"Charientic" Judgments  

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"Following Glassen (1958), Feinberg (1985, 107–112) holds that the obscene is a “charientic” category (deriving from the Greek 'charis', meaning something like grace), a category he believes should be distinguished both from the moral and the aesthetic. On this view, charientic judgments concern neither the morally good and bad, nor the beautiful and ugly. Rather, they concern the seemly and the unseemly. Charientic judgments are properly applied to humans and their behaviors, and fundamentally concern crudity or refinement of taste. Obscenity, says Feinberg (1985, " --Understanding Pornographic Fiction: Sex, Violence, and Self-Deception (2016) by Charles Nussbaum

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

""Charientic" Judgments" (1958) is a paper by Peter Glassen first published in Philosophy, April, 1958, pp. 138-46.


"It is one of the objects of what is sometimes called “general theory of value” to study all sorts of value judgments or (what would be a better name for them) evaluational judgments. But what the sorts of evaluational judgment are is a question that has so far by no means been settled. There are only two kinds of evaluational judgment that are universally recognized and that have well–established names, the ethical or moral, and the aesthetic. Another pair that have sometimes been mentioned are the prudential and the economic. The object of this paper is to direct attention to still another, quite distinct, sort of evaluational judgment which we commonly make, to give judgments of this sort a name, and to characterize them in a provisional way."


"It seems to me that they [charientic judgments] are not moral judgments. The things thought to he vulgar—like chewing gum, making scenes, picking one's nose, etc.—are not commonly thought to be morally wrong or immoral. Moreover, a man may be thought to be of the highest moral character, and yet be held to be vulgar in greater or lesser degree . . . Conduct can be judged from more than one perspective at the same time .. . It seems to me to be pretty clear also that judgments in terms of Vulgar' are not aesthetic judgments, being made mostly about persons and their acts, and not about things and experiences. 'Vulgar' applied to works of art is a transferred epithet; 'beautiful' and 'ugly,' however, are not."
"But sometimes we hear tirades against vulgarity. They can have the fervor and virulence of the outraged moralist, but they do not express a moral point of view. They proceed from irritation at having to put up with the unpleasantness or frustrations of living in an uncongenial milieu."

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