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Lesson Plans

Re: Good and Bad Art/Good and Bad People

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
R. Moore (ronmoore)
Wed, 28 Apr 1999 18:11:21 -0700 (PDT)

A number of you have commented on the difficulty of appreciating the
artwork of artists whose character you disapprove. Various folks have
brought up the examples of Cat Stevens, Richard Wagner, Tchaikowski, ...
and so on. To which we might add the name of that
mediocre-but-better-than-you-might-expect painter and watercolorist,
Adolph Hiter!
This raises a particularly challenging question--to what extent
are works of art detached from their makers, when they are done? Does the
work really have a life of its own, or is it always to be understood as
caught up in the character and personal history of its creator?
We don't often ask about the moral character of the makers of our
cars, our houses, our SAT tests, our airplanes, highways, malls, and so on
and so on. Why is art the place where we are tempted to think that there
is a special intimacy between the moral being of the maker and the moral
being of the work? Or, do we think that?
Or, take the broader, and even more intriguing, question: Is
aesthetic appreciation truly separable from our moral evaluation of
things? Do we, in real life, sort out the appreciations we have into
neat, separate piles in which what is good for aesthetic reasons is
altogether distinct from what is good for moral reasons? (And similarly
with ugly, bad, noble, etc.)
My friend and fellow forum-walker Marcia has had quite a bit to
say about this issue in print, if you'd like to check it out. As usual,
it's both warm and wise stuff.