The relationship between art and ethics has been a significant philosophical problem since antiquity and one that continues to engage us. While some argue that art is autonomous from ethics, others insist that ethics is a necessary component of art and of one’s aesthetic judgment of the work. This course explores the various positions that have been taken in this debate and raises several key questions: Can art be morally enlightening and, if so, how? If a work of art is morally better, does that make it better as art? Is morally deficient art to be shunned, or even censored? Do subjects of artworks have rights as to how they are represented? Do artists have duties as artists and duties as human beings, and if so, to whom? How much tension is there between the demands of art and the demands of life? These questions will be examined through the lens of painting (Rembrandt, Picasso), cinema (Pasolini, Reed, Griffith), photography (Mann, Mapplethorpe) and literature (Nabokov) with readings drawn from Hume, Plato, Tolstoy, Wilde, Nussbaum, Danto, as well as other contemporary philosophers, artists, and critics.
Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)