Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 137–167 | Cite as

Of Art and Blasphemy

  • Anthony Fisher
  • Hayden Ramsay


What does philosophy have to say about the argument that blasphemous art ought not to be publicly displayed? We examine four concepts of blasphemy: blasphemy as offence, attack on religion, attack on the sacred, attack on the blasphemer himself. We argue all four are needed to grasp this complex concept. We also argue for blasphemy as primarily a moral, not a religious concept. We then criticise four arguments for the public display of blasphemous art: it may be beautiful, provocative, devoutly intended, and is autonomous of religious concerns. Finally, we discuss the notions of blasphemy and blasphemous art as public offences. We conclude that the display of blasphemous art is a public, and not merely a private moral offence, and that there are respectable philosophical arguments for this conclusion.

art blasphemy freedom freedom of religion offence sacrilege 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony Fisher
    • 1
  • Hayden Ramsay
    • 2
  1. 1.School of PhilosophyAustralian Catholic UniversityFitzroyAustralia
  2. 2.School of PhilosophyLa Trobe UniversityBundooraAustralia

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