Friday, August 23, 2013

Ethics and Aesthetics

It seems pretty clear that ethics and aesthetics are linked.  Our views of what is good and what is beautiful are necessarily intertwined (just as they are both deeply connected to our views of what is true).  Just a couple of thoughts on regulating the connection:

1.  We must not let aesthetics lead ethics.  Of course, it is still fairly trendy in some circles to say that ethical judgements boil down in the end to just 'I like/don't like this'.  This cannot be true of Christian ethics.  When we say that something is morally wrong, we mean that it is objectively disordered, or - to get right to the heart of the issue - that it is disobedient to God's command.  Since this is a huge thing to say, we need to pretty careful about saying it.  In particular, I worry that sometimes our ethical judgements are too close to being judgements about taste.  'I am personally and culturally disposed to find this behaviour repulsive' is not the same as 'this is disobedient to God's command', and we need to be careful to ensure that we are not confusing the two.

2.  We must train aesthetics to follow ethics.  If truth, goodness, and beauty are genuinely connected - if they are all facets of God's one reality - then what is true and good is also beautiful, and I need to train myself to see it that way.  On the flipside, if sin is really sin as the Bible describes it, then it is also ugly, and I need to train myself to view it as such.  What I notice in myself is that I easily see the sins to which others are prone as ugly, whilst the transgressions which I tend toward are, in my mind, sometimes even beautiful.  Since I am not capable, ultimately, of disconnecting what God has connected - ethics and aesthetics - this inevitably means that I see the sins of others as ethically worse than my own, which is clearly not a helpful or a true viewpoint.  I need to train myself to loath my own sin, not only as wrong but also as ugly.

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