Arts and Ethics | October 18-19

Trinity Western University | School of the Arts, Media + Culture 

There is long history surrounding the relationship between the arts and ethics. The arts affect individual identities, communities, and relationships between people and their environments. The arts can contribute to the ethical life of a community, as exemplified by public art and theatre. Some people have been suspicious of the role of the arts on individual ethical outlooks, as reflected by censorship and ratings labels. The arts can also affect relational ethics, either positively – as in the case of a caregiver singing to a child – or negatively – as in the use of music to encourage violence. Another strand of thought argues that the arts do not mean anything outside of themselves and are therefore isolated from ethics. Each theory of the relation between arts and ethics leads to different views of the ways the arts are experienced and gives rise to different responsibilities for producers and experiencers of the arts.

This conference explores the relations between arts and ethics through questions including:

  • Do artistic forms enact ethics? If so, are some artistic forms ‘more ethical’ than others?
  • Are there ethical responsibilities to art?
  • What ethical responsibilities do artists have?
  • Do arts educators have ethical responsibilities? Can there be 'ethical guidelines' for arts education?
  • What is the distinction (if there is one) between ‘arts and ethics’ and ‘arts and morals/morality’?
  • Can the arts make communities ‘more ethical’?
  • Can they encourage democracy or an ethical alternative?
  • Can the arts help or harm the development of ethical reasoning?
  • How do the arts present ethical responses to real life situations?
  • Aesthetic experience is becoming increasingly discussed in neuroscientific terms. How does this alter the dialogue surrounding arts and ethics?
  • How have discourses about the arts ignored issues pertaining to ethics?
  • How do specific ethical theories (normative, virtue, discourse, pragmatic, utilitarian, Levinasian) contribute to this discussion?
  • Prof. Terry Lindvall, Virginia Wesleyan College
  • Prof. Lambert Zuidervaart, Institute for Christian Studies and University of Toronto
  • Dr Nanette Nielsen, The University of Nottingham
  • Dr. Marcel Cobussen, Leiden University