Please find below the details for this academic year’s first seminar for the Bilkent Philosophy and Literature Colloquia Series, organised by Dr Patrick Fessenbecker and Dr Andrea Selleri and featuring our first invited speaker, Dr Iris Vidmar Jovanović from the University of Rijeka. Anyone interested is very welcome to attend. The event will take place on Zoom.
Topic: ELIT / Seminar : Iris Vidmar Jovanović, “From Banned to Burnt for the Public Good: On the (Im)morality of Literature
Time: Oct 12, 2022 05:30 PM
***This is an online seminar. To obtain the event link, please send a message to department.
Abstract: Appalled by the worldwide destruction of artworks, Margaret Atwood protested the censorship of novels and exclusion of artists from the public space by putting one of her own books on fire. The book – deliberately printed on fire-resistant paper – was The Handmaid’s Tale, a fictional masterpiece that has been banned from numerous countries for its allegedly dangerous ideas and potentially harmful impact. As history teaches us, this is not the first time a book was deemed dangerous: ever since Plato disapprovingly pointed his finger at Homer for his depiction of lustful gods and sinful mortals, numerous authors found themselves on trials, even in prisons, with their works banned, even destroyed. In some cases, such treatment of these authors and their works is met with resistance and condemnation: imagine the harm done to our poetic tradition if Baudelaire’s poems never saw the light of day! On the other hand, it is questionable whether the artistic achievements of Margaret Mitchel trump the celebration of slavery depicted in Gone with the Wind. Given these examples, we have to wonder: are there dangerous books, and should they be destroyed, if they can indeed be harmful to our moral sensibility? This is the question I explore in this presentation. Within philosophy, this question is referred to as the causal question: can works of literature have an impact on our moral sensibility, and what are the factors that determine whether such impact is positive or negative? I will approach this problem by examining some recent empirical research on the causal question, and I will proceed to show that such research is too concerned with the character of a work, ignoring certain important aspects of the process of moral reasoning. Once we have a better sense of how we make moral judgements, it becomes easier to understand the impact of literature on our moral sensibility. This should enable us to develop an approach to teaching literature which does justice to its aesthetic and artistic values while also putting its (im)moral character to good educational use.
Biographical note: Iris Vidmar Jovanović is an assistant professor and chair in aesthetics at the department of philosophy, University of Rijeka. She is a secretary of the European Society for Aesthetics and an Associate Editor of the journal Philosophia. She is the principal investigator of the research project dedicated to ethical and cognitive value of narrative art (https://aetna.uniri.hr/)