Tolerating Art in a Liberal Society

By Kathryn Brown.

Published by The Arts Collection

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

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

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp.155-164. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.252MB).

Dr Kathryn Brown

Research Fellow, School of Drama, Film and Visual Art, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK

Kathryn Brown holds doctorates in French (University of Oxford) and in Art History (University of London) and is currently a Research Fellow in the School of Drama, Film and Visual Art at the University of Kent (Canterbury, United Kingdom). Her publications span a range of topics including nineteenth-century French art and literature, aesthetics, and contemporary art. Her book, Women Readers in French Painting 1870-1886, is forthcoming with Ashgate Press.


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