Aesthetics and Morals: Making Poetic Principles

We generally think of our personal choices as be either aesthetic or moral choices: Do I wear blue or green today? Do I donate my dollar to the children’s hospital or the homeless shelter? We think of the appeals to what is “good” morally and what is “good” artistically as being independent: A beautiful, elegant painting of a God you don’t believe in or agree with, or an annoying, eye-rolling commercial for your preferred political candidate.

But sometimes, we find that an ethical message can have strong aesthetic implications. Sometimes, things are beautiful because they have a good moral message. If morals can have aesthetic implications, it seems also that our aesthetic choices can have ethical consequences. If art has some obligation to have a moral message, then perhaps our ethics have some obligation to be artistically beautiful. If we believe in our spiritual message, and believe that it should appeal to others, we have an obligation to deliver that message in an elegant and beautiful way.

Alec Peck has been a practicing UU for 24 years, raised in a UU church, chosen by his father, raised Quaker, and mother, raised Jewish (though both Humanist in practice). Alec has studied natural science at Creighton University, a Jesuit institution, and is now completing his Ph.D. at UC Riverside, while serving as chair of the Worship Committee here at UUCR.

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