The Relationship Between Art and Philosophical Ethics Essay

The Relationship Between Art and Philosophical Ethics Essay

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The relationship between art and philosophical ethics can be divided into a dichotomy of two, radical understandings: aestheticism and moralism. Aestheticism prioritizes, if not entirely isolates, the artistic and technical value of an artwork over its moral implications. The aesthetic tradition asserts that art ought to be composed solely “for art’s sake,” hinging this position upon the assumption that only the essential component of an artwork—the sense to which the artwork is intended to appeal—is relevant in its critique (Peek, “Ethical Criticism of Art”). Within classical aesthetics, this conception of artistic value is epitomized by Enlightenment-era rationalist Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment, in which he argues that one’s judgment of art must be of inherent “disinterest,” unconstrained by concepts of utility and morality. Kant suggests that art ought to be judged only upon its formal properties, such as design and composition, instead of for its perceived practical or moral worth. In this way, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, for example, would not be judged based upon da Vinci’s perceived psychological neuroses nor for the paintings modern relevance and fame, but on its arrangement: the use of contrapposto, pyramidal perspective, curved and straight lines.
This perspective is rivaled by Moralism. The Moralist theory emphasizes that the aesthetic value of an artwork is determined, or at least influenced, by its ethical premise. This school of thought formed the foundation of the modern philosophical study of art, making the discipline of recurring interest and debate since Plato’s aesthetics. To reference his “Parable of the Cave,” Plato interprets the arts not as shining indications of the enlightened world beyond the ...

... middle of paper ...

...and ethics remain modernly relevant, still intersecting in our popular culture.

Works Cited
Peek, Ella. "Ethical Criticism of Art" Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ISSN 2161-0002, Martin: University of Tennessee, 2005. Art, Ethical Criticism of. Web. 19 Jan. 2013.
Kant, Immanuel. Critique of the Power of Judgment. Trans. Paul Guyer. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 2009. Print.
Devereaux, Mary. "The Philosophical Status of Aesthetics." 1997 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Aesthetics. New Mexico, Santa Fe. 1997. Speech.
Plato. Plato, Complete in Twelve Volumes. Trans. Harold N. Fowler et al. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ., 1978. Print.
Simon Schama’s Power of Art. Dir. Clare Beavan. Perf. Simon Schama. BBC, 2006. DVD.
Maritain, Jacques. “The Responsibility of the Artist.” The Responsibility of the Artist. University of Notre Dame, 2010. Web. 21 Dec. 2013.

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