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A formalist, such as Clive Bell, would not include beauty as something we should respond to in art, but those formalists who do include beauty regard it as something that is determined by the formal features the artwork possesses. Interestingly, although the aesthete might not be interested in defending their position, any attempt to do so would likely involve appeals to moral standards; that is, they would have to give a justification for their view that one should take on a predominantly aesthetic attitude in life in terms of moral value.

For example, Richard Posner, in 'Against Ethical Criticism', appears to identify himself as an aesthete, but, ironically, an aesthete who wants to provide a moral justification for his position: "The aesthetic outlook is a moral outlook, one that stresses the values of openness, detachment, hedonism, curiosity, tolerance, the cultivation of the self, and the preservation of a private sphere - in short, the values of liberal individualism.

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In any case, both positions are equally reductive with respect to the scope of aesthetic value. Autonomism has become the predominant term used in recent literature, most likely because it does capture the notion that aesthetic value is held to be an autonomous realm of value by those who subscribe to any version of this position. Radical Autonomism is the view that the proper way to respond to art is to respond only to the pure aesthetic qualities, or what is 'in the work itself'; while to bring moral values, or other social values, to bear on art is a mistake.

Oscar Wilde is an example of a radical autonomist. An autonomist position such as this is based on a narrow understanding of the aesthetic value of art, which values the way in which the subject matter of such art is represented which may include formal features and beauty , but not the subject matter itself which may include moral features. However, autonomism, while purporting to give aesthetic value primacy, neglects many of the potential ways in which art can have aesthetic value.

Such a view ignores the fact that certain art forms are culturally embedded, and, as such, are inextricably bound up with important social values, such as moral value. Noel Carroll explains the appeal of radical autonomism with reference to the "common denominator argument"; that is, the argument that it is only those features common to all art that are the essential defining features of art, and it is only these features that should properly be regarded as being within the realm of the aesthetic. See 'Moderate Moralism', BJA, , As Carroll points out, the fact that radical autonomists have a ready answer to the questions -What are the unique and essential features common to all art?

This feature of autonomism appears to provide a straightforward way of distinguishing art from non-art, as well as providing specific grounds upon which to defend the objectivity of aesthetic value. A further reason autonomism initially seems intuitive is that it is difficult to see how moral considerations could be pertinent across whole art forms, such as music, and abstract art of various kinds. Besides, as was discussed earlier, attempting to define art in terms of essential criteria common to all artworks is not a promising strategy; the nature of art defies such restrictions.

Carroll argues that "we can challenge [the radical autonomist's] appeal to the nature of art with appeals to the natures of specific art forms or genres which, given what they are, warrant at least additional criteria of evaluation to supplement whatever the autonomist claims is the common denominator of aesthetic evaluation. What Carroll specifically has in mind is the role our moral understanding plays in our appreciation of narrative art.

Carroll claims that narrative artworks are always incomplete, and that a certain amount of information has to be filled in by the reader or audience in order to make the work intelligible. This includes information which must be supplied by our moral understanding.

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He says: " Even modernist novels that appear to eschew 'morality' typically do so in order to challenge bourgeois morality and to enlist the reader in sharing their ethical disdain for it. Moderate autonomism, defended by J. Anderson and J.

Dean, is a more plausible position than radical autonomism; it recognises that moral merits or defects can feature in the content of certain art forms and that sometimes moral judgments of artworks are pertinent. However, moderate autonomism is still an autonomist position in the sense that it maintains that the aesthetic value and the moral value of artworks are autonomous.

According to moderate autonomism: "an artwork will never be aesthetically better in virtue of its moral strengths, and will never be worse because of its moral defects. An artwork may invite an audience to entertain a defective moral perspective and this will not detract from its aesthetic value. On the one hand, Anderson and Dean say, "some of the knowledge that art brings home to us may be moral knowledge. All this is granted when we agree that art is properly subject to moral evaluation.

What is really at issue in the debate over ethical criticism is how broadly we define the aesthetic. But this is not simply arbitrary - what in fact are the boundaries of the aesthetic? Even if moderate moralism is not the best way to explain the moral value of narrative artworks, Carroll is wise to turn to critical analysis of actual examples to support his argument, for this is where we can most clearly see the problems with moderate autonomism. Although a morally sensitive audience might be able to appreciate some of the formal features exhibited in the film, such as the innovative camera work, such an audience would be unable to fully engage with the film due to an inability to accept the film's central vision, that is, the glorification of Hitler and the Nazi regime.

If the audience is unable to fully engage with the film's central vision, this, according to Carroll's MM, will count as an aesthetic defect in the film because the magnitude of our aesthetic experience will be limited by our inability to fully engage with the film's central theme.

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So, the very feature that makes the film morally defective is also one of most significant aesthetic defects in the film. Hence, the moral defectiveness and the aesthetic defectiveness are due to a common reason in this particular case. Anderson and Dean focus their objection to MM on the fact that the one premise the moral defect argument and the aesthetic defect argument share 1 is not sufficient to establish either moral defectiveness or aesthetic defectiveness. There may be other reasons that contribute to both the aesthetic evaluation and the moral evaluation of artworks, but in some cases these two groups of reasons overlap; where a reason is common to both groups, and is a central, if not sufficient, reason for both the conclusion that a work is morally defective, and the conclusion that the work is aesthetically defective.

As Carroll puts it in his response to Anderson and Dean:.

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But why suppose that the relevant sense of reason here is sufficient reason? Admittedly a number of factors will contribute to the moral defectiveness and the aesthetic defectiveness of the work in question.


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The moderate moralist need only contend that among the complex of factors that account for the moral defectiveness of the artwork in question, on the one hand, and the complex of factors that explain the aesthetic defectiveness of the artwork, on the other hand, the evil perspective of the artwork will play a central, though perhaps not sufficient, explanatory role in both.

Carroll, a, p Anderson and Dean eschew specific examples in their defense of MA, saying: 'because of the complexity of particular cases, we have taken pains not to rest our case on the examination of them. Carroll does give us some convincing examples, and Anderson and Dean do not show why Carroll is wrong in these particular cases. They must mean that the positions are similar or identical in terms of scope, since Carroll and Gaut's arguments clearly differ in detail. However, they are incorrect about this.

As Carroll himself says, in his reply to Anderson and Dean: " Gaut seems willing to consider virtually every moral defect in a work of art an aesthetic defect, whereas I defend a far weaker claim - namely that sometimes a moral defect in an artwork can count as an aesthetic defect If we look at Gaut's arguments for ethicism, it is clear how ethicism differs from MM in scope, as well as simply in detail.

The argument for ethicism runs as follows this is taken directly from "The Ethical Criticism of Art," but I have numbered each step in the argument :. Notice that this argument, in particular step 2 , commit Gaut to the thesis that whenever a narrative artwork displays moral features, either merits or defects, these will always impact on the aesthetic value of that work to some degree.

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Certain flaws in Gaut's argument have been identified by Anderson and Dean and by Carroll. The most significant of these will be examined a little later. Early in his article, Gaut explicitly outlines the scope of ethicism. It is important to note that "ethicism does not entail the casual thesis that good art ethically improves people," nor the reverse claim; that bad art corrupts. Nor does the ethicist thesis hold that manifesting ethically good attitudes is a sufficient condition for a work to be aesthetically good.

As previously noted, not only do the arguments for MM and ethicism differ in scope, but they also differ in detail; and in the detail of each arguments there are possible flaws. Carroll wants to make clear that his 'ideal sensitive viewer' is not one who simply makes "whatever the work has to offer inaccessible to himself because it at first offends their moral sensibilities". He explains that "the reluctance that the moderate moralist has in mind is not that the ideally sensitive audience member voluntarily puts on the brakes; rather, it is that he can't depress the accelerator because it is jammed.

He tries, but fails. And he fails because there is something wrong with the structure of the artwork. It has not been designed properly on its own terms. According to Optimistic Instrumental MM, "moral virtues always happen to lead to greater audience-absorption, owing to a uniformly moral audience.

This clarification also avoids the problem of explaining the moral and aesthetic value of artworks simply in terms of popular opinion. Hence, the appeal to the normative notion of an ideal audience, rather than actual audiences avoids relativism. However, Conolly points out that MM's reliance on this normative element leads to a collapse of MM into ethicism.

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According to Ideal Spectator MM, "[i]f only ideally moral audiences count, then That, one takes it, is what makes them morally sensitive. The central point is that, to the extent that it relies on the notion of the ideal audience, MM collapses into ethicism, because in actual fact moral features merits or defects will always be aesthetic features also merits or defects. However, although there are valuable aspects to MM - in particular, the common reason argument has its merits - it nevertheless seems more plausible to claim, as the ethicist does, that the moral features of narrative artworks are always aesthetically relevant, i.

One reason for this is that since MM states that moral features will only sometimes also be aesthetic features, there must be some moral features of artworks that are not aesthetically relevant, whereas no such category is required by ethicism. Carroll never explains what would distinguish a case in which moral features were aesthetically relevant from a case in which they weren't - it seems only to be a question of degree - and I suggest that it makes more sense to simply say that moral features can impact on aesthetic value to varying degrees.

I have previously mentioned that MM is more limited in scope than ethicism. Although he is not unsympathetic to Gaut's view, Carroll attempts to show that ethicism is harder to defend than MM.