Art and Morality (I)
Ethics and aesthetics may not be one, but the historical association of their ascendants, morality and art, is an intimate and long-standing one. Like most long associations, theirs has featured a certain ambivalence, and has been marked as much by episodes of hostility and misunderstanding as by mutual support. This chapter looks at one dimension of this relationship, namely, the way in which literary art influences moral experience, and thereby informs moral judgement. It argues that the so-called ‘ethical criticism’ of art need not be motivated by an a priori commitment to the ‘supremacy of moral values’; its validity and interest need not rest solely on an unquestioned subordination of the aesthetic to the ethical. Engagement with literary art can influence one's moral experience and thereby inform his/her moral judgements. This chapter also discusses the views of Leo Tolstoy and Plato regarding art and morality.
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