Art, Emotion and Ethics

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Art, Emotion and Ethics is a systematic investigation of the relation of art to morality, a topic that has been of central and recurring interest to the philosophy of art since Plato. Berys Gaut explores the various positions that have been taken in this debate, and argues that an artwork is always aesthetically flawed in so far as it possesses a moral defect that is aesthetically relevant. Three main arguments are developed for this view; these involve showing how moral goodness is itself a kind of beauty, that artworks can teach us about morality and that this is under certain conditions an aesthetic merit in them, and that our emotional responses to works of art are properly guided in part by moral considerations.

Art, Emotion and Ethics also contains detailed interpretations of a wide range of artworks, including Rembrandt's Bathsheba and Nabokov's Lolita, which show that ethical criticism can yield rich and plausible accounts of individual works. Gaut develops a new theory of the nature of aesthetic value, explores how art can teach us about the world and what we morally ought to do by guiding our imaginings, and argues that we can have genuine emotions towards people and events that we know are merely fictional.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"There is much here to admire. Amon the strengths of the work are the clarity and sophistication of Gaut's arguments.... I consider this an important book that deserves to be widely read and discussed."—Daniel Jacobson, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199263219
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/12/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Berys Gaut is Reader in Philosophy at the University of St. Andrews.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix

List of Illustrations x

1 The Long Debate 1

1.1 The Controversies 1

1.2 Disentangling the Issues 6

1.3 A Thematic Overview 9

1.4 Two Bathshebas 14

2 Aesthetics and Ethics: Basic Concepts 26

2.1 The Puzzle of the Aesthetic 26

2.2 The Aesthetic and the Artistic 34

2.3 The Concept of the Ethical 41

3 A Conceptual Map 49

3.1 Options in the Debate 49

3.2 Pro tanto Principles 57

4 Autonomism 67

4.1 Radical Autonomism and Artistic Acts 67

4.2 Moderate Autonomism 76

4.3 Aesthetic Relevance 82

5 Artistic and Critical Practices 90

5.1 Artists' Ambitions 92

5.2 Criticism 95

6 Questions of Character 107

6.1 Artworks and Friends 109

6.2 Moral Beauty 114

6.3 Moral Beauty and Works of Art 127

7 The Cognitive Argument: The Epistemic Claim 133

7.1 Formulating Aesthetic Cognitivism 136

7.2 Sources of Knowledge 141

7.3 How to Learn from Imagination 147

7.4 Imagination and Ethical Learning 157

8 The Cognitive Argument: The Aesthetic Claim 165

8.1 Arguing for the Aesthetic Claim 165

8.2 Autonomist and Contextualist Objections 172

8.3 Techniques and Strategies 186

8.4 Lolita 194

9 Emotion and Imagination 203

9.1 The Importance of Emotional Realism 203

9.2 The Possibility of Fiction-Directed Emotions 208

9.3 The Rationality of Fiction-Directed Emotions 216

10 The Merited Response Argument 227

10.1 Versions of the Argument 227

10.2 Objections and Replies 234

10.3 Humour 242

10.4 Conclusion 251

Bibliography 253

Index 263

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