Jacques Maritain's Ethics of Art

Anthony Richard Haynes

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Abstract / Description of output

I examine Jacques Maritain's views on the relationship between art and ethics or what is today called the ‘ethical criticism of art’, and examine what Maritain's thought can contribute to debates in contemporary aesthetics and wider society. In part I of the article, I approach Maritain's attempted reconciliation of artistic freedom and the demands of morality in three steps, first recalling Maritain's definition of art, second looking at Maritain's analysis of the extra-artistic concerns of the artist, and third offering a critique of Maritain's views on why art is valued by the community and what justifiable moral claims of the community upon the artist might be—particularly regarding the method of production of artworks. Comparing Maritain's theories to those of contemporary writers in part II, I argue that Maritain's ethics of art can be used to complement Jacques Rancière's notions of the ‘distribution of the sensible’ and ‘artistic regimes’, and that, in the terminology of the ethical criticism of art, Maritain affirms a position which is a composite of ‘moderate moralism’ and ‘ethicism’—a position which is both explanatorily powerful in ascertaining how and why we recognise and value art, and flexible in accommodating changing artistic forms and practices.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Blackfriars
Early online date6 Jul 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jul 2016


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