The moral virtues, then, are produced in us neither by nature nor against nature. Nature, indeed, prepares in us the ground for their reception, but their complete formation is the product of habit.

Art – particularly contemporary art – can be challenging, offensive, upsetting, and/or provocative.
It can also make you re-think and occasionally question your values, beliefs and prejudices.
As art teachers we might ask ourselves (and our students) questions about freedom and censorship – for example, do we authorize our students to make visual statements that some might perceive as prejudiced, nationalistic or sexually inappropriate?

For many students, looking at and being influenced by art comes a long way behind a far more immersive contemporary pastime – video gaming.

But some art, and some video games, ask difficult  moral and ethical questions.

The recent game Modern Warfare 2 contains a sequence in which players armed with guns stroll through an airport, surrounded by fleeing and petrified unarmed civilians (see YouTube video sequence below)
The moral question is – even though this is, of course, only a virtual reality – do you pull the trigger or not?
Does it matter if you ‘kill’ a few innocent (virtual) people?

Is there a possible link between shocking and provocative games, and shocking and provocative art?
If so, is it one that art teachers can usefully exploit/explore with their students?
(Its also an obvious Theory of Knowledge issue)

“If freedom can be enhanced by art, it can also be diminished—by artworks that present current stereotypes, fashions in attitudes and action, farouche or degraded visions of human nature, as if these alone were the ‘available’ models for life-responses. There can be little ground for confidence that the sometimes desperate search for the innovative and ‘different’ in art (and the role of the complex of interested promoters of particular arts—the ‘artworld’) reliably leads to morally serious and wise interpretations of human problems”.
Art and morality
Aesthetics and Ethics, The Fire and the Sun: Why Plato Banished the Artists, Serious Art
<a href=””>art and morality – Aesthetics and Ethics, The Fire and the Sun: Why Plato Banished the Artists, Serious Art</a>
<a href=””>art – art, The Principles of Art, Art and the Aesthetic, Art and its Objects</a>

‘Shocking’ artists (?)
Joel-Peter Witkin
Jeff Koons,
Egon Schiele
Sarah Lucas
Jake and Dinos Chapman

Philosophy & Ethics: Art, Censorship And Morality
Should artists have complete freedom? Or should we limit what they say and how they say it? Discover the dilemmas of art, censorship and morality

Black or White: making moral choices in video games
By: Laura Parker, GameSpot AU – Posted on November 17, 2009

The player: why do so many videogames involve killing people?
‘Aren’t all games just about shooting people?’ is a common question, and there is a rather sinister answer

The Mechanics of Morality: Why Moral Choices in Video Games Are No Longer Fun
Jonathan McCalmont @ 11-11-2009

The Moral Ambiguity of Left 4 Dead 2

The Moral Ambiguity of Video Games

Moral ambiguity makes a defining mark in BioShock

Ethics 101: Designing Morality in Games

On Moral Choices in Video Games

Then there is television…
Moral Ambiguity (Or Why The Wire is Better Than The Sopranos, Take 2)


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