The Ethical Criticism of Art: A New Mapping of the Territory

Alessandro Giovannelli
Philosophia, (January 2007) 35(2), 117-127

The goal of this paper is methodological. It offers a comprehensive mapping of the theoretical positions on the ethical criticism of art, correcting omissions and inadequacies in the conceptual framework adopted in the current debate. Three principles are recommended as general guidelines: ethical amenability, basic value pluralism, and relativity to ethical dimension. Hence a taxonomy distinguishing between different versions of autonomism, moralism, and immoralism is established, by reference to criteria that are different from what emerging in the current literature. The mapping is then proved capable of (1) locating the various theories that have been proposed so far and clarifying such theories’ real commitments, (2) having the correct relationship with actual art making and art criticism practices, and (3) showing the real weight of the alleged counter-example to a moralist position of a work that succeeds artistically because of its immorality. (Link to full paper.)