Publication Date

2013-11-22

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2013-11-22

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Philosophy (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2013-09-27

First Committee Member

Otávio Bueno

Second Committee Member

Keith Lehrer

Third Committee Member

Michael Slote

Fourth Committee Member

Matthew Kieran

Abstract

Many fictional works aim to amuse audiences with accounts of immoral characters engaging in evil deeds. A number of positions have emerged to determine to what degree, if any, a work’s treatment of unethical events shapes its aesthetic value. In this dissertation I will evaluate four existing positions and advance my own for consideration, empathic autonomism. I argue that it is not unethical for audience members to enjoy imaginary immoral acts and I will show how this affects various stances. I will present objections to rival views and argue that a fictional work’s ability to allow audiences to empathize with characters is aesthetically meritorious regardless of the ethical value of attitudes prescribed by the piece.

Keywords

ethics; aesthetics; empathic autonomism; ethicism; moderate moralism; cognitive immoralism

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