Skeptics of Beauty

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More questions and musings from resident Philosophy Professor, William Edelglass:

Some recent thinkers and artists have argued that beauty is not the support for ethics and justice that earlier thinkers had imagined.  Instead, they have argued, the valorization of beauty is an expression of privilege: only people who have all their basic needs met could really care about beauty.  Moreover, attention to beauty lifts us out of the ethical demands of a world in which there is suffering.  Instead of contemplating beautiful scenery or works of art, we need to respond to that suffering, it is argued.  And if we do make works of art, they should not reflect the tastes of the privileged but should disturb them, to draw our attention to social and political truths which are obscured by the devotion to beauty.  What is the relationship between beauty—say, for example, the beauty of a painting by Mark Rothko — and morality, justice, and politics?  Ought we to be skeptical of beauty and strive to escaped the “cult of beauty”?




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