Ideas of Oscar Wilde, by Theme

[Irish, 1854 - 1900, Playwright, novelist, essayist, homosexual martyr.]

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21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 6. Value of Art
All art is quite useless
     Full Idea: All art is quite useless.
     From: Oscar Wilde (Preface to 'Dorian Gray' [1891])
     A reaction: Echoes Kant's thought that art is 'purposive without purpose'. Although I find Wilde's claims that morality has nothing to do with art to be na´ve, I find this remark sympathetic. Art may play with moral feelings, but is unlikely to affect actions.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 7. Art and Morality
Books are only well or badly written, not moral or immoral
     Full Idea: There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.
     From: Oscar Wilde (Preface to 'Dorian Gray' [1891])
     A reaction: This is simply false. Novels that are viciously (or subtly) racist, sexist, homophobic, or egotistical can obviously be immoral. I could write a nasty story about Oscar Wilde. It might, though, be very well written. If life is moral, so are novels.
Having ethical sympathies is a bad mannerism of style in an artist
     Full Idea: No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.
     From: Oscar Wilde (Preface to 'Dorian Gray' [1891])
     A reaction: This has a Nietzschean suggestion that the artist is 'beyond good and evil', and operates on some higher level of values, which in Wilde's case seem to be purely aesthetic. You can't justify a callous murder by executing it beautifully.