Is there a real nexus between ethics and aesthetics?

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 7 (1):91-102 (2010)
Aesthetics is a vexed topic in philosophy, with a long history. For my purposes, an aesthetic experience is a foundational affective response to an object, to which terms such as “ugly”, “beautiful”, “pretty” or “harmonious” are applied. These terms are derived from a Discourse of aesthetics; some remain constant, others change from generation to generation. Aesthetics and ethics have been linked in Western thought since the days of Plato and Aristotle. This essay examines what is happening to that link in contemporary experience. It emphasises the ways in which the popular media exploit aesthetic appeal to penetrate their market, and to exploit and frame intuitive responses to current and past events. Production values, the artfulness of editors and the financial interests of producers and directors thus do much to determine contemporary aesthetic and ethical judgements. That which is beautifully presented invites the ethical involvement of the audience. Events whose images are beautifully presented constitute “hyperevidence”, a pre-judged, reinforced and amplified illusion of reality and participation. Understanding how aesthetic excellence draws audiences into ethical relationship with what is presented becomes an important part of education in ethics, including bioethics.
Keywords Aesthetics  Ethics  Media  Education in ethics
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DOI 10.1007/s11673-010-9214-x
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