Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Katherine Thomson-Jones


Aesthetics, Ethics, Non-representational music, Ethics and art, Delicate perception


This paper’s aim is to give an account of the distinctive ethical significance of the aesthetic experience of non-representational art. It demonstrates how perceptual skills necessary for such engagement prove to be ethical as well as aesthetic skills. First, some background on the nature of aesthetic experience, before Noël Carroll’s content-oriented account is adopted. After clarifying the notion of “aesthetic experience,” the paper’s focus on non-representational art is explained, illustrating the way in which it more accessibly fosters pure aesthetic experience, as opposed to art that is representational. By employing the terms ‘non-representational’ and ‘representational,’ paradigm cases of each sort of art will be referred to as a way of circumventing the need for an account of when and how art represents. Mitchell Green in “Empathy, Expression and What Artworks Have to Teach” asserts, “Some forms of engagement with works of art – either convey or activate a skill.” In light of this assertion, an analysis is given concerning how one’s aesthetic engagement with non-representational art distinctly cultivates the skill of sensitive perception, or, ‘delicacy,’ which allows one to perceive all of the aesthetically relevant features present in a work of art, no matter how subtle. By showing that many of these aesthetic features are also moral features, it is argued that the perception of such properties may aid in grasping moral knowledge and motivating ethical behavior. In this way, it is shown that the sort of delicate perception necessary for the aesthetic engagement with non-representational art is ethically significant.

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Philosophy Commons