The Art of ‘Perceiving Correctly’: What Artists Can Teach Us About Moral Perception

Donna Ladkin


‘Moral perception’ has long been identified as a key pre-requisite for ethical behaviour (Dewey 1974; Aristotle, 1976; MacIntyre, 1985). In order to respond ethically to a given situation, one must first recognise its ethical component. However, the question of how moral perception is developed is more difficult to address. Perceiving ‘accurately’ is itself recognised as being fraught with difficulties, ranging from the impact of motivation, expectations, mental schemas as well as mood and physical comfort. This paper turns to the habits of visual artists and musicians who each in their own ways must cultivate the ability to ‘see the world afresh’ in order to produce art of quality, either through visual artefacts or fleeting performances. The paper highlights how practices of ‘staying with the senses’, ‘engaged detachment’ and ‘imaginative free play’ can enhance our capacity to recognise the moral component of everyday situations encountered and thus increase the possibility of responding to them in ethically astute ways.


Aesthetics; Artistic practice; Business ethics; Ethical practice; Moral imagination; Moral judgement; Moral perception

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