Ethics and art have the following distinctions:
1. The basis of ethics and art are different. Art depends upon result while ethics is based on motive. In Mackenzie’s word, “In art the ultimate appeal is? To the work achieved, whereas in morals, the ultimate appeal is to the inner aim.”
2. The criteria of ethics and art differ. The basis of ethical qualities is determination while art is the skill of doing work. Even when the external result is good an activity may be unethical if the intention is bad.
In Kant’s words, “a good will is good not because of what it performs or effect, not by its aptness for the attainment of some proposed end but simply by virtue of the volition.’ But art depends upon the ability of the artist, not his volition.
3. Difference between an ethical person and an artist. An ethical quality is such only in action while the artist in a passive state is still an artist because of his skill. In Mackenzie’s words, “A good painter is one who can paint beautifully, a good man is not one who can but one who does act rightly.”
We call a man truthful only if he speaks the truth. No one is credited with veracity merely because he is capable of being truthful an ethical person inculcates the habit of doing duty. Thus, ethical quality is based upon action.
The artist creates an object; an ethical person is ethical due to his good volition. Morality depends upon strength of character while art depends upon skill.
4. The difference of being taught Art can be taught, ethics cannot. No rules can be laid down for becoming ethical.
This depends upon the person’s voluntary desire, while a teacher can teach art Many a famous artist became great due to his master but not so with ethics.
5. Art is innate while ethics is acquired. Artistic ability is innate. Great artists are born great and are recognized as such from early age. Morality is acquired by a constant practice of ethical qualities. It is an acquired quality.
Thus ethics is not an art but it cannot be concluded from this that the two are completely unrelated.
The supporters of the slogan ‘art for art’ believe that art is an end in itself but not that welfare is necessary through it In their opinion even if some artistic piece is the cause of ethical degeneration of mankind it is still great in its own place.
On the other hand, the utilitarian’s lay emphasis on the welfare of the masses through art the basis of this conflict, between ethics and art is a one side view of life.
It is possible that some bad person may produce great artistic pieces but while on the one band he cannot be called a good man on this account, on the other hand his unethical attitude will degrade his art to some extent.
Neither is it possible to divide man’s character into completely differing divisions, nor is it desirable. Great and humanitarian art must stand upon an ethical foundation.
It May take us beyond ethics but it should not be unethical, harmful and one calculated to arouse the animal instincts.
The aim of man is the integral development of the individual and society. In order to have a generous contribution, this conflict between ethics and art is undesirable. There is a need for compromise.