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In: Neugier
In: Der Profi-Bürger
Chapter 9 On the Aesthetics of Abstention
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Abstract

Western civilisation developed through agreements on those actions that should be abstained from, and events that should not happen. I am calling this Western ban on destruction and self-destruction by means of a claim to validity the ‘proscribed extreme case’. If we want to take up the experiences of the 20th century to formulate an ethics for the 21st, we have to make it clear for ourselves that the rules we are establishing operate only by means of abstention. In the following text my aim is to show, that in the 21th century we must organise our behaviour around preventing or abstaining from actions which we consider particularly noxious, evil, counter-productive, or unhealthy. It is impossible to scientifically, philosophically, theologically, or otherwise justify a norm to be accepted by all humanity. But it is very easy to discover what everyone considers undesirable and worth abstaining from, such as evil, theft, or corruption.

I am arguing, that therefore it is necessary to develop a system of judgment – and every ethics is a system of judgment – which replaces irreversibility, the inability to erase the consequences of our actions, with reversibility, in other words, with a lack of consequence. And, as I argue, there is only one historical example for this: art.

In my text I try to develop an ethics of abstention for art. Artists must always arrive at an endpoint – a point at which they abstain from continuing their work, or from believing that they can still produce something better, more perfect, more beautiful, more fitting. Apart from that, the artist can only be judged according to his own example. He has no punitive power and can neither reward those who listen nor punish those who look away. So he speaks as an individual. But most important, no effect is more reversible than that of art. Artistic effects are always reversible: you don’t have to look at art! Look away from the work; don’t look at the work; don’t let yourself be taken in. You are under no obligation to go to a museum. Art can therefore be generalised as the theory of the proscribed extreme case. If we take the artistic example seriously we can perhaps demonstrate that we don’t need progress anymore, and that we can live by an ethical code which is not normative, but non-normative. My aim is to make the case for developing the act of abstention and creating rules for non-normative decisions and abstentions by explicitly taking up the model of the artist.

In: Art – Ethics – Education
Author:

Abstract

Western civilisation developed through agreements on those actions that should be abstained from, and events that should not happen. I am calling this Western ban on destruction and self-destruction by means of a claim to validity the ‘proscribed extreme case’. If we want to take up the experiences of the 20th century to formulate an ethics for the 21st, we have to make it clear for ourselves that the rules we are establishing operate only by means of abstention. In the following text my aim is to show, that in the 21th century we must organise our behaviour around preventing or abstaining from actions which we consider particularly noxious, evil, counter-productive, or unhealthy. It is impossible to scientifically, philosophically, theologically, or otherwise justify a norm to be accepted by all humanity. But it is very easy to discover what everyone considers undesirable and worth abstaining from, such as evil, theft, or corruption.

I am arguing, that therefore it is necessary to develop a system of judgment – and every ethics is a system of judgment – which replaces irreversibility, the inability to erase the consequences of our actions, with reversibility, in other words, with a lack of consequence. And, as I argue, there is only one historical example for this: art.

In my text I try to develop an ethics of abstention for art. Artists must always arrive at an endpoint – a point at which they abstain from continuing their work, or from believing that they can still produce something better, more perfect, more beautiful, more fitting. Apart from that, the artist can only be judged according to his own example. He has no punitive power and can neither reward those who listen nor punish those who look away. So he speaks as an individual. But most important, no effect is more reversible than that of art. Artistic effects are always reversible: you don’t have to look at art! Look away from the work; don’t look at the work; don’t let yourself be taken in. You are under no obligation to go to a museum. Art can therefore be generalised as the theory of the proscribed extreme case. If we take the artistic example seriously we can perhaps demonstrate that we don’t need progress anymore, and that we can live by an ethical code which is not normative, but non-normative. My aim is to make the case for developing the act of abstention and creating rules for non-normative decisions and abstentions by explicitly taking up the model of the artist.

In: Art – Ethics – Education
In: Re-Visionen der Moderne
In: Die Vermessung des Ungeheuren
In: Sympathy for the Devil
In: Der Profi-Bürger
In: Der Profi-Bürger
In: Der Profi-Bürger