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This philosophical lecture explores the tension between art and morality, beginning with the opposing viewpoints—aestheticism and moralism—that one should trump the other. As exemplary case studies, several controversial art exhibits—works that fueled the culture wars of the 1980’s are examined to identify the concerns of advocates and critics. This leads to deeper reflections on the artistic assumptions of religious fundamentalism, the role of art in a democracy, and the possibility that artistic exploration can be a form of moral action.


This lecture was delivered at Rollins College (Winter Park FL) on April 10, 1996. The event was sponsored by the Masters of Liberal Studies (MLS) Program at Rollins to honor Prof. DeNicola as a founder of that program, since he was about to move from Rollins to become Provost at Gettysburg College beginning June, 1996.