Artistic and Ethical Values in the Experience of Narratives

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Giovannelli, Alessandro
Levinson, Jerrold
The <i>ethical criticism of art</i> has received increasing attention in contemporary aesthetics, especially with respect to the evaluation of <i>narratives</i>. The most prominent philosophical defenses of this art-critical practice concentrate on the notion of <i>response</i>, specifically on the emotional responses a narrative requires for it to be correctly apprehended and appreciated. I first investigate the mechanisms of emotional participation in narratives (Chapters 1-2); then, I address the question of the legitimacy of the ethical criticism of narratives and advance an argument in support of such a practice (Chapters 3-7). Chapter 1 analyzes different modes of emotional participation in narratives, distinguishing between: emotional inference, affective mimicry, empathy, sympathy, and concern. Chapter 2 first critically discusses Noël Carroll's objections to identificationism and to an empathy-based account of character participation, and then analyzes the sorts of imaginative activities involved in narrative engagement, by investigating the distinctions introduced by Richard Wollheim between <i>central</i> and <i>acentral</i> imagining, and <i>iconic</i> and <i>non-iconic</i> imagination. Chapter 3 offers a taxonomy of the possible views on the relationship between the ethical and the artistic values of a narrative, distinguishing between reductionist and non-reductionist views, and sorting the latter ones into <i>autonomism</i> and <i>moralism</i>, <i>radical</i> and <i>moderate</i>. Chapter 4 analyzes the ethical assessment of narratives for (i) their <i>consequences</i> on their perceivers and (ii) the <i>means of their production</i>, and indicates the evaluation in terms of (iii) the <i>ethical perspective</i> a narrative embodies as the kind of ethical evaluation on which an argument for the ethical criticism of narratives ought to concentrate. Chapter 5 critically assesses the accounts of "imaginative resistance" to fiction offered by Kendall Walton, Richard Moran, and Tamar Gendler, and concludes that none of them is adequate to ground an argument for the ethical criticism of narratives. Chapter 6 looks at Carroll's argument for moderate moralism and Berys Gaut's "merited-response" argument for "ethicism," and finds both arguments wanting. Chapter 7 proposes a version of moralism grounded in the notion of a narrative's ethical perspective, and defended on the grounds of narratives' commitments to provide a realistic (or "fitting") representation of reality.