Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Daniel Weiskopf

Second Advisor

Jessica Berry

Third Advisor

Andrew I. Cohen


Both philosophers and literary critics have championed artworks as necessary to moral education. As a result many of these critics believe that art that is bad or immoral can causally affect our character, resulting in moral harm. Moral harm is the idea that artworks possess a strong disposition to affect our moral beliefs such that we are less able to distinguish between what is good and what is bad. I examine this concept of moral harm and argue that immoral artworks do not have this kind of causal power over our moral beliefs. Proponents of the moral harm thesis are in error to attribute such a power to artworks. Additionally, I propose a definition of immoral artworks consistent with moral harm, as well as discuss the distinction between immoral artworks and artworks that are merely elicit disgust or offense.