Of art and blasphemy

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 3 (2):137-167 (2000)
What does philosophy have to say about the argument that blasphemous art ought not to be publicly displayed? We examine four concepts of blasphemy: blasphemy as offence, attack on religion, attack on the sacred, attack on the blasphemer himself. We argue all four are needed to grasp this complex concept. We also argue for blasphemy as primarily a moral, not a religious concept. We then criticise four arguments for the public display of blasphemous art: it may be beautiful, provocative, devoutly intended, and is autonomous of religious concerns. Finally, we discuss the notions of blasphemy and blasphemous art as public offences. We conclude that the display of blasphemous art is a public, and not merely a private moral offence, and that there are respectable philosophical arguments for this conclusion.
Keywords art  blasphemy  freedom  freedom of religion  offence  sacrilege
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DOI 10.1023/A:1009908431779
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