Aesthetics and Ethics in Anna Jameson’s Characteristics of Women

Stone, Alison (2022) Aesthetics and Ethics in Anna Jameson’s Characteristics of Women. Journal of Modern Philosophy. ISSN 2644-0652 (In Press)

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In this paper I contribute to the recovery of women in the history of philosophy by giving the first modern-day philosophical account of the ideas on aesthetics and ethics of Anna Jameson (1794-1860). Although Jameson was celebrated in her time, she wrote in a place and period, nineteenth-century Britain, and on an area, aesthetics, that the recovery effort has hardly reached yet. Throughout her work Jameson argued that aesthetics and ethics were very closely connected. Here I focus on how she made that connection in her 1832 work Characteristics of Women: Moral, Poetical, and Historical. Looking at Shakespeare’s female characters, Jameson argued that they provide moral examples of various sorts: role models, warnings, or a mixture of the two. The characters only provide these examples because they are rounded, psychologically complete individuals who are therefore in a certain sense real. In addition, because they are complete, the characters are aesthetic wholes, and artworks in turn are aesthetic wholes just when they depict characters as aesthetic wholes. The consequence for Jameson is that artworks can only be aesthetically good – in virtue of being wholes – if they are also morally good – in presenting characters that serve as moral examples.

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Journal Article
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Journal of Modern Philosophy
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Deposited On:
22 Nov 2022 17:33
In Press
Last Modified:
24 Nov 2022 01:14