Axel Rudolphi: "Art and the Ethics of Vulnerability"

The Higher Seminar in Aesthetics

Axel Rudolphi, Uppsala University: "Art and the Ethics of Vulnerability"

What is the relation between art and vulnerability? The aim of this paper is to show why and how the concept of vulnerability is important in aesthetics. I argue that vulnerability plays an interesting role in Plato’s very opening move in the philosophy of art, as well as in the aesthetics of a number of succeeding philosophers, such as Aristotle and Dewey. Moreover, vulnerability can be seen to play a fundamental role in certain influential strands of contemporary art that, particularly, involve live events. Analyzing the ways art and vulnerability relate to one other more generally, I identify three core areas in which the two can be seen to intersect: (i) the ascription of values, (ii) response-dependence, and (iii) passivity and activity. My preliminary conclusion is that while these meeting points indicate the areas of alleged conflict between art and vulnerability, they also provide some fertile ground for our continued understanding of both art and vulnerability.