Beauty, Duty, and Booty

Chappell, Sophie Grace (2018). Beauty, Duty, and Booty. In: Chappell, Sophie Grace and van Ackeren, Marcel eds. Ethics beyond the limits. London: Routledge, pp. 94–118.



“Beauty”, “admirability”, “excellence”, “nobility”, “honour”, “handsomeness”, “fineness”, is an English vocabulary-cloud that spells out some of the content of the classical Greek term kalos. Since, opposites are instructive, it may help to look at the converse English vocabulary-cloud. This chapter shows how the ethical can, so to speak, keep the aesthetic at arm’s length. The ethical is about what’s simply important, in Williams’ phrase: it is about the overall living of our lives, and that, is apt to make the ethical uniquely categorical, uniquely overriding, and uniquely stringent. Few people apart from Oscar Wilde and Friedrich Nietzsche have thought or said that the ethical in this sense just is the aesthetic. Ethical concepts can be evolutionary analogues of each other. There is a need, an ecological niche, for a concept functionally like justice in many, perhaps all, sorts of different societies.

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