This paper examines the relation between contemporary visual art and ethics and considers the role played by toleration on the part of audiences who choose to participate in art spaces. I test the distinction between censorship and an audience’s right, if any, to demand liberal restraint on the part of artists. Whether or not an audience has the right to demand restraint on the part of artists is, in turn, questioned and placed in historical context by considering John Stuart Mill’s ‘offence’/‘harm’ distinction. I identify museums as social spaces in which the liberal virtue of toleration can be tested and explored. Tensions between the need for spaces of artistic freedom are set against the requirement for, and limitations of, toleration in cases of ethical disagreement over the content of visual art in a liberal society.
|Keywords:||Ethics, Toleration, Offence, Liberalism, John Stuart Mill, Harm|
Research Fellow, School of Drama, Film and Visual Art, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK
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