• darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    To say ethics is aesthetics is to say that morality should be interpreted as fundamentally deriving from an aesthetic perception. Just as we can see a landscape as beautiful, or a musical score serene, we can see actions as right or wrong, and characters as good and bad.

    Consider if this were true: it now makes complete sense why we call bad people "pieces of shit". They aren't actually a piece of shit (they are human), but their character and actions are so repugnant that we react to them in the same way we would react to an actual piece of shit. In both cases this can be interpreted as an aesthetic revulsion.

    Some may object that to "reduce" ethics to aesthetics does a disservice to ethics - yet I contend that to say this is actually a disservice to aesthetics. Defining ethics as aesthetics is not a reduction of ethics but an elevation of aesthetics. Nowadays it seems as though aesthetics has been removed from the "really real", consigned to a position of illusion (alongside ethics!, too). Aesthetics is effete, trivial, luxurious. But what if this is only because we define aesthetics in such a narrow way? What if we simply take for granted that ethics is different from aesthetics based on a false presupposition?

    In fact, aesthetics are far more powerful than I think we typically admit. It is disgusting to touch fecal matter, even if we have gloves on and wash our hands afterwards. Something about it is just revolting and it powerfully impinges on our decision to touch it. Yet compare this to the moral impulse to help someone, for instance: we feel an overwhelming urge to get involved and lend assistance. Based on what? Based on our aesthetic perception of the situation, which ultimately is about delivering a better, more beautiful (or less ugly) world.
  • praxis
    1.1k
    In an overly 'rational' world, or rather culture, I think we tend to loose touch with aesthetics and perhaps ethics along with it.

    Not sure what the mechanism is behind this. Maybe aesthetic awareness takes us outside of ourselves and our selfish interests.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    293


    I consider the aesthetic and ethical to be antithetically related. The aesthete has no concern for ethics. And, once he enters into the the ethical stage of life, there is no going back, the knowledge of good and evil is irreversible.

    Not sure what the mechanism is behind this. Maybe aesthetic awareness takes us outside of ourselves and our selfish interests. — praxis

    I might argue: that it takes us out of ourselves by making our selfish interest the focus of existence, and by alleviating the individual of personal responsibility.

    Good and evil do not factor into the aesthetic, the aesthetic is only concerned with preference regarding the interesting and disgusting. In relation to the aesthetic, the individual is simply a spectatator, and he loses his individuality by relating himself to the aesthetic, becoming an appearance in relation to other appearances. All that matters, aesthetically speaking, is how things appear.


    In contrast, in the ethical, the individual is in a decisive position of personal responsibility.
    He can no longer sit back and be entertained, but is tasked with willing the good (or willing evil if that is considered what's good) - to see the victory of good in the world. The individual becomes ethically victorious by becoming good himself, so that by relating himself to the good, he does not lose anything, but rather is revealed as the deciding individual.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    293
    What is the good however?

    Neither the individual nor appearance is in a position to determine the good as a truth. So this nessecitates a teleological suspension of the ethical. In other words, the ethical purpose to see the victory of the good in the world is no longer adequate. This brings us to a higher category in which the individual comes to will the good by virtue of the absurd - the fact that he can neither know what the good is, nor ever see it become victorious in the world.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    293
    Nowadays it seems as though aesthetics has been removed from the "really real", consigned to a position of illusion (alongside ethics!, too).darthbarracuda

    The aesthetic is the world of appearance (qua. how things appear to be) , and appearance is illusion. But it is the sphere most occupy in their existence, and the perspective from which many philosophers (if not the overwhelming majority) on this forum argue from, or rather, the category their reasoning is confined to.
  • Not Steve
    18
    I think the comparison between the two (ethics and aesthetics) is valid insofar as both are subjective and abstract. Both are externalizations of our perceptions of things: good and bad are not inherent characteristics of people, just as beautiful or ugly are not inherent characteristics of an artwork. Those descriptors to not refer to anything materially real, but rather our reactions to a real thing or phenomenon.
  • I like sushi
    617
    I would imagine this relates to hedonism? Meaning to view “aesthetics” (pursuit of beauty) as a guide to an “ethical” life.

    We’re badly wired creatures and so often what we need appears to be “bad”. The old adage of ‘no pain, no gain’ rings true here as we’re in constant conflict between the immediate now and the possible future state of the self. The “aesthetic” perspective is primarily focused on the immediate whilst the “ethical” perspective is about the probably outcomes for a net “good,” or with hedonism a net “pleasure”?

    Have you read Schiller’s ‘On the Aesthetic Education of Man’? You might find it interesting.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    293
    I would imagine this relates to hedonism? Meaning to view “aesthetics” (pursuit of beauty) as a guide to an “ethical” life.I like sushi

    I agree that is what the ethical becomes when framed aesthetically, but I disagree that the aesthetic is more immediate than the ethical since it is a relation of appearances (qua. an external relation), whereas the ethical redirects that external relation, turning it back onto the individual. So while they are both immediate in their own sense, the ethical is more immediate by its inward focus on subjectivity, rather than outward projection into appearance.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    293
    Those descriptors to not refer to anything materially real, but rather our reactions to a real thing or phenomenon.Not Steve

    Indeed, but they are not descriptors as much as they are categories of thought
  • I like sushi
    617
    I disagree that the aesthetic is more immediate than the ethical since it is a relation of appearances (qua. an external relation), whereas the ethical redirects that external relation, turning it back onto the individual. — /merkwurdichliebe

    If you’re framing “aesthetic” as appearance (which you seem to be doing?) then it is almost certainly, from a neurological perspective, prior to any ethical consideration. If you hear a bang or see a snake the reaction happens prior to conscious awareness of the phenomenon. Of course that is not to say that more base instinctual reactions cannot be overridden by consciousness awareness prior to the experience of phenomenon - many professionals train to do this in various occupations. That said I would not say it is easily done, but we can certainly manipulate our senses to make something taste good or bad within a certain limit, just like we can manage pain given the correct dedication and training. I’d also add I’m leaving room for some greyness and using this differentiation as a means to investigate not as a doctrine of what is or isn’t ethic/aesthetic because they are both born out of phenomenal experience. In this light it does seem that “raw” experience engages instinct prior to conscious consideration of ethical issues and I cannot see how it could be otherwise? We could go round and round in circles trying to distinguish where aesthetics transitions into ethics, or vice versa, but it would be an endless chase.

    Anyway I’m going to finally start a thread about this to supplement two threads about ethics, morality and hypotheticals.

    Note: I believe the German translation of “aesthetics” to be something more like “the judgement of taste”.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    293
    Sorry for my lack of clarity, I meant "appear" in the sense of seeming, rather than seeing.


    Note: I believe the German translation of “aesthetics” to be something more like “the judgement of taste”. — I like sushi

    Excellent point. So the the judgment of taste implies a movement out of immediacy by abstracting it into a judgment of what seems to be the immediacy of taste.

    The ethical proceeds the opposite way. Instead of the individual proceeding from immediacy into an understanding of reality as it seems to be (i.e. the aesthetic), the ethical begins with a judgement of how reality should be, and recedes back to immediacy where the individual conforms himself to such a reality.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    293
    n this light it does seem that “raw” experience engages instinct prior to conscious consideration of ethical issues and I cannot see how it could be otherwise? We could go round and round in circles trying to distinguish where aesthetics transitions into ethics, or vice versa, but it would be an endless chase.I like sushi

    Not necessarily ...

    In the aesthetic, the individual is immersed in the world as it seems. And, within that immersion of seeming is where the knowledge of good and evil is obtained. So when one poses the question of how the world should be, it is always from the position of how the world seems to be. But the judgement is the movement out of the aesthetic, and the decision to conform oneself to that judgement is immediate.
  • I like sushi
    617
    the ethical begins with a judgement of how reality should be — Merk

    Fair enough. I personally wouldn’t use the term “ethical” there though, but I see what you’re looking at now I think. There is still the problem of arguing against one over the other without any initial point of origin. It becomes a problem of ontology. That is why I referred to the phenomenal experience rather than bothering with the impossible problem of origins - I tend to tilt heavily toward phenomenology in these sorts of areas to avoid becoming too entangled in “this came first” arguments; which i my experience lead nowhere fast unless the terms being used are rigidly defined and the limited scope of the subject at hand is made explicit.

    For what it’s worth I’d have said something more like ethical judgement begins once experience has “passed on” - meaning the phenomenal “now” is subject to previous ethical analysis combined with base instincts which essentially comprise of the building blocks upon which our sense of aesthetics arises (basic evolutionary instincts that either attract or repulse us from raw phenomenon). In this sense the conscious awareness, the social self, then assesses the long term repercussions of immediate instinctual drives and even inhibits them in pursuit of more long term rewards as opposed to the immediate.

    Then there are other empirical factors to consider regarding neural priming and pleasure taken in novelty - an emotion that can, and does, flip between fear and pleasure given the degree of “novelty” experienced. What is too alien producing fear and/or fascination.

    I’m not saying cognitive neuroscience has the answers but it is certainly a useful guiding hand in this area.
  • I like sushi
    617
    world as it seems. — Merk

    “World” as in Weltanschuuang or as in physical reality? If the later then I disagree because the physical world gives to the senses - again, deep down enough and words lose their inherent meaning so if that is your take I’d opt for the ‘weltanschuuang’ and a phenological approach to grasp at that kind of thing!
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    293
    There is still the problem of arguing against one over the other without any initial point of origin. It becomes a problem of ontology. That is why I referred to the phenomenal experience rather than bothering with the impossible problem of origins - I tend to tilt heavily toward phenomenology in these sorts of areas to avoid becoming too entangled in “this came first” arguments; which i my experience lead nowhere fast unless the terms being used are rigidly defined and the limited scope of the subject at hand is made explicit. — I like sushi

    Very true.

    I have just been experimenting with the two concepts dialectically, regarding them as major categories of existence. And I am aware, this has heavy phenomenological undertones.


    Nice, you know the German terms. :up:
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    293
    As in Weltanschuuang

    The world can also seem to be a physical reality.
  • Tim3003
    52
    I think the link between ethics and aesthetics is real, and it's not about one being the source of the other, it's that both come from the same deeper source; namely evolutionary necessity. Ethics is hard-wired genetically passed information about how to behave to maximise the chances of our success as an advanced social group. Aesthetics concerns how to survive and act as an individual. The smell of faeces is repugnant precisely because it's unhealthy for us to eat - so that smell discourages us from handling it. If we see a beautiful day, it seems so in order to attract us outside to work and provide food. An ugly day might be cold, wet and windy, and the danger of illness inherent in prolonged exposure prompts us to stay inside. (I'm talking here about the lives of early humans, living close to and inextricably dependent upon the natural world). As Keats said: "Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That's all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." What we perceive as beauty contains a deeper meaning about the means of our survival.
    I think if you believe Darwin's theories, it is impossible for anything that we are, perceive or believe, to be inate in us for any reason other than to aid our survival.
  • praxis
    1.1k
    I consider the aesthetic and ethical to be antithetically related.Merkwurdichliebe

    It’s a well documented phenomenon that attractive defendants in court receive fewer convictions, and when convicted get lighter sentences, than unattractive defendants. So in at least some situations the two appear to have incongruous concerns or objectives.

    On the other hand, aesthetics can be powerful in delivering meaningful stories or stories with moral messages.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    293
    On the other hand, aesthetics can be powerful in delivering meaningful stories or stories with moral messages.praxis

    Aesthetics can indeed function as a powerful tool to relate the ethical. But it can only be indirectly related. That is what religious texts do, and why they appeal to such a broad audience.
  • praxis
    1.1k


    What do you mean by indirectly related?
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    293


    The ethical is an immediate relation for the individual, who is responsible as the deciding agent. He is personally tasked with conforming himself to how the world should be.

    When, the ethical is represented in a story, it removes the reader from his immediate relation to the ethical. Although it may have an edifying effect, it has no actual bearing on the ethical as an immediate reality for the individual, in which he becomes the deciding agent. As the reader, he becomes a passive spectator, relating himself to the ethical indirectly through the protagonist. In other words, the reader, by relating himself to ethical existence of another, can only take on his responsibility as the deciding agent vicariously. Hence it is indirect.
  • praxis
    1.1k


    So you’re basically making a distinction between witnessing a morally charged event and personally experiencing one. Does that make sense?
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