The Royal Institute of Philosophy Annual Debate

In the 2017 annual debate, Jonathan Jones and Matthew Kieran addressed the motion, ‘The proper aim of art is aesthetic excellence not moral efficacy.’ It was hosted by Melvyn Bragg on 23 November.  You can watch the debate here.

Topic: For over a century there has been a recurrent debate about the aims of art. According to Leo Tolstoy it should be a means of moral criticism and education, for Oscar Wilde, by contrast, art should be “useless” because its only aim is aesthetic pleasure: “It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility” Today artists often align themselves with ideologies and political campaigns and maintain that the purpose of art is to challenge prevailing assumptions and values. Are they right or are they corrupting art by making it an instrument of propaganda?

Next year’s debate will be announced here soon.