The Moral and Aesthetic Distinction

In matters of morality, our notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are known to us through our intuitive thoughts which act as the experience of morality. In aesthetics what we consider to be ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are also known through our intuitive thoughts. Throughout the course of moral discussion there has been a widespread misunderstanding of the two values. Where morality considers the regarding of others, aesthetics role is only to evaluate those things that are accessed through the ordinary senses. For example, when one argues about the beauty of a piece of Gustav Klimt’s they are not making a moral evaluation but an aesthetic evaluation. Whereas when one argues for the rightness or wrongness of, say, abortion, infanticide, or euthanasia, they are making a moral evaluation.

What makes this distinction an issue is that our moral evaluations become clouded in factors that are not of a moral nature and hence wrongfully affect the culpability (or praise) of the evaluated agent. This presents further issues in our concept of ordinary language; this is especially evident in talk about evil. What constitutes evil is an ongoing problem that is tangled in the webs of language. People tend to use concepts such as ‘badness in immensity’ as synonymous with ‘evil’. Though the former is necessary, it does not capture the true seriousness of what it is to be ‘evil’. This is due to our considerations of those events that cause disastrous effects with little psychological bearing. Considering those events that are only to do with ordinary perceptions (viz. gruesomeness) should not be mixed with moral psychology, as our evaluations are things of intention, desire, and pleasure.

The problem of the distinction between the two values is not as evident in less complex moral situation. If one kills another simply for the pleasure received from doing so there is no cloudiness associated with whether it is moral or aesthetic. But in certain circumstances where aesthetics are difficult to look past our evaluations can be mislead. For example, if one kills another as a result of a negligent lawn mowing accident that decapitates an agent we must be careful not to include the grotesqueness of the victims circumstances in our moral evaluations, for they are of two different natures.

Though it may be hard to look past the aesthetics of a moral situation, and it may indeed be too far outside human nature to disregard repulsive scenes, morality can only be rationally analysed through this distinction.


~ by tildahook on September 13, 2011.

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