When Good Artists Do Bad Things
What should we do, think, and feel when artists we love do terrible things? Erich Matthes, associate professor of philosophy and director of The Camilla Chandler Frost ’47 Center for the Environment, offers an argument based on his ongoing research.
Recent years have been punctuated by revelations and reminders that popular artists (musicians, directors, actors, comedians, painters) have committed a range of morally condemnable acts. What should we do, think, and feel in response to these actions? Does it affect the aesthetic quality of the work these artists have produced? Is it morally permissible for us to engage with or enjoy that work? Should such work even be available for consumption, or should it be “canceled?” In short, can we separate the art from the artist? In this presentation, Matthes argues that it doesn’t matter whether we can separate the art from the artist, because we shouldn’t. Taking both art and morality seriously requires grappling with them together. Recognizing the moral and aesthetic relationships between art and artist is essential to determining when and where we should draw the line when good artists do bad things.
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