Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Art before the Law

Art before the Law: Aesthetics and Ethics

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 200
  • Book Info
    Art before the Law
    Book Description:

    Ever since Plato expelled the poets from his ideal state, the ethics of art has had to confront philosophy's denial of art's morality. InArt before the Law, Ruth Ronen proposes a new outlook on the ethics of art by arguing that art insists on this tradition of denial, affirming its singular ethics through negativity.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6945-1
    Subjects: Philosophy, Psychology, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction: By Way of the Law
    (pp. 3-18)

    When art is placed “before the law,” it is already caught in its contradictory relation with the law. “Before the law” suggests that art is submitted to the law, given to the dictates of the law, but it also suggests that art has precedence over the law; it suggests that art appears before the law as its subject but is also anterior to it, unable to enter it. This dual face of art in its rapport to the law is in fact not a specific concern of art but of every practice. The law, while destined to regulate human actions,...

  6. 1 By Way of Negation
    (pp. 19-38)

    The birth of art lies in a moment of two negations. When Plato, for whom the idea of the good necessarily resides with truth, wishes to expel art from the ideal city, he names art’s deceptive character (non-truth) as the cause for its lack of moral value:

    When any one of these pantomimic gentlemen, who are so clever that they can imitate anything, comes to us, and makes a proposal to exhibit himself and his poetry, we will fall down and worship him as a sweet and holy and wonderful being; but we must also inform him that in our...

  7. 2 By Way of Beauty
    (pp. 39-66)

    Looking at Andrea Mantegna’s ceiling fresco from the mid-fifteenth century, we see more than what is actually being shown. On the ceiling of one of the rooms in the Ducal Palace in Mantua, Mantegna drew a sample of using perspective “in a fully illusionistic manner to dissolve the plane of a vaulted ceiling” to achieve “the extraordinary effective architectural illusion of an open oculus.”² And yet, as technically accomplished as Mantegna’s work might be (as most clearly manifested in the drastically foreshortened figures drawn through a unique combination of masterful technique and subtle intuition), the overwhelming effect of the picture...

  8. 3 By Way of Truth
    (pp. 67-92)

    When asked in his seminar of 1970 in what respect he maintains that knowledge and truth are incompatible, Jacques Lacan answered that “nothing is incompatible with truth: we piss on it, we spit on it. It is ... a place for the evacuation of knowledge and all the rest.”² This harsh verdict on truth is not due to disbelief in its substance or in its real effects but in fact demonstrates the opposite. When cleaving oneself to truth, one can be driven mad because nothing is incompatible with truth; truth tolerates everything and resists any manipulation. Truth can thus be...

  9. 4 By Way of Deception
    (pp. 93-122)

    When King Henri VIII, in search of a fourth wife, asked Hans Holbein, the court painter, to draw portraits of young women for him to choose the most beautiful among them to be the next queen, he was in for a great disappointment. The king soon realized how deceptive a visual image can be: Ann Cleve, the chosen beauty, turned out to be far less attractive than her portrait suggested. Thus, the painting that was meant to function as a transparent representation turned out to be misleading and unfaithful.

    This case exemplifies the naive assumption that, granted the limitation of...

  10. 5 By Way of Prohibition
    (pp. 123-158)

    In the quote above, Jacques-Alain Miller refers to the psychoanalytic conception of the law as the basis for psychoanalytic ethics. Psychoanalysis is committed to a distinction between ethics and morality, and to the Freudian idea that the law operates as a constant reminder of jouissance, because it is only under such conditions that the true relations between human actions and the law are disclosed. The ethics of psychoanalysis yet relies on the Kantian notion that the moral law cannot be adapted to and allows little place for comfort or immediate satisfaction in the moral domain. For Immanuel Kant, the moral...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 159-160)

    These words are used by Jean-Luc Nancy to describe the implications of Hegelian negation and negativity for the affirmation of freedom and of desire. Negation affirms the absolute not as a pre-given but as what comes to be known as real to the subject by way of negation; the negation of being does not leave us with nothingness but leads to a second negation that manifests the absolute thing, formerly camouflaged by being. These words can also serve as an outline for the present study, delineating the route taken here in order to show that, under negation, art is an...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 161-178)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-184)
  14. Index
    (pp. 185-188)