Synopses & Reviews
Early in his philosophical career, Wittgenstein cryptically remarked that “Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same.” But is “the good” really interchangeable with “the beautiful”? While aesthetics and moral values often do seem to go hand in hand, we all know that the devil is in the details. Art and Ethical Criticism
explores these elusive details to shine a scholarly light on the complex relationship between the arts and morality. This groundbreaking work begins with a thorough examination of the historical roots of the concept of ethical criticism as it applies to literature, the visual arts, and music. A series of thought-provoking essays by leading philosophers then delves deeply into the complex network of interconnections between the ethical and aesthetic realms. Areas explored include ways of describing ethical content in the arts; the value of literary case-studies for moral understanding; distinct ethical issues that arise in connection with our exposure to visual art, artifacts, photography, and architecture; and the significance of moral relations as depicted in music and its performance.
The result is a multifaceted, conceptual study that probes into the sublime nature of beauty, art, and morality to reveal that ethics and aesthetics are not one and the same after all – but nor are they, according to any simple division, two. Art and Ethical Criticism is a stimulating and insightful inquiry into contemporary philosophical debates that lie at the intersection of aesthetics and moral philosophy.
"All of these papers are promising, and worth reading, but I think that each of them fell short of meeting its promise." (Mind Association, 2011)
"Hagberg draws together some of the top thinkers in aesthetics to consider the cross-impacts between these philosophical disciplines. The selections are widely representative of approaches to ethical criticism of artworks, and the ethical/aesthetic dimensions of the literary, visual, and auditory arts." (CHOICE)
"Garry Hagberg's new anthology Art and Ethical Criticism consists of twelve new essays—ten by philosophers, one each by an art historian and a professor of French—together with a short foreword. The overall argument that emerges from these essays is that the first, broader topic (the powers and interest of art for human subjects) is more important than the second, narrower topic (the relation between artistic and moral value), and the essays are strongest exactly when they illuminate the powers and interest of art, precisely by not separating the artistic and ethical features of a work sharply from each other." (Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews)
"This is an excellent and genuinely useful collection of essays on a very important topic that is just beginning to receive wide attention from analytical philosophers."
–Ted Cohen, University of Chicago
Through a series of essays, Art and Ethical Criticism
explores the complex relationship between the arts and morality.
- Reflects the importance of a moral life of engagement with works of art
- Forms part of the prestigious New Directions in Aesthetics series, which confronts the most intriguing problems in aesthetics and the philosophy of art today
About the Author
Garry L. Hagberg is the James H. Ottaway Professor of Philosophy and Aesthetics at Bard College, and in recent years has held a Chair in the School of Philosophy at the University of East Anglia and a visiting fellowship at Cambridge University. He has published and lectured widely; his books include Describing Ourselves: Wittgenstein and Autobiographical Consciousness, Art as Language, and Meaning and Interpretation. He is co-editor of The Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Literature (with Walter Jost) and of the journal Philosophy and Literature.
Table of Contents
Notes on Contributors vii
Garry L. Hagberg
Part I: Historical Foundations 1
1 Is Ethical Criticism a Problem? A Historical Perspective 3
Part II: Conceptions of Ethical Content 33
2 Narrative and the Ethical Life 35
3 A Nation of Madame Bovarys: On the Possibility and Desirability of Moral Improvement through Fiction 63
4 Empathy, Expression, and What Artworks Have to Teach 95
Part III: Literature and Moral Responsibility 123
5 "Solid Objects," Solid Objections: On Virginia Woolf and Philosophy 125
6 Disgrace: Bernard Williams and J. M. Coetzee 144
7 Facing Death Together: Camus's The Plague 163
Robert C. Solomon
Part IV: Visual Art, Artifacts, and the Ethical Response 185
8 Staying in Touch 187
9 Susan Sontag, Diane Arbus, and the Ethical Dimensions of Photography 211
10 Ethical Judgments in Museums 229
Part V: Music and Moral Relations 243
11 Cosi's Canon Quartet 245
12 Jazz Improvisation and Ethical Interaction: A Sketch of the Connections 259
Garry L. Hagberg