Chapter

Taking a Moral Perspective

Elisabeth Schellekens

in Art and Pornography

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609581
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746260 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609581.003.0015
Taking a Moral Perspective

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What does it mean for a representation to be voyeuristic and what, if anything, is the difference between voyeurism in artistic and non-artistic representations? These are the central questions that this chapter addresses in the final chapter of this volume. According to this chapter, a representation will count as voyeuristic if a number of interrelated conditions are fulfilled, the most crucial of which refers to the delight we take in such a representation. That delight must at least partly be grounded in the fact that we are witnessing something that, in some sense, we shouldn’t be witnessing. In other words, the particular frisson that voyeuristic works give us relies fundamentally on breaking a moral taboo or crossing the line of what is traditionally regarded as morally acceptable. As such, this chapter believes that there is an inescapable moral tension at the heart of all voyeuristic works, including voyeuristic works of art. What in the end distinguishes voyeurism in art from voyeurism in non-artistic contexts is that in art we are invited to simultaneously occupy the point of view of the voyeur and observe ourselves qua spectator from an external point of view so as to reflect on our morally problematic indulgences. Ordinary voyeuristic records, much like ordinary pornographic pictures and films, do not tend to invite the viewer to reflect on their broader context, or on their underlying meaning but rather offer something more instrumental and one-dimensional.

Keywords: voyeurism; Rear Window; moral taboo; Tintoretto; intimacy; privacy

Chapter.  7856 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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