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average viewer?
I suspect that it may. Because as long as the moral understanding promoted by
the film is defective, it remains a potential obstacle to the film™s securing the
response it seeks as a condition of its aesthetic success. Audiences during the heat
of war may not detect its moral defect, but after the war such a defect will become
more and more evident. Movies that thrilled people may come to disgust them
morally.And even if they do not disgust the majority of viewers, the films are still
flawed, inasmuch as they remain likely to fail to engender the planned response in
morally sensitive viewers.
Moderate autonomists overlook the degree to which moral presuppositions
play a structural role in the design of many artworks. Thus, an artist whose
work depends upon a certain moral response from the audience, but who has
proffered a work that defies moral understanding, makes a structural, or as they
say, aesthetic error.This may be one way in which to understand Hume™s con-
tention that a moral blemish in an artwork may be legitimate grounds for say-
ing that the work is defective.9
Moreover, as Kendall Walton has pointed out, audiences are particularly inflex-
ible about the moral presuppositions they bring to artworks.Whereas we are will-
ing to grant that the physical worlds of fiction may be otherwise “ that objects can
move faster than the speed of light “ we are not willing to make similar conces-
sions about morality “ we are not willing to go with the notion, for example, that
in the world of some fiction, killing innocent people is good.Thus, artworks that
commerce in flawed moral conceptions may fail precisely because the failed moral
conceptions they promote make it impossible for readers, viewers, and listeners to
mobilize the audience responses to which the artists aspire in terms of their own
aesthetic commitments.10
But even where given audiences do not detect the moral flaws in question,
the artwork may still be aesthetically flawed, since in those cases the moral
flaws sit like time-bombs, ready to explode aesthetically once morally sensitive
viewers, listeners, and readers encounter them. That is, it need not be the case
that viewers or readers actually are deterred from the response that the work
invites. The work is flawed if it contains a failure in moral perspective that a
304 ART, EMOTION, MORALITY
AND


morally sensitive audience could detect, such that that discovery would com-
promise the effect of the work on its own terms. Thus, a moral defect can
count as an aesthetic defect even if it does not undermine appreciation by
actual audiences so long as it has the counterfactual capacity to undermine the
intended response of morally sensitive audiences.11
That Nazis circa 1943 could fail to recognize morally that Hitler was not a
tragic figure does not show that a play encouraging us to pity the dictator is not
aesthetically ill conceived. This may not be enough to show that a moral flaw is
always an aesthetic flaw. But it is enough to show that it may sometimes be an aes-
thetic flaw, and that is sufficient to show that moderate autonomism is false.
Many artworks, such as narrative artworks, address the moral understanding.
When that address is defective, we may say that the work is morally defective.And,
furthermore, that moral defect may count as an aesthetic blemish. It will count as
an aesthetic defect when it actually deters the response to which the work aspires.
And it will also count as a blemish even if it is not detected “ so long as it is there
to be detected by morally sensitive audiences whose response to the work™s
agenda will be spoilt by it.A blemish is still a blemish even if it goes unnoticed for
the longest time.
In response to my claim that a moral defect “ such as representing Hitler as
a tragic figure “ counts as an aesthetic defect, the sophisticated moderate
autonomist may respond that such defects might be categorized in two ways: as
aesthetic defects (i.e., they present psychological problems with respect to
audience uptake), or as moral problems (i.e., they project an evil viewpoint).
Furthermore, the moderate autonomist may contend that all I have really
offered are cases of the first type. And this does not imply that a moral problem
qua moral problem is an aesthetic defect in an artwork. Thus, the moderate
autonomist adds, it has not been shown that something is an aesthetic defect
because it is evil; rather it is an error concerning the audience™s psychology.
Call it a tactical error.
But I am not convinced by this argument. I agree that the aesthetic defect
concerns the psychology of audience members; they are psychologically incapable
of providing the requisite uptake. But I am not persuaded that this failure is
unconnected from the evil involved. For the reason that uptake is psychologically
impossible may be because what is represented is evil.That is, the reason the work
is aesthetically defective “ in the sense of failing to secure psychological uptake “
and the reason it is morally defective may be the same.Thus, insofar as the mod-
erate autonomist may not be able to separate the aesthetic and moral defects of
artworks across the board, moderate autonomism again seems false.
The moderate autonomist also contends that the moral merit of an artwork
never redounds to its aesthetic value. Even if an artwork is of the sort where moral
evaluation is legitimate, a positive moral evaluation is never relevant to an aes-
thetic evaluation.The positive moral evaluation is just icing on the aesthetic cake.
But this seems too hasty, especially if our previous discussion of narrative art is
accurate, since one of the fundamental aesthetic effects of stories “ being absorbed
MODERATE MORALISM 305

in them, being caught up in the story “ is intimately bound up with our moral
responses, both in terms of our emotions and judgments.
Let us suppose that the bottom line, aesthetically speaking, with respect to nar-
rative artworks is that we are supposed to be absorbed by them. Let us suppose
that this is what authors aim at aesthetically. But if it is the purpose of the narra-
tive artwork to absorb the audience, to draw us into the story, to capture our
interest, to engage our emotions, and to stimulate our imaginations, then it should
be obvious that by engaging moral judgments and emotions, the author may
acquit her primary purpose by secondarily activating and sometimes deepening
the moral understanding of the audience.
The autonomist is correct to say that it is not the function of the narrative art-
work per se to provide moral education.Typically the aim of the narrative artwork
is to command our attention and interest. But very frequently the narrative art-
work achieves its goal of riveting audience attention and making us care about
what happens next by means of enlisting our moral understanding and emotions.
The author aims at drawing us into the story. But engaging the audience™s moral
understanding may be, and generally is, a means to this end.
Narrative art does not necessarily serve ulterior purposes like moral educa-
tion. Nevertheless, this does not preclude that there may be moral learning with
respect to narrative artworks. For in many instances the moral learning issues from
following the narrative, in a nonaccidental fashion, but rather like a regularly
recurring side reaction, as the author seeks to absorb readers of the narrative by
addressing, exercising, and sometimes deepening our moral understandings and
emotions.This need not be what the author has in the forefront of his intention,
but it happens quite frequently in narratives of human affairs where it is our moral
interest in the work and our moral activity in response to the work that keeps us
attentive to the object.
The aesthetic appreciation of a narrative involves following the story. The
more a narrative artwork encourages us to follow the story intensely, the better
the narrative is qua narrative. I hope that I have shown that following the story
involves our moral understanding and emotions.A narrative may be more absorb-
ing exactly because of the way in which it engages our moral understanding and
emotions. That is, the deepening of our moral understanding and emotions may
contribute dramatically to our intense absorption in a narrative.And in such cases
the way in which the narrative addresses and deepens our moral understanding is
part and parcel of what makes the narrative successful.
Imagine, if you will, that Jane Austen had a twin. Let us also agree that part of
what makes Emma absorbing is the opportunity it affords for deepening our moral
understanding.The novel is better for the way in which it engages us in assessing
the moral rectitude of Emma™s interference with Harriet™s love life. Now suppose
that Jane Austen™s sister wrote an alternative version of Emma that told the same
story in the same elegant prose, but that did not address our moral understanding
at all. All things being equal, I suspect that we would not find the alternative ver-
sion of Emma as aesthetically compelling as the real Jane Austen™s version.And the
306 ART, EMOTION, MORALITY
AND


reason would be that it is the moral dimension of the original Emma that, in large
measure, absorbs us, thereby enabling Jane Austen to discharge her primary goal as
artist qua narrative author.
But if this is right, then moderate autonomism is false yet again. Sometimes it is
the case that the way in which some artworks, such as narrative artworks, address
moral understanding does contribute to the aesthetic value of the work. Works
that we commend because of the rich moral experience they afford may some-
times, for the same reason, be commended aesthetically. This is moderate moral-
ism. It contends that some works of art may be evaluated morally (contra radical
autonomism) and that sometimes the moral defects and/or merits of a work may
figure in the aesthetic evaluation of the work. It does not contend that artworks
should always be evaluated morally, nor that every moral defect or merit in an art-
work should figure in its aesthetic evaluation. That would amount to radical
moralism, and I have no wish to defend such a view.
In conclusion, I have tried to show why with certain artworks, particularly narra-
tives, we are naturally inclined to advert to morality when we think about and discuss
them. I have attempted to defend this view by arguing that this disposition is con-
nected to the nature of narrative. In this respect, I wish to urge that it is not a cate-
gory error nor is it otherwise incoherent to talk about morality with reference to
narrative artworks, given the kinds of things they are. Moreover, contra autonomism,
since narrative artworks are designed to enlist moral judgment and understanding,
assessing such works in light of the moral experiences they afford is appropriate. It is
not a matter of going outside the work, but rather of focusing upon it.12




SIMULATION, EMOTIONS, MORALITY
AND

Recently, a new theory of the way in which narrative fictions engage the emo-
tions and the moral understanding has come to the fore in Anglo-American phi-
losophy. Advanced by Gregory Currie and others, it attempts to exploit a theory
developed in the context of the philosophy of mind in order to characterize our
emotional and moral encounters with fictions.1 This view may be called simula-
tion theory. Stated roughly, simulation theory in the philosophy of mind is the
hypothesis that we predict, understand, and interpret others by putting ourselves
in their place, that is to say, by adopting their point of view.2 Philosophers of art
like Currie suggest that the apparatus of simulation is also what we use when we
read, view, or listen to narratives. The grain of truth in what is informally called
“identification” is, ex hypothesi, the process of simulation. Currie writes:“What is

From: Emotion in Postmodernism, ed. by Gerhard Hoffman and Alfred Hornung (Heidelberg:
Universitats Verlag C.Winter, 1997), 383“400.
SIMULATION, EMOTIONS, MORALITY 307
AND


so often called audience identification with a character is best described as mental
simulation of the character™s situation by the audience who are then better able to
imagine the character™s experience.”3
By simulating the mental states of fictional characters, we come to experience
what it would be like “ that is, for example, what it would feel like “ to be in sit-
uations such as those in which the characters find themselves. This is relevant to
morality, inasmuch as we learn, by acquaintance, what it would feel like to under-
take certain courses of action “ what it would be like to murder someone, for
instance. Furthermore, knowing what it would be like to murder someone or to
steal is relevant information when it comes to moral deliberation, since before we
undertake a certain line of action, it is important to have a sense of how we will
feel about it, once we act.4 Thus, engaging fictions by simulation is a source of
knowledge, for example, about the emotions, which information, in turn, is rele-
vant to moral deliberation and, therefore, to morality. For in deliberating about
whether one will commit adultery, it is pertinent to ask oneself what it will feel
like once one has done it. Will one feel unbearable pangs of conscience and
remorse? One way to find this out is by simulating the experience of fictional
adulterers. Or so the story goes.
The notion of simulation has arisen in a context of debate in the philosophy
of mind over the best way in which to explain how we predict the behavior of
other people in everyday life. One view of how we do this can be called the The-
ory Theory. On this view, as we mature, we learn a lot about how people behave.
We learn that in certain situations, people will react in certain predictable ways.
For example, if you aggressively accuse someone of something, they are likely to
deny it. Gradually, our knowledge of other people grows.We acquire a great deal
of folk-psychological knowledge about human behavior. Moreover, this folk-psy-
chological knowledge of other people™s behavior, it is said, has the structure of
something like a theory “ a very powerful theory, indeed, when you think about
how often we are right in our predictions about the behavior of others.
This view is called the Theory Theory because it is the theory that we predict
and understand the behavior of others on the basis of our possession of an implicit
folk-psychological theory of human behavior, a folk-psychological theory whose
level of accuracy should be the envy of any social scientist. In other words, the
Theory Theory is the theory that folk psychology is a theory. According to the
Theory Theory, when we observe another person, we apply our implicit folk-psy-
chological theory of human behavior to predict and to understand what they will
do. We mobilize, so the account says, the generalizations of our folk psychogical
theory, much in the manner of a scientist.
There are some obvious questions, however, that the Theory Theory raises. Is it
plausible to think that people really possess such a theory subconsciously “ a theory
whose predictive power is beyond anything available at present to conscious social
scientists? Such a theory would be more complex than our most complicated physi-
cal theories. Isn™t it quite a stretch to think that we are all in possession of such pow-
erful theory subconsciously, especially given how weak our explicit, formal
308 ART, EMOTION, MORALITY
AND


psychological theories are in terms of their predictive power? How is it that we are so
smart in constructing our theories subconsciously, but so bad at replicating them
consciously? In addition, the computations that the Theory Theory imputes to us are
quite complex and would appear to require a great deal of real time to work through.
However, our predictions of how others will behave often transpires in an instant.
Simulation theory is proposed as an alternative to the Theory Theory “ an
alternative that overcomes its shortcomings. It denies that we possess a complex
theory of human behavior. Rather, it argues that when we want to predict or
understand the behavior of others, we put ourselves in their shoes. We use our
own complement of background beliefs, desires, and emotions in order to see
how we would respond were we in the situation of the person in question, and
then we predict that that person would act as we would. If we want to know how
someone else would feel in a certain situation, we put ourselves in their situation,
taking on their beliefs about the situation and their values concerning it, and then
we observe how we would feel.We use ourselves, in other words, as simulators.
Your belief-desire system and mine are pretty much the same. So, if you want
to learn about how I am feeling, put yourself in my position “ entertain the spe-
cific beliefs and desires that are pertinent for me in the situation at hand “ and the
emotion that I am feeling is apt to arise in you. This is likely to happen because
the network of believing, desiring, and emoting that you and I possess are roughly
congruent. So input my beliefs and desires into your cognitive/conative system,
and the output is likely to be the same.
Similarly, if one wants to predict what someone else will do, input that person™s
beliefs, desires, and emotions into your own cognitive/conative system and
observe what you yourself are disposed to do.This is how Sherlock Holmes pro-
ceeds in the “Musgrave Ritual” when he tells Watson:“You know my methods in
such cases, Watson. I put myself in the man™s place, and, having first gauged his
intelligence, I try to imagine how I should myself have proceeded under the same
circumstances.”5 Thus, Sherlock Holmes is able to discover Brunton™s behavior by
simulating it “ by asking what he himself would have done in Brunton™s place “
by running Brunton™s program, so to speak, on his own (Sherlock Holmes™) sys-
tem of beliefs, desires, and emotions. Or, as Kant says:“It is obvious that, if I wish
to represent to myself a thinking being, I put myself in his place, and thus substi-
tute, as it were, my own subject for the object I am seeking to consider (which
does not occur in any other kind of investigation).”6
Of course, simulation theory does not suppose that our mental state is exactly
the same as that of our target. For when we simulate another, we decouple, so to
speak, our mental system from our action system. Or, as simulation theorists, aping
computer jargon, like to say: we go off-line. Our cogitations, that is to say, do not
issue in actions; they stop short of that. Simulation is a mode of imagination.
According to the simulation theorist, this is how we predict the behavior of oth-
ers in everyday life. Folk psychology is not a theory; folk psychology is simulation.
That is, simulation provides, in large measure, the means by which we predict the
behavior of others; we use ourselves as detectors of their intentions.

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