On the Ethical Distinction between Art and Pornography

Brandon Cooke

in Art and Pornography

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609581
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746260 | DOI:
On the Ethical Distinction between Art and Pornography

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This chapter offers a detailed critical examination of some of the most powerful moral objections against pornography. One such objection is built on the idea that one can acquire true beliefs from fiction, but also false beliefs, and that the latter invariably happens to consumers of pornography. A different moral objection states that women as a group are exploited by heterosexual pornography. Finally, there is the variety of causal arguments put forward by anti-porn critics who believe that pornography causes harm or induces unethical behaviour. Against the latter this chapter argues that there still is no adequate evidence for any such causal link and that the relevant causal mechanism has yet to be discovered. It also remains sceptical about the other moral objections against pornography, mainly because they fail to square with the fact that most pornography is offered as material for non-alethic imagining and that imaginings of this sort are not morally equivalent to actions or to genuine attitudes. It is this connection with imagining, this chapter argues, that makes pornography on a par, ethically, with art. To be sure, works of art are sometimes an appropriate object of ethical criticism. But establishing that an artwork is ethically flawed requires much more than showing that it has a certain content. According to this chapter, the same is true of much pornography.

Keywords: Exploitation; Langton; harm; moral criticism; fiction

Chapter.  9949 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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