Topics Worth Investigating

  1. Morris characterizes one group of people who hate art as follows:

    [T]he pious ascetics, who look upon it as a worldly entanglement which prevents men from keeping their minds fixed on the chances of their individual happiness or misery in the next world; who, in short, hate art, because they think that it adds to man's earthly happiness.

    Compare the view with Jeremy Bentham's denunciation of the "pious ascetics" from an ethical point of view:

    The principle of asceticism never was, nor ever can be, consistently pursued by any living creature. Let but one tenth part of the inhabitants of this earth pursue it consistently, and in a day's time they will have turned it into a hell. … By the principle of asceticism I mean that principle, which, like the principle of utility, approves or disapproves of any action, according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question; but in an inverse manner: approving of actions in as far as they tend to diminish his happiness; disapproving of them in as far as they tend to augment it.[1]

    With religion and the rise of capitalism, is the proletariat devoid of artistic interest?

  2. Evaluate Morris' argument that although the Medieval craftsman restricted by the guild was not free, genuine art could still be created since industrial production was not present to prevent it. Clarify the argument. Is it an instance of petitio principii?

  3. Construct an argument opposing Morris' thesis that the rise of the industrialization of capitalism leads to the decline in genuine art. How historically accurate is Morris' argument? With the rise of capitalism and the emergence of the modern state, is not there a virtual renaissance of art forms: the Realists, Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, Symbolists, Cubists, and Surrealists?

  4. Analyze what Morris means when he writes, "[I]t is the aims of art that you must seek rather than the art itself"?"



Jeremy Bentham. Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1907. Chapter II: ix, iii.