Thoughts on Aesthetic Judgments and Ethics

Often we think of what is right and wrong in terms of the outcome of academic reasoning which is not entirely tied to our physical world. Is that entirely what happens though when we come to think of an action or outcome as morally permissible or impermissible? This short post will provide a glimmer of some of my thoughts on a subject otherwise hidden from mainstream discourse.

When we see something such as a starving child, or the victim of a murder, is our judgment of that action (i.e. disparity, violence) based on what we have rationalized through reason as wrong, or is it that we are responding in a very human manner to the result of an action that is aesthetically appalling. When the question why is asked, there are already parts that are known but also parts that we do not know which matter deeply but which are in doubt. Read another way, I expect to cut through the cloud of doubt to an understanding of what sets into action our judgments. I have an idea of the answer formulated over time, although it will help to discuss and put into writing. I will not be mentioning the implications of this thinking which may be the subject of another blog post.

Typically speaking the history of morality and ethics has been usual suspects. Old white male academics in an ivory tower philosophizing on matters which frequency in the real world is up for debate. Through this questioning discourse, however, learning can happen that sheds light on matters of daily life. Is this really though the nature of morality? When I am insulted or my life is threatened, is it wrong because I have reasoned it to be so based on abstract moral principles or is it because that action is not agreeable to my senses? I believe truth is closer to the reactive nature in humans which is then rationalized afterward and explained.

So, when there is a pleasure to the senses, whether that be sight, touch, etc. there is agreement and we see that as good. When there is recoil and fear to the senses, we see that as not agreeable and quite correctly rationalize contributing factors as wrong and bad. It is clear that what has been built in terms of societal moral constructs is what is agreeable to our basic nature as social beings and our reaction to stimuli. The quest has always been to explain our response to nature. Read another way, input from the environment touching upon our senses, in a way that finds agreeability, is the good.

Subjectivity? No doubt this is subjective to what some may think of as an advanced degree. There are others who may say we share this environment and these senses with everyone and our responses to shared stimuli or often the same. Universals can become objective facts while the more mundane and individualistic experiences resting in the subjective. Neither its subjectivity or objectivity is of great importance for this post.

Art with its play on the senses is praised for its aesthetic value. We feel generally pleased when viewing the work of Monet and others, and it is in my opinion that indicates good or rightness. How we know this is our base of senses. Whether it is further rationalized through a moral theory to explain why we see that as good in a non-hedonistic view is not of importance. As I wrote in an earlier paper, found on this blog, there is an essential question to morality and that is whether pleasure is the only intrinsic good, and pain the only intrinsic bad. I think that is true. Furthermore, I believe that many moral theories have attempted to explain a truly pleasure-based morality in a rationalized approach for reasons of societal acceptability. Time has changed though and so too must our moral constructs.

Questioning the base of moral reasoning should be done. I have only mentioned above a few of my points. To summarize and highlight my opinion, the underlining purpose of action is to find agreeability with our natural response to the environments around us and our sensory responses to those environments, whether it is sight, touch, or other. It is the agreeability in its positive or negative that determines good or bad, right or wrong, and our objective should be to seek maximum agreeability without diverting to non-Hedonistic based moral theories.