not take ethical flaws / merits into consideration when evaluating artworks because their ARE no ethical flaws / merits. If moral realism is true, then the moral judgements made (or implied) by artworks are propositional content. The only way to evaluate propsositional content is through a notion of truth and falsity. Since certain artworks have moral judgments that are defining features of the artwork, and since those moral judgments are subject to truth and falsity constraints, it seems that we should count ethical flaws and merits to be aesthetic flaws and merits.

Keywords: Aesthetics, Ethics, Artworks, Propsitional Content, Evaluation

The International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.29-32. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 494.144KB).

Joshua S. Heter

Philosophy Department, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

I grew up just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. During high school, I found myself drawn most directly towards my humanities and religion courses. However, when I arrived at Biola University, in La Mirada, CA, it did not take long for me to realize that philosophy had been what I had always been looking for. I went on to earn my B.A. in 2005. After Biola, I began studying at Western Michigan University in the M.A. philosophy program. I also currently teach philosophy at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. My areas of interest include, but are not limited to Aesthetics, Ethical-Theory, and Epistemology. I plan to continue my education, in the hopes of earning a Ph.d. in philosophy around 2010; my dissertation topic may land in the region of aesthetic realism.

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