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Reading: Morality, Society, and the Love of Art


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Research Article

Morality, Society, and the Love of Art


Malcolm Budd

University College London, GB
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The principal focus of the essay is the idea of artistic value, understood as the value of a work of art as the work of art it is, and the essay explores the connections, if any, between artistic value and a variety of other values (social, moral, educational, and character-building) in human life. I start with a series of observations about social values and then turn to moral values. Beginning from Goethe’s claim that ‘music cannot affect morality, nor can the other arts, and it would be wrong to expect them to do so’, I proceed from music through the other arts; I distinguish different conceptions of morality; I highlight what I call a work of art’s positive moral value (its power for moral improvement); and distinguish three kinds of moral improvement, one taking pride of place. My conclusion is that the positive moral value of works of art has been greatly overrated. I then return to the social values of art, looking at the situation from a very different point of view and reaching new conclusions, some of them positive. I end by explaining why my observations and arguments about the positive moral value of a work of art in no way diminishes the importance of art in human life, the true end of art having an importance in human life not guaranteed by morality.
How to Cite: Budd, Malcolm. “Morality, Society, and the Love of Art”. Estetika: The Central European Journal of Aesthetics 51, no. 2 (2014): 170–207. DOI:
Published on 25 Nov 2014.
Peer Reviewed


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