Re: RARA-AVIS: Moral or Immoral?

From: Patrick King (
Date: 25 Feb 2007

The answer to the question you pose seems obvious to me. It goes back to Robert W. Chambers' The King In Yellow. If a work of art inspires most people who are exposed to it to do murder, adultery, robbery, incest, suicide or any other crime against society, it would be an "immoral" work of art. It's pointless to say that art never inspires some people to behave in certain ways. The old addage about life immitating art is obviously true. We see it on the news daily. But if a work of art were so compelling that the majority of people who were exposed to it were convinced to behave in a fashion contrary to the good of society, that work would certainly be "immoral." The late writer, William S. Burroughs made a concerted effort to write such novels, and while his experiments are very interesting, one would need to be quite gullible to actually follow his suggestions in life. More successful was the Marquis DeSade whose books certainly inspired many people throughout history to experiment with sex as a form of athletics. Tom Paine's writings are generally accepted as the inspiration for the American Revolution, an act certainly 'immoral' to the social standing of English government at that time. Recently there have been several studies of the so-called Zodiac Killer from the Bay Area of California in the early 1970s. By all accounts, this serial murder was inspired by several works of art, specifically, the old movies The Most Dangerous Game and Charley Chan At Treasure Island, also Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado. Of course millions of people have seen these works and not committed serial murder, so one can say they only impacted this individual in such a way as to make him anti-social. Other factors were certainly more significant in his "becoming" than these works of art.

Patrick King
--- wrote:

> Enough with the abstract discussion, if art is moral
> or immoral, what
> makes it so? Where is the morality or immorality
> found? Is, say,
> Postman Always Rings Twice moral or immoral? Do we
> look at all of the
> actions in the book and judge it immoral, or do we
> look at the ending
> and call it moral? Does a moral lesson at the end
> overpower all of the
> sin that came before? Related, which do we read it
> for? Do we immerse
> ourselves in, and possibly enjoy vicariously, the
> immorality? Or do we
> side with the morality lesson at the end? Do we
> have to choose between
> the two?
> And what do you do with something like the book
> Postman is said to have
> inspired, Camus's The Stranger? Moral or immoral?
> Is it real that
> simple?
> Mark

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