Can artworks be morally good or bad? Many philosophers have thought so. Does this moral goodness or badness bear on how good or bad a work is as art? This is very much a live debate. Autonomists argue that moral value is not relevant to artistic value; interactionists argue that it is. In this paper, I argue that the debate between interactionists and autonomists has been conducted unfairly: all parties to the debate have tacitly accepted a set of constraints which prejudices the issue against the interactionist. I identify two demands which are routinely placed on arguments seeking to establish interaction and argue that they are, in fact, mutually conflicting.
There are two upshots. First, in light of this, it is unsurprising that arguments for interaction have failed to meet with everybody’s satisfaction. The constraints are such that no argument can meet them. Second, recognizing this helps us uncover a new, promising, but hitherto overlooked strategy for establishing artistic-ethical interaction.