Concepts of Pornography

Andrew Kania

in Art and Pornography

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609581
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746260 | DOI:
Concepts of Pornography

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Theorists who attempt something like an analysis or definition of pornography often engage in different kinds of projects. Some engage in a conceptual project aimed at elucidating a shared concept of pornography. Others pursue a descriptive project in which they seek to bring our concept of pornography in line with the world. A third kind of project is what this chapter, following Sally Haslanger, calls an analytical project. Such a project has two parts. In the first part, one steps back from the concept in question and asks what work one really wants the concept to do. In the second part, one generates the best concept for the job identified in the first part. Feminists who hold that the point of a concept of pornography is to combat the oppression of women and who consequently propose a stipulative definition of pornography, typically engage in this kind of project. By contrast, Jerrold Levinson's attempt to articulate the distinction between erotic art and pornography qualifies as a descriptive project. According to this chapter, there are serious problems with both Levinson's project and the feminist project. Levinson's analysis of pornography can be faulted on descriptive grounds, but it might also be challenged from an analytical point of view, since it cannot account for the distinction between egalitarian and inegalitarian pornography, and hence cannot be used for feminist purposes. However, many feminist discussions of pornography can also be criticized from an analytical point of view, this chapter points out, because they focus exclusively on mass-market pornography and in the process overlook erotic and pornographic art as a significant source of subordinating material.

Keywords: feminism; feminist aesthetics; Levinson; analytical project; Haslanger; inegalitarian pornography

Chapter.  9352 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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