Quality Goods: Aesthetics and Ethics — An Inquiry into Values
This discussion examines aesthetic and ethical issues related to electronic media and the fine and popular arts as means of engaging the question of how to live in a diverse and complex society. The theoretical underpinnings of this paper arise out of dissonances (and consonances) inherent in the concomitant use of theoretical perspectives of both Critical Theory and Cultural Studies. The thesis here is that the intuitive, emotional, and even irrational dimensions of art, and perspectives developed out of aesthetic and ethical issues particular to various media can provide insights into the nature and ethical implications of various socio/cultural interactions. The non-discursive arts can present us with insight unavailable through exclusively "rational/discursive" means. Consequent ethical conclusions exhibit a significant aesthetic component. The ethical moment plays itself out in the lives of human beings through the freedom of aesthetic creation. The fine and popular arts and electronic media comprise an enormous percentage of the ways in which human lives are mediated, even as these fields are themselves mediated by other socio-cultural phenomena. The interaction and tension in the use of the two theoretical frames in the examination of discursive and non-discursive arts and media energize, intensify, and provide insight into the question of how to live.
Keywords: Aesthetics, Ethics, Fine Arts, Popular Arts, Electronic Media, Critical Theory, Cultural Studies
Dr. Gerald L. Phillips
Associate Professor, Music, Humanities, Arts, Departments of Music and Humanities, Towson University