Ideas of Berys Gaut, by Theme

[British, fl. 2006, Lecturer at St Andrews University.]

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21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 2. Aesthetic Attitude
Maybe literary assessment is evaluating the artist as a suitable friend
     Full Idea: An approach in Hume (elaborated by Wayne Booth) holds that literary assessment is akin to an act of befriending, for one assesses the author of a work as a suitable friend.
     From: Berys Gaut (The Ethical Criticism of Art [1998], 'Some')
     A reaction: I like the idea that art exploits our normal range of social emotions and attitudes, so I think this has some truth, but some of the best artists are so out of my league as to not even be candidates for friendship. Dostoevsky? Webster? Caravaggio?
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 2. Art as Form
Formalists say aesthetics concerns types of beauty, or unity, complexity and intensity
     Full Idea: The formal objects which individuate the aesthetic attitude may be narrowly aesthetic, as beauty, and its subspecies, such as grace and elegance, or more broadly by other formalist criteria, such as Beardley's unity, complexity and intensity.
     From: Berys Gaut (The Ethical Criticism of Art [1998], 'Objections 1')
     A reaction: I'm not sure about unity or complexity, but intensity was endorsed by Henry James. Intensity doesn't sound very 'formal'. 'Beauty' doesn't seem the right word for the wonderful 'King Lear', or even for Jane Austen novels.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 7. Art and Morality
'Moralism' says all aesthetic merits are moral merits
     Full Idea: The view that the only aesthetic merit of works are ethical ones is known as 'moralism'.
     From: Berys Gaut (The Ethical Criticism of Art [1998], n 1)
     A reaction: [He says this view was demolished by R.W.Beardsmore in 1971] Gaut contrasts this with his own carefully modulated 'ethicism'. Moralism predominated in the eighteenth century, but now looks clearly wrong (or naïve).
Good ethics counts towards aesthetic merit, and bad ethics counts against it
     Full Idea: I defend 'ethicism', which says that ethically admirable attitudes count toward the the aesthetic merit of a work, and ethically reprehensible attitudes count against its aesthetic merit.
     From: Berys Gaut (The Ethical Criticism of Art [1998], 'Ethicism')
     A reaction: He recognises that morally admirable works can explore unethical behaviour, and also that identifying the 'attitude' of a work is not simple. The ethics are not necessary. 'Triumph of the Will' is a classic test case. I disagree with Gaut.
If we don't respond ethically in the way a work prescribes, that is an aesthetic failure
     Full Idea: Our having reason not to respond in the way prescribed (because it is unethical) is a failure of the work …so that is an aesthetic failure, which is an aesthetic defect.
     From: Berys Gaut (The Ethical Criticism of Art [1998], 'Merited')
     A reaction: A key argument for Gaut's theory of 'ethicism' about literature. If 'Triumph of the Will' gets the right response from Nazi sympathisers, that is probably all aesthetic success. Jane Austen hasn't failed if she is rejected as bourgeois.
Good art does not necessarily improve people (any more than good advice does)
     Full Idea: Ethicism does not entail the causal thesis that good art ethically improves people, …any more than it follows that earnest ethical advice improves people.
     From: Berys Gaut (The Ethical Criticism of Art [1998], 'Ethicism')
     A reaction: How successful were sermons, in the great days of Christianity? It seems hard to disagree with Gaut's point.