What Should we do with the Art of Moral Monsters?




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[Note: I wrote this about a year ago. This was before several excellent books came out on this topic, e.g. here and here. I have only read the first of these but I have not updated what I wrote in light of it.]I have confession to make. I used to like Woody Allen’s movies. They were a major influence on me in my late teens and early 20s. I enjoyed their exploration of existential themes: the meaninglessness of life, the fundamentality of choice, the Death of God, and the spectre of moral nihilism. I think some of them are genuinely great movies — specifically Annie Hall, Hannah and her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanours — some are very good — Match Point, Husbands and Wives, Blue Jasmine among others — and some are pretty awful (Melinda and Melinda, Scoop etc). I have another confession to make. Although I like a lot of stand-up comedy, the only stand-up comic I have ever paid money to see is Louis CK. I went to one of his shows in Dublin several years ago. Like Woody Allen, I enjoyed his comedy partly for its philosophical depth and insight. I believe that several of his shows, and some episodes of his TV show, explore the tragedies and absurdities of the human condition in an insightful and humorous manner. Confessing to all this puts me in a difficult position.* Although I don’t think either Woody Allen or Louis CK are Cosby-esque in their moral misdeeds (a point to which I will return), there is, at the very least, a moral cloud associated with both men. This makes it hard for me to engage with or enjoy their work anymore. For example, I have not watched a Woody Allen movie since about 2014, nor have I revisited any of Louis CK’s work since the controversy about him erupted in 2017. Poor me, right? This does, however, raise an interesting question: Am I right to censor myself in this way? Would it be permissible for me to continue to enjoy Annie Hall or Live at the Beacon Theatre? Can I separate the artist from the art? Can I overlook their moral misdeeds.. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions



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