Is it morally wrong to enjoy art [co]-created by someone who later turns out to be a terrible criminal?

I see arguments both for and against:

Arguments for "wrong":

  • Broad appreciation of pieces of art tends to increase the status of its creator. Perhaps someone who has done terrible crimes does not deserve to be remembered for the art they created. Taking an extreme example, it would feel wrong to attend a museum of Hitler's art, for purposes of art appreciation anyway.

  • In particular the victims of such artist/criminals, in particular, would feel hurt that their tormentor receives praise for work they did, where they should instead be remembered, if at all, then for the crimes they committed.

Arguments for "fine":

  • Art and its creator are separate. It is perfectly possible for a monster to create something beautiful.

  • Many artists we celebrate have actually been quite flawed human beings. Where do we draw the line? Is a painter cheating on their partner "fine" but one murdering people "not fine". Perhaps there is in fact no line and it's all a spectrum.

  • It is fine to retain a whole picture of a human being, fully appreciating both the good and bad things they created.

  • Where art is only co-created by the criminal, the other co-authors, who are innocent people, deserve for their art to be appreciated, regardless of the actions of the criminal co-creator.

This is a general question, but actually motivated by a real event. The frontman of a band I used to follow, Lostprophets, was later convicted for numerous acts of terrible child sexual abuse and is serving a lengthy prison sentence. But the music is good (and I won't take offence if you think "art" is stretching it...)

EDIT to clarify, my question is not about enjoying in the abstract, but rather seeking out the art to actively enjoy it. Without endorsing the artist of course! For example going to a museum to see a sculpture of such artist/criminal. Or streaming music by such an individual.

  • 5
    From a neuroscience perspective, holding two conflicting opinions simultaneously is hard for our brain. The brain often seeks to resolve the conflict and achieve cognitive harmony. That's why we are having these questions -- cognitive dissonance and discomfort. Imagine that our brains could easily have separate opinions on separate sides of this musician, Then we would easily think badly about him as a person and valued his music and liked him as a musician. In theory we can do it, but it takes effort and we don't feel easy. We are not optimally evolved for such things as species
    – user66933
    Aug 12, 2023 at 15:26
  • 3
    Film director Polanski is another example, and so is philosopher Martin Heidegger, who cooperated with the Nazis. "Enjoyment" is an emotional reaction with little conscious control, we cannot help much what we enjoy or despise. As such, it is not subject to moral evaluation, although one can feel "guilty" for having it. Expressing the "enjoyment" in the form of supporting or promoting the artist (buying, praising, making excuses, etc.) is a different matter, but the two can be separated. It would be self-harming to refuse benefits of a contribution for the faults of the contributor.
    – Conifold
    Aug 12, 2023 at 15:29
  • 2
    @Conifold that's a nice distinction - enjoying vs. rewarding the author. But I guess in practice these are not independent. E.g. in the modern age, listening to music directly rewards the artist, either via royalties from CD sales or streaming. So question would remain, is it ethical to seek to enjoy art created by a criminal.
    – Bennet
    Aug 12, 2023 at 16:02
  • 2
    Bill Cosby is the modern example of this. Is his stand up comedy now morally tainted by his recently discovered crimes? I know his material is funny but listening to his comedy financially supports him and he doesn't deserve my financial support. I believe this is an individual choice
    – user64314
    Aug 12, 2023 at 17:10
  • 7
    No. Art should stand by its own merit. Suppose there are some brilliant works by MelY, who is then convicted of horrible crimes as MalZ. Now what does their work say? Five years later the unlawful conviction is overturned when new evidence proves they cannot have done it. Now what does their work say? Or suppose you admire some pieces by NilX and only later do you discover they were created in jail. Perhaps the art was the only way in whch the heinous criminal has to explain how they came to commit their crimes. Wrongdoing is no more a binary situation than any other. It is all shades of grey. Aug 12, 2023 at 23:26

12 Answers 12


Let's imagine shocking revelations show Rembrandt was a ruthless war profiteer who exploited the poor. And Da Vinci secretly poisoned his rivals while publicly preaching compassion. Should we therefore toss all their masterpieces into the trash and act like they never existed?

I guess not. Appreciating their artwork and historical contribution to human creativity does not mean endorsing immoral actions. We need not glorify the artist to acknowledge beauty they created. Their personal wickedness doesn't magically transform paint on canvas into evil objects, right?

As for Hitler.. Unlike figures such as Caravaggio who created timeless masterpieces despite serious personal flaws, Hitler's artistic merit was negligible even before his political career. His paintings do not stand on their own. So I guess this is also an important point. I dunno how to prove it in a serious way, but it feels there is a kind of scales here where we at first weigh the art value and the crime value so to say.

Like, imagine this frontman of a band didn't commit these sexual abuses, but instead just one evening got drunk and stole a snickers bar from a supermarket. Yeah not the best deed in his life but I doubt you would ask this question then, right?

  • 4
    So, you're suggesting, there is effectively some kind of trade-off between artistic value and ethical judgment? Greater artistic achievement permits greater character flaws? I'm not agreeing or disagreeing, just attempting to summarise.
    – Bennet
    Aug 12, 2023 at 16:00
  • 3
    Well, I dunno for certain, but it feels this way doesn't it? Let's take the extremes - Mozart was a genius but he was also a drinking person and probably had sone other vices. But he created great art and his personal flaws were not that bad, right? And take Hitler - he tortured and killed millions but his art was very mediocre. Or as I said - imagine this band musician just occasionally stole something from a shop, yeah, nasty, but I doubt we'd hate ourselves listening to his music then, right? It does work somehow
    – user66933
    Aug 12, 2023 at 16:17
  • 1
    +1 for not forcing all a person's actions into a single bundle. Andrew Jackson defied the US Supreme Court, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Cherokees, yet "we" honor him by putting his picture on our money. Thomas Jefferson wrote that slavery is wrong, but didn't free his slaves. Even Hitler (probably) did something good at one point. If "Joe Blow" is on trial for murder, pointing out that he helped an old lady cross the street.
    – WGroleau
    Aug 13, 2023 at 14:27
  • 1
    Well, if that immediately caught your eye, it was a right choice! ;-)
    – user66933
    Aug 14, 2023 at 13:12
  • 1
    I've never seen Hitler's art but assuming it is as you say, it doesn't really address the question. In other words, collectively, we are lucky that his art is unremarkable and can ignore it.
    – JimmyJames
    Aug 14, 2023 at 20:43

No, it isn't. I think what is decisive here is the belief of mutual exclusivity. I think that you think that if I label someone as a ’genius‘ I can't label as a ‘criminal’ too.

Broad appreciation of pieces of art tends to increase the status of its creator.

I don't understand what does status stand for. Do you think there is some kind of ‘point system’ by which we judge the value of anyone? That we ‘earn points’ with our good actions and ‘lose points’ with our bad actions? Both the actions of ‘creating a masterpiece’ and ‘commiting a terrible crime’ are incommensurable. My bad actions won't be cancelled out, no matter how much good I do and no matter how much I want.

If you want to find where is the truth sin, you will find it in the oblivion. But if you don't forget, then your thoughts about these people would be something like: ‘They were (are) brilliant minds, so I can enjoy their pieces as well as praising them because of their intellectual work behind their creations. However, I do remember they are criminals and they do deserve a punishment for that’.

would feel hurt that their tormentor receives praise for work they did, where they should instead be remembered, if at all, then for the crimes they committed.

So, remember: prasing or denigrating someone is always prasing or denigrating for some reason. You can praise someone for one reason and denigrate someone for another reason. These two assessments won't cancel out, therefore it's possible to laud someone for the work they did while remembering them for the crimes they commited.

  • "Praise and blame are all the same." I guess there are two tallies: how much you help and how much you harm. 'Incommensurable' is a useful word here. But we want to commensure.
    – Scott Rowe
    Aug 12, 2023 at 23:41
  • 1
    @tac I guess at some level, indeed, there is a "point system", even if it is somewhat nonsensical. I'd say for many people in the society, character appraisal is one-dimensional, on a good/bad scale. Even if I disagree with such a uni-dimensional assessment, my actions contribute to others' perception, and possibly fuel the [criminal] artist's self-satisfaction, maybe even feeling of being admired. Perhaps they are undeserving of such admiration.
    – Bennet
    Aug 13, 2023 at 9:22
  • "where the truth sin"—meaning "… truth is" ??
    – WGroleau
    Aug 13, 2023 at 14:29
  • @WGroleau The truth sin is the oblivion
    – tac
    Aug 13, 2023 at 16:18
  • en.wiktionary.org/wiki/status
    – Hakaishin
    Aug 15, 2023 at 14:42

I don't think it's our task here to give a definite "yes" or "no" answer to the question. Both moralities and art are manifold and complex. Rather, I think the best we can do on a site like this is to point towards the various more detailed questions one might have to answer to complete a thorough philosophical investigation of this question.

This question - and its possible answers - really hinge on what we mean by "enjoying art" here: Is the enjoyment in question a raw - almost involunary - emotional response to pure aesthetics? Or is is an intellectual enjoyment of the themes and views expressed in the art? And do these themes and views have some relation to the crime being committed?

For consequentialist morals, we'd also have to ask: What effect does this enjoyment have? What relation, if any, do the crimes have to the art?

Let's consider a few different scenarios:

  1. A painter of bucolic landscapes is, in their spare time, a prolific murderer (or perhaps a prolific murderer is, in their spare time, a painter?). They kill indiscriminately, and the landscapes they paint have absolutely no relation to their crimes or, indeed, anything else going on the world. You enjoy how they look.

  2. A writer of novels is, in their spare time, a prolific murderer. They target only victims from a specific demographic, and this demographic is consistently portrayed very negatively in their books (beyond anything you could reasonably defend from the actual facts of reality), but the novels otherwise have no relation to the crimes. You enjoy the stories and their gritty "reality", and you recommend the books to your friends.

  3. A film-maker is a prolific murderer and makes movies about their crimes (pretending they are fiction). After some time, this aspect of their movies becomes well-known, and you enjoy the movies because they are "so real". You don't admit this to anyone.

Now, "separating the art from the artist" is very simple for the painter ("I can enjoy some nice hills without having to think about the murders!"), but what about the other two?

Isn't there something morally questionable about enjoying the novels that contain the same kind of hatred that led their author to killing? Is this made worse by recommending these to others (hence spreading "the message")? Does it matter whether you actually enjoy the hateful part of these novels or whether you enjoy them despite it?

In contrast, the movies are produced from the crimes, they are their direct result. But rewatching the movie doesn't kill the victim, the victim is dead whether you watch the movie or not. So is there harm in watching or distributing the movies? Does this depend on whether or not the film-maker is still alive/uncaught? Even if there is no direct harm, should we have a taboo against enjoying such content to prevent imitators?

And coming back to the oh-so-unobjectionable painter - what if the reason they're painting these peaceful landscapes is their burning hatred of modern life, which is also their reason for killing people? Does that matter if no trace of that reason can be reasonable found in the paintings? Why do you enjoy these innocent paintings, really? Do you also hate modern life?

All these questions touch on a central problem in aesthetics and art criticism: To what degree, if any, is intent or meaning inherent in a work of art? Should we follow the death of the author approach and interpret works without taking the biography of their author into account? Or - since all art is cultural and political in the sense that it is always produced in a cultural and political context and often a reaction to that context - is art inseparable from the conditions of its creation? Something in-between?

In any case, this whole business isn't as simple as making some sort of tradeoff between the "quality" of the art and the severity of the crime.


There is nothing wrong with appreciating the value of some creative work based on the work itself, and in fact that is how it should be appreciated. However, it would be morally wrong to whitewash the life of the author of the work. You have two main morally justifiable approaches:

  1. Do not mention the author of the creative work. After all, if you truly appreciate the work for its own merits, why do you need to know the author's name? And this approach eliminates the issue of glorifying the author beyond 'what they deserve'.

  2. If you mention the author, give a brief but fair portrayal of his/her life, including of course the most serious immoral acts they did. Anyone who disagrees with this would indeed be guilty of whitewashing known history and hence hurting the victims.

Creative works are not even the only thing that this moral inquiry is relevant to. For example, one well-known scientist had a great impact on human civilization but also deliberately worked to kill a lot of people.

  • The problem with option 1 is that people rarely want to enjoy a single work. They want to recreate the enjoyment, so they look for similar works. The creator of the work is one of the most important factors in finding them. If I really like a painting, and I want to see more paintings that are similar, the first thing I'm going to do is look for the name of the artist. It may not always work, but it's much more reliable than selecting something at random.
    – barbecue
    Aug 14, 2023 at 21:56
  • @barbecue: Yes we all know that method of finding similar works. That's why there are two options. You don't have to pick option 1. You can pick option 2. So there is no problem.
    – user21820
    Aug 15, 2023 at 1:44

Your question requires agreement on 2 concepts:

  • Moral wrongness / rightness
  • What it means, or what is the activity, of "enjoying" art.

Taking up the 2nd point first, I'm going to use as an example, my own experience with Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais, painted 1851/2 and currently viewable in the Tate, London.

The painting is of a Shakespearian character just before her death. Enjoyment or appreciation of the painting depends on the "layer" or "level" you take it to. Do you just look at the flowers and the girl's face, and contemplate beauty in death; or do you bring in your knowledge of Hamlet, and your appreciation of that work of art to give a "fuller" appreciation? Is this something you privately contemplate, or do you share this with others, even publishing your thoughts?

I remember the exact moment I was informed that the model, a 19 year old girl, was basically killed by the painting. She lay still in a bath of cold water for so long, that she got ill and eventually died from tuberculosis. I felt a little sick learning this.

Now the person who told me this had exaggerated the story muchly. The model did get so ill that the painter covered medical expenses, but she actually died about 10 years after the painting was done.

And yet, knowing this story, even the non-exaggerated factual history, changed the painting for me. When I look, I see something different, which I can't un-see, given that knowledge.

So knowing something about the background, context or story behind a work of art changes your enjoyment of it, changes what it means to appreciate that art.

Other examples of this might be:

  • Knowing more about Heath Ledger's death may affect your appreciation of The Dark Knight
  • How Brandon Lee's death affects your appreciation of The Crow

You could postulate an extreme example where you discover that an "action" movie contains footage of the actual death of an actor. Does your appreciation change, now that you learn you're basically watching a snuff movie?

Also, it doesn't have to be negative. One painting in the National Gallery, UK, I found quite beautiful and "full", and then I learned the painting had been a gift from the King of Spain to the King of England as a prelude to peace talks on the eve of a war. Basically, this painting prevented a war, and that definitely changed my enjoyment of it!

So basically, the point I'm making is that the quality of enjoyment of art depends on exactly what that art does for you, both privately and publicly. There's no right or wrong to whether a work of art does something for you.

But knowledge of a dark (or bright) history to some art, changes that. But "enjoyment" doesn't just mean some kind of hedonistic pleasure. I can't say I "enjoyed" 1984 in that sense, but it is haunting, profound and paradigm-shifting and so I "enjoy" it in that sense.

Can any of these concepts of "enjoying art" be wrong or right? I don't see how they can be. All of them are valid, as that is what art is for, and what art is about.

For yourself, I'd point out that your asking this question here, is a response to the music and singer you're asking about. The fact of your being in this philosophic conundrum is part of the art, it is you enjoying it. And that can't be wrong.

Might somebody find it repulsive that you privately enjoy the music of a heinous person? Yes, they might. But being repulsed / attracted is not the same as rightness / wrongness.

A final comment: this question is heading in the direction of why snuff movies can / can't be art, or on the difference between art and porn (especially considering the connections between porn and trafficking).


We can get a dry answer by comparing this person to a generative AI. By "dry", I mean not an especially deep or interesting answer, but still a helpful and practical one. Let's examine:

Their art is output that resulted from some of their mental processes. There is logic behind a painter's techniques, for example. There are plenty of aspects to be appreciated and even studied by an aspiring artist. It's natural to appreciate the art and wonder what thought processes went into its creation. This output has been favorable.

However, this hypothetical artist's life decisions may also include some missteps.

In many cases, the decisions/opinions/actions or whatever it is about this person that is deemed objectionable has little or no connection to the artistic output of the individual. The poor judgement was a result of totally different thought processes and belief systems. But here the output has been unfavorable.

Because of this, we should not jump to conclusions and throw the good out with the bad.

However, there is an important point to pay attention to: When examining the artist's body of work - in hindsight does it seem to be closely linked to themes promoting or fixating on the decidedly immoral things they have done? Then, we will probably want to forget about their work, as it is closely entangled with their disturbed thought processes that ultimately led to them doing something disturbing in real life.

We must bear in mind that if an artist paints dark and disturbing images it does not mean they will commit "heinous" acts that hurt others. They could just be working out their personal demons, making social commentary about injustices and suffering they observe, or just expressing whatever they feel in the moment, because that is the freedom that art affords us. That's why art is great. It should not be read into too deeply, or we risk creating a slippery slope.

The reality changes if the artist crosses a boundary in real life that hurts others or infringes on their liberties, etc. Then we become inclined to go back and view their body of work through that lens, looking for "red flags" that maybe we should have spotted sooner. Should we have? Could we have? One can speculate endlessly, but nobody can really know.

The reality is, nobody knows what a person is going to do until they do it. And there are plenty of criminals who deliberately give off charming public personas while committing heinous acts when they believe nobody will catch them.

The extent of the severity of the offenses also comes into play. Is the issue just that they broke a law? Most people have broken some law at some point, knowingly or unknowingly. Did they kill somebody? Did they publicly express an unpopular opinion? Unpopular does not necessarily mean wrong. There are many degrees of severity. How bad is "bad" before it should be categorized as "evil"? That is a separate philosophical question in its own right.

We should be careful not to jump to conclusions, invalidating people's creative works. In many cases the thought processes that produced the desirable output, and those that produced the undesirable output are not linked.

Also, societal norms change over generations. To hold some of "the greats" from history to today's ethical standards is a bit unreasonable. They grew up in different eras, in environments we can't claim to know or understand completely. To put it one way, they were given very different "training models". This also should not be used as an excuse to justify immoral actions. I just wanted to touch on some of the many angles to consider regarding this topic.


It might even be considered a way to experience or enjoy the perspective and aesthetics of such criminal or criminal act without any further harm done - from a consequentialist perspective it would even appear 100% OK.

It might even be seen as a positive act, if one sees the desire to do a certain or all criminal actions as a natural/neutral/inherent thing, and not acting out on them as a virtue, if consumption of such art satisfies the urge and thus controls it better, leading to a greater potential for virtuous behaviour.

From almost no viewpoint would any of this excuse the artist, however, unless one is going into mindsets, eg taking meritocracy to its extremes, that would value the art as more important than harm done to "inferior" victims.

In other cases listener might actually identify with the criminal intent, even if choosing not to follow the same path due to risks or consequences, OR due to overriding moral principles.

In some cases, consumption would be OK but NOT promoting the artist, dead or alive - eg if having that person in the public eye more is hurtful to victims.

The matter can become even more complicated if the artist is still alive, and supporting unwanted causes (eg radical right wing or terrorist organizations) with income made from rights sales.

There are practical examples for this problem, eg artists from the NSBM scene also enjoyed by listeners that do not want to promote any fascist ideology, which are known or can be assumed to actively further fascist causes and would be enabled by income from license sales or even by income from listening to them on monetized social media.

Same if there are post-mortem arrangements made to the same effect (eg heirs donate income from rights sales to unwanted causes).


From a utilitarian viewpoint, this isn’t wrong in and of itself. We might find that our disgust at the creator spoils our enjoyment of the art, and even wonder what kind of person could put aside what they know about the creator and just enjoy their work without thinking about it at all, but that’s not actually a utilitarian moral argument that someone else is wrong to feel differently.

Since Utilitarians going back to Mill try to classify different kinds of Good, rather than maximizing simple pleasure, and one of his examples is that a mindlessly happy pig is not actually leading a better life than a wise person, there might be a utilitarian moral theory where it’s more good to truly appreciate art by fully understanding how compromised it is, than to enjoy it uncritically. Which would put us in the position of saying that there is one objectively true opinion about a work of art, and people who disagree with it are ethically wrong.

There’s a very clear-cut case not to give your money to a bad person who’s still alive and using it to commit more bad deeds.

But when they’re dead, there is even a bank-shot utilitarian argument that someone should not expose the abhorrent behavior of a widely-admired artist. If a scholar found out something so heinous about William Shakespeare or Leonardo Da Vinci that people would never be able to enjoy their work again, and they’d feel uncomfortable even seeing one of the many works that pay homage to them, there’d be a huge amount of negative utility to the revelation. And it’s not as if anybody could do anything about a bad person who died hundreds of years ago. Against this, a rule-utilitarian could potentially say that we should consistently follow the principle of telling the truth about historical figures’ misdeeds (perhaps so people won’t suspect us of hiding other unpleasant truths. perhaps because cults of plaster saints do a lot of harm).


That depends on how the artist, the art, the crime, the enjoyment and so on are related to each other.

So take Hitler's paintings. From what I've seen they are quite nice pictures of mostly landscapes. He's certainly a better painter than me and the subject matter and execution looks quite pleasant. Apparently more skilled artists than me criticize the lack of imagination, the "architectural style" that isn't artistic and spiritual enough or that he apparently didn't paint many people and if he did it didn't fit the style and implies he's not that interested in them. So all in all he seems to be a somewhat talented painter and there's no obvious connection between his art and his crimes.

So if someone had a Hitler painting in their room, it wouldn't be their taste of art that I'd be concerned about. My concern would be how that got into their possession? Relatives or themselves being high ranking Nazi criminals receiving it as a personal reward? Paying a Nazi to get it? Using it as a sign of their conviction that is less punishable than a swastika?

So the problematic thing isn't the art itself, for all intents and purposes it would have the same effect as a blank canvas with a single signature or the knowledge of the missing signature.

So there are many perspectives to art, there's the subject matter, the execution, the medium on which it is captured and distributed, there's the artist, the backstory of the medium, the picture, the artist and the art itself might not just be aesthetic it can also be functional.

Like that Hitler painting could serve as a coded "I'm a Nazi"-confession. Or think of a throne. It's not just a decorative chair, it's meant to portrait and enforce a relationship between the user and the rest. The person siting in one is "bigger" figuratively and literally than the bystanders. While he is sitting and relaxed the rest has to stand or even stretch themselves to "be at eye level". So what is easy for one to maintain is hard work for the other, and the constant necessity to "look up to the person" on the throne is meant to make them appear "larger than life", to give the impression of subservience. Similarly some forms of architecture are meant to impress upon you the feeling of being small and insignificant compared to the environment that they subject you to. Or if you take art that took thousands of people countless of hours to make, then the fact alone that you posses something that is equivalent to multiple lifetimes is itself an expression of power and wealth.

So while Hitler's paintings, at least with regard to the subject matter, are unrelated to his crimes, that might not be the case with other creative outputs of his. So idk praising "Mein Kampf" for it's writing would be much more controversial as it is not only notoriously not well written, but more importantly it's an expression of his ideology and worldview directly related to his later crimes. Not to mention that even requesting a copy might support a (neo-)Nazi or "create a market" for that ideology. So it's not so much about supporting Hitler and his art, as he is literally a dead author, but about featuring his ideology and promoting it even by proxy.

Or with respect to functionality one could also mention the other parts of the Nazi aesthetics and whether they are "just art" or whether they are meant to promote an ideology and impress a feeling upon the observer. Like idk whether it actually is uncontroversial if "Birth of a Nation" or Leni Riefenstahl movies should be taught in film schools as case studies of story telling and visual expression or whether the intent of the artist still works even if the people referencing it don't share it. Whether it's a good idea to cast buffed models with blond hair and blue eyes to match the aesthetics of the Nazis propaganda movies and present a visual cue to them or whether that was a deliberate choice by the Nazis to present the soldiers as role models when in reality they most likely looked nothing like that on average. So if someone likes the "aesthetics" of the Nazi uniforms because they present people with a feeling of unease and make them change the sidewalk or whatnot, that might tell you much more about their character then just their taste in fashion.

Or how it's no coincidence that the Nazi swastika is tilted by 45° with respect to the Hindu swastika, looking more aggressive somewhat like a shuriken in motion, while the other might give off more of a resting symmetric vibe. Or how that black, white, red color theme is a reference to the German imperial war banner and how the template (red boundary, white circle black text) was apparently used for other "symbols of authority", as well (traffic signs):

enter image description here

Which saw adoption in Germany from 1927 onwards, which is too early to have been influenced by the Nazis but which might have contributed to the art style of the Nazi flag. I don't want to overinterprete these things and especially with regards to the comparison of road signs and nazi flags that's just an observation. But what is a fact is that the Nazis put a lot of emphasis on these details and actively used art as a mean of propaganda. They burned the art of what they considered their enemies and presented their own kind of aesthetic which even if taken out of it's context might nonetheless carry more context than people might want to give it credit for.

Also to get away from that Nazi theme. What about other art that actually involved crimes. Like how Leonardo Da Vinci apparently exhumed the dead to paint more realistic human proportions. Or what about Till Lindemann (the singer of Rammstein) who's poetry on rape has gotten a much more serious context given that he's accused of several cases of sexual assault, rape, drugging and whatnot.

There the art itself is "good" in the sense of being realistic because it might actually BE real. Meaning it's not longer "art" it's "nature". And an enjoyment of art is really an enjoyment of that particular criminal impulse itself.?

Not to mention that it matters how deep you interact with that kind of background at all. Like you could look at a picture of a destroyed city and find it fascinating how the lines and curves form not even realizing what you're looking at.

So it kinda depends on a lot of factors, but yeah if the crime is heinous and you know about it, you should still probably ask yourself some of these questions. What you like about it, why, what it symbolizes to others, what effects it will have on others and yourself and where you draw the lines and whether that is easily possible.



There are many different systems of morality. What they have in common is they set out rules for how you should act. Not how you should feel. How you feel has no moral value, unless it motivates you to act. Nevertheless the right or wrong comes attached to the actions, not the feelings.

  • 1
    As pointed out elsewhere, the Ten Commandments condemns pure feeling, and the New Testament says "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." Further afield, Michael Tremblay wrote "the Stoics sought to eliminate themselves of passionate emotions because they took them to be indicative of false beliefs ... considered to be the same thing as vice..." I don't think that feelings are consistently outside morality.
    – prosfilaes
    Aug 14, 2023 at 22:33

Can it be morally wrong to enjoy something at all? Even more generally, are there certain feelings it is wrong to feel in response to certain stimuli?

I think you have to answer that question for yourself first. Many people would say, "No, it's only your actions that can be right or wrong." I would agree with this, and some of the other answers have it this way as well. However, there are some moral frameworks that would have it otherwise (e.g. "Thou shalt not covet"). Many people in my country (U.S.) seem to feel guilt if they notice themselves emotionally responding in ways they don't respect or feel comfortable with, suggesting they do hold some sort of moral code for proper feeling even if they don't fully articulate it to themselves.

My take on this is that your emotional responses are relatively automatic and largely outside of your direct control—when you feel something, you just feel it, immediately and reflexively. So, I think feeling guilt in response to certain emotions is just making your inner situation worse for no gain, and it's better to just accept your feelings for what they are as much as you can. There's no reason to browbeat yourself for something that's essentially a reflex; if anything, rejecting your emotions can make it harder for you to understand yourself, and even to control yourself when your feelings are strong.

When it comes to appreciating art, I think this is especially true. Deeply experiencing a work of art takes a certain degree of emotional sensitivity and guilelessness; the more open you are to your raw feelings as you take in the art, the more detail you will perceive in your own responses. Then you can get more out of the art. So, if you find yourself criticizing and putting down your own feelings as you take in the art, you will put up a screen in front of them in a sense and not be able to perceive the art with the same acuity. If art means a lot to you, I think you owe it to yourself to try to take it in as fully as you can.

At the same time, if thinking of the artist brings unpleasant things to your mind, to some extent it might be inevitable that your emotional responses to that will come up and be in the mix when you encounter their art. If this makes the overall experience of their art not pleasant enough for you to want to go to it, I think that's just as blameless as anything else you could feel. You just have to determine that for yourself. I will say, if I feel like I lose my taste somewhat for someone's art on this account, it always has a note of tragedy to me; I want to enjoy art in general as much as I can.


Thank you for the question. Congratulations on taking another step towards the development of your critical thinking.

Ignoring semantics surrounding "morality" and "enjoyment":

If you care to think more about this, then you may find it useful to develop an informal set of criteria to help you evaluate creative work.

You may think about the history of the medium, the composition of the works, the constituent parts of the works, and the personal history of the artists.

Knowing all of that, how you would then evaluate the work would still be a personal exercise depending on your familiarity with similar creative works.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .